The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 27, 2014

Anglin': Sun at its zenith, fish laying at their lowest

Point Blank column

By John Blankenship

— Hot, hot, sizzling summer: Fun time is here again as children dash out in bikinis and swimming trunks, holding bucket and spade in hands, lapping on loads of sun-block lotion and running off in flip flops.

After being trapped with indoor activities for months, now it’s time to break free and bask in the sunshine.

According to an old Swedish proverb, “Life without love is like a year without summer.”

And a humorist once wrote, “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”

With the sun still near its zenith, many local anglers are trying to make the most of the hottest time of the year.

Old Sol never lies. Already our fiery orb has passed its peak and the days are getting a tad shorter. From now on, it’s nothing but downhill until December.

From early July through August, fish lay low through the hottest hours of the day.

Old fishermen warn, “If you plan a trip, leave before sunup and figure on being wherever you want to go before the fog lifts, and drop your hook for the next two hours of the day.”

Old-timers referred to the first full moon after the summer solstice as the moon of the yellow fly. That’s when the fish and the bugs are biting.

Now we’re in the thunder moon —  and it’s too hot to be on the water during the daylight hours unless you want to drown in sweat and feed the insects.

If you insist on fishing fresh water, fly rod and surface lures are at their best now, angling along drop-offs and shorelines, alongside logs and stumps, for coaxing bass out of hiding.

The best times of the day are dawn and dusk. Fish tend to go deep and sulk in hot weather that smothers the lowlands.

One major danger in evening fishing is the prevalence of thunderstorms — fast moving and filled with violence.

My Uncle Hubert used to say that the best time for fishing on a stream was immediately before or just after a shower or storm. He felt the falling barometer and cooling air inspired the fish. Maybe he was right.

When I was a boy, I couldn’t wait for the rain to stop so that I could hit the creek bank and cast for red-eyes and black-tailed bass. Every cast seemed to stir a strike. The action was fast and furious.

But when there was a storm approaching, I knew I’d better head for home, or Granddad would come looking for me.

Whenever a slash of lightning flashed over the mountains, I began counting the seconds, sound traveling at about 1,100 feet per second.

One, two, three — I counted up to 15 seconds, and if I heard thunder, I knew the storm was only 2 or 3 miles away. Storms travel at about 30 miles an hour.

One more cast. Just one more cast before we go. I’d toss the line, arching in a graceful curve, and watch the lure drop beside the same clump of weeds.

Another cast and then another. Suddenly a blinding strobe of green-white light arcs from the sky; a sonic boom vibrates the earth.

I could feel the electricity in the cooling air, sense an overall tingling along the hairline, and smell the burning ozone. Dropping the rod, I’d check to see if I were still alive.

Generally, the storm lasted only for a few minutes and passed on, leaving a shaken fisherman heading for the nearest landing, usually my grandmother’s kitchen.

I guess the thunder moon of July-August celebrates the lowering sun and the opening of Dog Days.

If you think it is hot now, just wait; it’ll get worse. The intense summer heat is no mirage for millions of people in the Eastern and Midwestern regions, as well as the Southern coastal states.

Meanwhile, I’d suggest stringing up the hammock beneath two live oaks or aspens.

Fill the cooler with your favorite beverages, and don’t forget the sun block and insect repellent.

The hot summer is just beginning. What power it has to make us suffer and like it!


Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a freelance columnist for The Register-Herald.