The Dog Days of Summer

Isn’t it amazing how quickly summer has flown by? The kids are back at school [ whew ], the mornings are getting chilly, evenings drawing in, and in a week or two up high the leaves will be turning. What better way then, to spend a warm and languid Sunday afternoon than floating down the river through town with a cold beer, a dry fly or two, and some great company. It was great to float through downtown and see so many people out enjoying the river and downtown in different ways – swimming dogs and themselves, kayaking, relaxing etc.

There are many reasons why I like fishing with my friend Ardele. They can be best encapsulated, I think by a brief exchange we had on the river with a couple of passing fishermen. We were eddied out at the side of the river, attending to a fly change or something, and they floated past us looking a little on the glum side. Now generally, when fishermen encounter each other on the river, they tend to put on a bit of a poker face, not wanting to let the other guy know off the bat how good or bad of a day they are having. If you’ve ever watched a couple of dogs greet for the first time, hackles raised and yet tails tentatively wagging, you’ll get the idea.

“How’s it going?” I asked. [ My standard tail wag. ] “We’re doing OK, getting a few” they replied, although by their tone and expression, you could tell they were a little disappointed. “Yeah, us too” I replied, pretty sure that we were doing better than them judging by their hang dog looks. After they were gone, Ardele said ” I know why they’re not doing any good.” “Really?” I replied, thinking she had picked up some major flaw in their rowing or casting technique. “Yep,” she said, “they don’t have any beer.”

And there in lies the secret to success on the river. Now, I am not advocating rampant drunkeness on the river, but rather realizing that if you focus too much on the destination, you can lose your appreciation of the journey. A bit of Buddhist detachment has its place on the river, as elsewhere in life. And it is amazing how the fish seem to come when you adopt this approach. At least they did on Sunday.

The action on dries like stimulators and pmxs was good right off the bat from our launch just above town. We also fished a bead head dropper above town, and it seemed primarily the smaller fish were active on those. Below town we switched to a double dry rig, and all the bigger fish took dries. Ardele also caught the Arkansas River trifecta – a cutthroat, a rainbow and a brown. Since filming this, the river level has dropped significantly as a result of the end of this year’s augmentation program for the rafting industry. In my experience, this generally leads to a few days of patchy fishing as the fish get used to new flows and new holding positions. Once things have settled down, however, it should be back to business as usual as the fish feed and fatten before fall and the spawn.