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NOT A COMPLETE WASHOUT

Summer rain may limit fishing, but once the storms break, the benefits outweigh any hassles.

Recent heavy rains have started filling in the painfully low-water levels of area lakes, ponds and rivers. For anglers, the downpours common to this season may cut short a week's casting plans, but there is an upside - fish stimulation.

Factors working in your favor include:

The cooling effect. Rains lower water temperatures and make fish feel like feeding in the cooler environments.

Lower visibility. Cloud cover, raindrops on the surface and turbidity make it harder for fish and fishermen to see each other. Fish are less apprehensive when they don't feel like someone's watching.

Food delivery. Rains wash beetles, grasshoppers, spiders and ants into nearby water bodies. Bass, bluegill and crappie will take full advantage of this bug buffet.

Given the influx of disoriented meal items, downsizing to a 1/16-ounce jig with a small curl tail makes an effective impersonation of struggling prey.

Most bugs will float, so largemouth bass and bluegill will be looking up after a rain shower. However, a small jig dancing high in the water column will catch the attention of any hungry fish.

Try a variety of colors such as brown, chartreuse, white and yellow, but the key is erratic twitching.

A popular variation of this rig replaces the jig tail with a light, thin worm. When jigged up and down, the lead head makes the worm twitch and wiggle just like an earthworm washed into the lake.

Expanding range

A common element of drought periods is the growth of terrestrial weeds and grasses over lake and pond beds exposed by receding water levels. When summer rains begin the refilling process, the newly-flooded vegetation provides additional feeding opportunities within new territory.

Often, it's more like "reclaimed" territory as the fish can begin feeding in shoreline areas recently laid bare by drought. Insects trapped by rising water end up as fish food, providing a big hint as to one of the most effective fishing tactics for this scenario.

It's time to break out the skinny sticks and start whipping that floating line back and forth.

Worried about your fly-fishing form? Can't shoot a tight loop? Don't sweat it. This is about as low-tech as the sport gets.

If you can buggy-whip a fly 20 feet from shore and tug the line enough to make your little imposter look like a recently downed insect, you can expect something to take a swipe at it.

Whether you're fly fishing, jigging or corking crickets, an attractive element of freshwater fishing during the rainy season is that much of the action is close to shore. For clarity, most fish spend the heat of the day hiding under lily pads and docks, or suspending in deeper water.

During and after a shower, however, the fish will move up to feast on whatever the rain delivers. This puts tremendous fishing opportunity within easy reach of canoes, john boats, kayaks and even waders.

Just target the areas with the most direct runoff. Small feeder creeks and canals are good bets, but the real gem is a stormwater drain. Such concentrated flows create current, which is a real bass magnet.

Once the rising water level allows enough depth for bass to approach a drain, the fish will stage just outside the current edges to ambush prey as it tumbles out. Toss a Texas-rigged worm, lizard or frog near the pipe's opening and get ready for an instant connection.

Proceed with caution

One of the best summer bites you'll find is during the slow, drizzling rain of a low pressure system. Heavy thunderstorms may spark brief periods of intense feeding, but persistent cloud cover with light, continuous rain does something very good to largemouth bass, bluegill and other freshwater gamefish.

Regardless of how good the action becomes, don't tempt fate by trifling with the weather. Fishing in the rain can be very productive, but don't underestimate lightning's deadly potential and head indoors during intense conditions.

Also, during the summer rainy season, watch where you step when walking shorelines. Fire ants and other insects displaced by rainfall and rising water will be especially grumpy so bites are common. Don't stand in one spot too long, and if you're barefoot, look closely before stepping.

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