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COLUMN: Beating the bushes for summer trout

The weather we have been enjoying this summer has been great for beach lovers.

It has not been as welcomed by anglers who have seen their favourite rivers and lakes drop to very low levels in many cases. Along with high water temperatures this creates tough conditions for fish, as well as anglers.

I received an email from a friend in New Brunswick who told me that the Miramichi River was so low that it was only running every second day this summer. While he was joking, and things haven’t become that bad here yet, there is no question that some rain would be very welcome.

Summer fishing conditions require that we make some changes to how and where we fish. One of my favourite times to be on the water is when I am casting to trout rising to hatching mayflies, caddis or stoneflies. While few anglers will argue that casting to rising trout can be the ultimate angling experience we also know that often these hatches can be confined to short periods in the spring, and are easy to miss.

Fortunately experienced anglers know they don’t have to put away their gear when the insect hatches slow down. Summer fishing can be one of the most exciting times of the year to be on the water if you pick the right time and place and, more importantly, turn your attention toward the land. While many of the more popular aquatic insect hatches have slowed down for the season there is another group of insects now on the trout’s menu.

Summer is when terrestrial, or land-based, insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, ants and beetles begin to make up a big part of the trout diet. While it may seem unusual that these land-based insects should play such an important role in streams and lakes the fact is these insects enter the water by the thousands every day. They arrive in a variety of ways which includes falling, jumping, flying, washed in by rain or blown in by gusts of wind.

Once in the water theses insects are held captive in the water surface and few escape. Their struggles attract hungry trout that soon key in on this land-based bonanza. By imitating our more common land-based insects you are guaranteed to have some exciting angling action. Unlike mayfly and caddis hatches which only occur at certain times of the day terrestrials are active throughout the day, in fact many are most active during the hottest part of the day.

While there are thousands of different species of terrestrial insects, anglers only have to worry about matching a few they will encounter. In my experience they include ants, grasshoppers and crickets, beetles, inchworms, wasps and bees. I try to carry a few imitations, in a variety of sizes, in my fly box and find that I can match most of the insects I find on the waters I fish, at least on some days.

Next week we will talk about a basic selection of summer flies.

Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

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