THERE IS grass growing in my driveway. Amid the hard-packed gravel, my lawn has escaped its normal boundary and spread into a new, otherwise unwelcome territory. I didn’t really consider this event significant until this morning, when I found another strange location with grass growing, the bed of my pickup.
In two corners, I found tufts of bright green grass, standing proud, almost defiant that that they had beaten the odds and flourished where life is normally restricted. The easiest way to explain this phenomenon is by the influx of constant rain that we’ve seen this summer.
As always, I tried to translate these unrelated facts into their effect on fishing. In fact, my thoughts turn so frequently to angling that I may mention it to my doctor at my next visit and seek a cure.
Precipitation has many effects on fish and the world in which they live. In order to stress the importance, it may be better to consider its absence.
July and August are typically the warmest and driest months for rivers and streams in New Hampshire. When rain is slight and days get hot, the natural landscape is designed to work like a slow-release system, supplying water from snowmelt and spring rain to our watersheds. Imagine it as a big sponge that stores water and trickles it out slowly, keeping things flowing.
In most years, the sponge would be getting dry by now. This summer, the sponge keeps getting wet. Water bodies have been consistently rejuvenated and grass has started to grow in my driveway and truck bed. Pretty simple, but what about the fish?
These conditions have translated into some great opportunities for me in the last few weeks. After a few days of uncomfortable heat and humidity, we seem to always break the pattern with a thunderstorm and significant rain event. Fish are not much different than us and they relish these events as water levels rise, temperatures drop, and most importantly, a smorgasbord of food gets washed into their home range.
A brook trout in a mountain stream or a bass in a big lake both respond to this refreshing dinner bell by going on a feeding frenzy. The logical relationship between feeding fish and successful angling should be obvious.
There have been many days where I wait out a small stream during a heat spell. I give myself and the trout that live there a break from action. After a heavy rain event, all bets are off and I attack them with unrestrained enthusiasm. I envision these trout as the rain drops disturb the ceiling of their world, changing flat glides into turbulent riffles.
With overhead cover, fish feel comfortable and they chase and rise for the many insects that get washed into the water. Big, green caterpillars get knocked from tree leaves, ants and grasshoppers are caught off guard in the same way, and plump earthworms seem almost suicidal as they squirm into pools and side channels.
The fish that I catch after a rain event remind me of my father on Thanksgiving. They are stuffed but keep eating and seem content in their gluttony. I catch slow-moving brook trout with huge, distended bellies and bass that regurgitate all over the side of my boat. A curious metaphor for sure, but I hope a well-rounded angler can appreciate the rain of this summer in the same way.