Enjoying some mid-summer fishing opportunities

As we enter mid-August, it’s a pleasure to have typical summertime fishing conditions.

Wow, it feels good to say that after more than a year and a half of continual rain, high water and generally dismal fishing opportunities. And although we seem to have escaped that trend in recent week, most of the rivers and streams of our region have great water levels for this time of year, providing some grand fishing prospects for the rest of the summer.

It might seem more logical that bass would prefer a bigger meal at this time of year when they tend to go on a feeding spree. Bass are certainly effective predators that will successfully attack and eat almost anything they can swallow. But I think there are several reasons why summer bass are more easily tempted by smaller offerings.

The water in rivers and many lakes tends to be clear in the summer, giving bass a better look than usual at any lure they see. A bigger lure will be even easier to see, and possibly easier to detect as a fake and something to be avoided, especially on those waters that see a lot of fishing pressure. The young of the year minnows, frogs, crayfish and other aquatic critters that bass eat are not quite full grown by midsummer, so the bass are often seeing a lot of smaller prey. On several recent outing on the Juniata River for smallmouth bass, I’ve been seeing incredible numbers of small baitfish one to two inches in size. Therefore, using smaller lures matches the size of more natural foods this time of year.

The fish instinctively seem to know now that it is not necessary to chase their food all over the lake, but rather to wait and ambush prey. In simplest terms, the fish are conditioned to wait for an easy meal, so give them what they are looking for. Choose lures that can be fished slowly and precisely around the cover or structure where bass are likely to be hanging out. Soft-plastic baits such as worms, tubes and lizards are all excellent choices for such work.

Downsizing your lures is a simple tactic to increase fishing success in the summer. Instead of six- or seven-inch worms or lizards, go with four-inch baits. This summer I have been doing quite well with the so-called teaser-sized tubes, which measure about 23/4 inches long in comparison with the conventional 31/2-inch tubes.

The Cotton Cordell Big O in the 1/4-ounce size has been a favorite summertime crankbait for at least 20 years. This shallow-running lure is about 2 inches long. When I need a smaller crankbait that dives a little deeper than the Big O, I now go with the Strike King Pro Model Mini 3. Another good smaller crank is the Strike King Bitsy Minnow, an 1/8-ounce lure, 11/4 inches long, that dives to 5 feet. The Bass Pro Shops XTS Micro Light Mini Crankbait is just 11/4 inches long, weighs just 1/11 ounce and comes in 13 colors. This tiny lure works well for river smallmouths and would also be effective for anglers using spinning gear on larger streams for trout. I find the size 12 hooks that come on these lures a tad small for targeting bass, so I replace them with size 10 trebles.

If we don’t have excessive hot weather or a return to extreme amounts of rain in the coming weeks, trout fishing should be good as we transition into fall. Ample flows this summer have kept water temperatures at tolerable levels for the trout in most cases. And as we start to experience shorter days and cooler nights, conditions should continue to get better.

One tactic that works well for trout this time of year. is fishing dry flies in deep riffles and pocket water Trout often stack up in such spots in the summer, and the broken surface area can make them slightly less spooky. Use a large, bushy dry fly that floats well and is easy to see, like a Humpy or a Stimulator. You’ll be amazed at how many trout you can rise doing so.

Another worthwhile tactic is to fish a tandem rig by dropping a small bead-head nymph off one of those high-floating dry flies. That can be a deadly combination in water from one to three feet deep.