Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Twenty-eight

From My Side of the Counter

Doug Persico

By Doug Persico

If you spend almost nine years in the fly shop business like I have, you notice things about both your business and your customers. I can only speak for western Montana because that is where my shop is located, but I'd be willing to bet that things are similar in other parts of the country.

Like most fly shops, my year begins quietly, picks up steam in late spring, goes wild in July and August and is substantially over two weeks after Labor Day. I imagine that the same pattern holds true all over. What amazes me and is my greatest source of frustration is that summer is the second worst time of the year to fish my stream. Winter, of course, is the absolute worst season but summer is really not a whole lot better. The water temperature is too high and the hatches are not as good as they are during Spring and Fall.

The Skwalla

Spring is my favorite season. Late March and April are the two best months on my calendar. Here on Rock Creek, we've got perhaps our two best hatches of the entire year going on at the same time. We have the Western March Brown and the Skwala stone fly. The runoff does not usually start this early so the water can be waded fairly easily. Water temperatures are better suited to the fish than they are to us, so good waders are a must. The weather is the most unpredictable factor. You can start fishing in a snowstorm and end up an hour later in 60 degree temperatures under bright blue skies. But the fishing can be marvelous.

Rock Creek in August

During late September and the entire month of October we have our single best hatch of the year. This is the Giant Fall Caddis. We also have the Baetis mayfly emerging in the afternoon. The browns are getting ready to spawn and the leaves are turning color. The weather is not as unpredictable as it is during the Spring and the fishing is almost as good.

I get at least a dozen people a week in the shop during the summer who ask me what is the best time to fish Rock Creek. I invariably tell them to come in late March and early April. I explain about the hatches, the size of the fish, the water conditions and last, about the weather. If they seem to be put off by the prospect of uncertain weather, I tout fall to them, with its great hatches and huge browns.

My Shop Most of these people leave my shop jazzed up about early and/or late season fishing. And then they show up in the shop the following July asking the same questions about the best time to fish the creek. I'd understand if they were traveling with children on summer vacation. But these people are usually alone or traveling with other adults.

During my first couple of years, I stocked a lot of rain gear and items like warm gloves and 5mm neoprene waders. Eventually, I realized that, despite my every effort to get them here during the best fishing, most people were only going to come during July and August. So now I stock mostly lightweight waders and only a few raincoats.

But I still haven't given up on trying to convince people that they're going to get better fishing if they come during the spring and fall. Once in a while, the message gets through and I generally gain a friend for life, although I've lost a few to spring snowstorms.

So, when I got the opportunity to write this article, I thought let's try it one more time. Put as simply as possible, this is my message:

If you fly fish and you want to catch more fish and bigger fish, try fishing early and late in the season.

Even with the chance of some bad weather figured into the equation, it's still a better deal than bucking huge crowds. Try it once. I'll bet you'll be converted. ~Doug Persico

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