The trout stocking season is long gone but some of its golden members have made it through the initial onslaught of angling.
Not that they’re easy to catch at any time, but the trout of June are true-blue, or shall we say yellowish survivors, having felt the pinch of steel barbs and learned the look of monofilament fishing lines. But the fishing pressure has all but relented now.
And there they lie as plain as day, just relaxing in the pools and runs as if on some kind of a summer vacation.
But they’re not home free just yet. There are eagles, ospreys, herons, raccoons, otters and kingfishers just to mention a few, that would gladly partake a fish dinner; if you get the drift. But let’s not forget that trout including these finicky golden varieties are also predators in nature. They are happily gulping down minnows, crawdads and a host of aquatic insects from mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies to midges, dobsonflies, craneflies and you-name-it flies.
And all this is not to mention the earthbound stuff simply called “terrestrials” in the collective by the fly-fishing cohort. This includes worms, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants and bees that either fall from trees or are washed into the current from higher ground. Good luck for the downstream ride while it lasts, or shall we say ‘til you get eaten by one of those predatory trout just lying there waiting for you to drift by. So it’s not like these predatory trout don’t get their licks in.
But boy do those goldens take on an ever more radiant coloration with time away from the hatchery. Their pinkish side stripe becomes as brilliant as the regular colored rainbow trout variety from whence they came. And their cherry red cheek patch is afire with compliments of all the pigments they get from ingesting those crustaceans and insects. We are what we eat after all.
And as for surviving summer trout, there’s no better place to find a few than at a bona fide catch and release zone. Generally, the trout there have been well-educated by their prior catch encounters. One behemoth of a golden is darting back and forth at a massive rock strewn pool of the famous Smoke Hole sector of the South Branch. A big tease if there ever was one. However, the mid-day sun is high over the river and the fish aren’t feeding. We bid it adieu for another day.
A mountain or two to the west, the cool, spit rain evening gets the mayflies cranking and the trout do likewise feasting on them.
All this at the Dry Fork of Cheat and at a catch and keep stretch no less. But these trout have earned their summer rainbow stripes and will be released back into the cool limestone waters. Some of them actually get to reproduce in it becoming wild trout, a most exalted status.
Just at dark, a long golden colored fish appears in a run. Noting its presence before realizing it was chasing the long, slate-colored mayfly nymph imposter on the end of the line, but just in time, the rod tip is raised and the battle is on. There is not much room to play it in the small fertile stream, but play out it finally does.
A bit stunned and confused upon the release, it swims back out to its lair perhaps in preparation for the next lucky angler’s bid for summer gold.