June is probably my favorite month of the year to fly fish for trout. The crowds are gone for the most part, the water is warm enough to wade in a pair of shorts, and there are plenty of bugs on the water to bring the trout to the surface all day long.
Mornings are one of my favorite times of the day to be on the water. The air is cool, the wind is calm and there is a general peacefulness on the water.
At first light, you can find the trout in the calm tail outs of pools sipping spent insects that laid their eggs the previous evening. If you watch the water for a while, you can usually find several fish feeding, gently dimpling the surface as they inhale the helpless insects that drift by. Mayflies and caddis flies make up the bulk of these insects, sometimes several different species. By watching the water, especially in the surface film, you can usually find the bugs that are most numerous. This is the fly pattern to choose. If there does not seem to be any predominant insect present, I rarely go wrong with a rusty spinner (a spent mayfly imitation) in size 14 or 16, which represents a variety of mayflies that have laid their eggs and fallen to the water making an easy meal for the trout.
These fish are normally very spooky as they feed in the calm water and careful wading is necessary to get into position to take these fish. Try not to push too much water and move slowly to avoid putting the fish down. Once I’m in position to cast to a few fish that I have seen rise, I like to wait a few minutes to let my wake calm down and the fish to resume their feeding rhythm before I make my first cast. As long as the trout are rising, they have not been spooked and are actively feeding which means they are catch able. When a couple of fish refuse your fly, it is time to start trying other flies to find the one that tempts their taste buds on that particular day. Some mornings I find the fish feeding on caddis. Other mornings they will favor small mayfly spinners, and sometimes they may prefer larger mayflies or stoneflies. Fish are funny that way.
Once the sun gets a little higher, the trout will seek more shaded lies under overhanging trees or near logjams and deep runs. A great spot to find trout is under overhanging branches, especially if they provide shade and some depth for concealment. Caddis flies will often hatch throughout the day and will head for shaded branches where they flit and flitter above the water waiting for their chance to mate while staying out of the hot sun. Trout know this and will hang out under trees waiting for an errant bug to hit the water. There is also plenty of terrestrial insect activity in these trees and branches. Ants, beetles, inchworms and many other land-based insects find their way into a trout’s stomach and most fall from a tree or other bank side vegetation.
Nymphs and wet flies can also be very effective in the morning when the trout are reluctant to come to the surface for your offering. Many immature insects migrate to the shallows or next to the bank when they are ready to emerge into winged adults.
The trout will be on the lookout for these as they drift by. One of my favorite methods after the sun hits the water is to cast a caddis dry fly or a stimulator (an attractor dry fly that suggests many different insects) with a bead head nymph or wet fly dropped off the hook bend about 2 feet under trees and in shaded runs along the bank. I can usually take a few fish on the dry fly, but will catch many more on the dropper as the day goes on.
Evening may get more of the attention from fly anglers at this time of year and deservedly so with multiple hatches and many fish feeding on the surface. But it seems more hurried, almost frantic, as you try to find the one magic fly before the darkness steals your ability to tie knots.
However, in the morning everything is more relaxed. The trout are content sipping bugs off the surface and there isn’t a more splendid sight than watching a sleek green shape ascend slowly to the surface then dimple it slightly as it inhales your fly. Then exploding through the surface and spraying water is a rainbow trout, leaping in the soft morning light and breaking the calm while the sun reflects brightly from its silvery flanks. That’s when the fun begins.