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Summer? What summer?

Is the unseasonable heavy rain and resultant dark, peaty water affecting the behaviour of our wild trout… and our catch-rates?

Trout have already assumed late-season colours.
Trout have already assumed late-season colours.
Nosy local residents are enjoying the extra water.
Nosy local residents are enjoying the extra water.
Not an autumn fish. A June one.
Not an autumn fish. A June one.
A rare glimpse of the sun!
A rare glimpse of the sun!
The darker, slimier skins of June trout are typical of late August on high lochs.
The darker, slimier skins of June trout are typical of late August on high lochs.

I’m sure I read a prediction in late January that this year was going to be hotter than it was last year and we should all be worried about water shortages and UV exposure.

In the footsteps of the immortal words of Michael Fish and his line “I can assure you there will be no hurricane” this summer is looking like another weather prediction that has turned out to be 100% wrong, or at least it has so far (ever the optimist that perhaps we might just get a break and some heat/dry weather and some terrestrial hatches and surface-feeding fish).

So, with all the rain this year and poor temperatures you could be forgiven for thinking spring ended early and we went straight into autumn. Strangely, it looks like our fish might be thinking the same.

With recent high, cooler, peat-coloured water being the norm, I’ve noticed that many fish have actually taken on the darker hues they normally adopt later in the year. Nothing too surprising about this, as we know trout can adapt their colour to match the surroundings to a degree and they are merely adapting a little better camouflage for the prevailing water conditions and colour.

I’ve also noted that quite a few fish have started to secrete the slippery slime that coats their bodies typical of late season when they become like bars of soap to handle. This, I assume, is to help them migrate around the river offering a degree of protection from the rigours of spawning and perhaps even insulation against the colder temperatures; but it’s not something you generally come across as early as June? OK, I have witnessed this way up in the higher lochs and streams in late August, but way down at almost sea level, this early? That’s certainly a first for me.

Perhaps it’s simply a side-effect to the fish taking on the darker hue and things will right themselves again once the water heights drop, temperatures warm up and the waters run clear again; it’ll be interesting to watch out for this should the weather ever break and I shelve my plans for the ark building project I’ve began to consider (Noah Liddle? - Ed.).

Another small observation I’ve had during this period of sustained darker waters is the fact that the fish hook-up rates have dropped, note I write hook-up rates, not fish offers.
Certainly on the dries I’ve witnessed a conversion rate, as poor as one in three or worse with the fish actually appearing to miss the fly altogether (yup, I know my timing’s always been poor but never that bad, not over several outings at least).

Speaking of this with our Editor, Mark, he told me he'd also experienced a similar problem on the Tayside lochs, so it’s not just restricted to the rivers I fish and, again, this had happened with him on more than one or two outings.

Perhaps the darker water effect the fish’s ability to lock onto a target more than we might have realised? My observations of watching fish feed on naturals revealed a lot of misses here as well; yes, I know you generally get this, but never as many as I am witnessing just now. Add to this a lot of flies passing by fish being totally undisturbed, which is again against the norm for this time of year.

Perhaps it’s all just me over-observing or reading too much into something that’s not there, and giving too much thought and reasoning into what must be normal behaviour, although with so many years on the river you’d have thought I’d have noticed this before now?

In the end, it all just adds to the variety and dynamic nature of the sport we love so much; it would be boring if it was always the same or even always easy and keeps us on our toes on the ever upward learning curve.

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