I will give a little background first. Back in the 50s my buddy Len Cordery and I were still in high school and we would take Lens old truck up to Head Lake and fish for smallmouth bass. At that time I wasnt very confident about fly fishing so we mainly used little green frogs and soft shell crawfish and we caught lots of good bass. However there were lots of times when we struck out. Len was a believer in the Solunar Tables, which I couldnt understand, because he was so insistent on getting your facts straight and didn't believe hardly anything I would expound to him about fishing. Anyways because Len had a dominant personality we always ended up fishing the periods. Slowly it sunk into my head that these things did work sometimes. We used to love swimming and when we were out bass fishing in the boat we would be over the side pretty quick when the fish werent biting, but when the perod was getting close Len would have me back in the boat, much to my annoyance sometimes. Now we used to fish shoal waters about 10 to 12 feet deep and when we were in swimming we would never see a bass, however when we got settled back in the boat and the period would start we would be catching Bass, sometimes both of us at once. When they stopped biting, usually about an hour later, if the weather was good, back over the side we would go and again we would see no fish. In those days I figured we just scared them away when we were swimming and we caught the Bass when they were coming back after things settled down. However years later when we were catching bass right around swimmers I realized they didnt bother the Bass at all.
Jump ahead a few years. I have been lucky in my fishing to usually have fishing buddys that were smarter than me, which really helped, because I would have some knowledge that I got out of a book and didnt really understand and they would pick up on it and often get results while I was still floundering along. Anyways, when I first met my old buddy Jim Robertson in the 60s I was still using the Solunar Tables but there were a lot of times they just didnt work. I had got hold of John Alden Knights book Moon Up Moon Down, which was the story of the Solunar Tables and of course I started expounding to Jim all my so called knowledge. John Alden Knight had said in his book that there was only one person in a 1000 that was able to observe things properly and I discovered Jimmy was one of them. Talk about fishermans luck! Over the next 20 years that Jim and I fished and hunted together I managed to get a pretty good understanding of the tables, thanks to Jims insights.
I have related all this to let you know where I am coming from, and it is only to encourage you to give these tables a fair trail. There is no book written or table made that can guarantee success, but they can open doors for you to explore if you are interested. Bear in mind that the following observations on the tables are my conclusions and as such are probably flawed, but hey, they work for me. With that out of the way lets go on.
Knight developed his tables from observing that the market hunters and fishers who were out to make a living concentrated their efforts mainly to certain times of the month. Because the ones Knight observed were mostly near salt water and worked with the tide stages, he figured it had something to do with the tides so at first he tried to make up tide tables to explain their success. However it didnt work.It was not until he realized that it was the moon and to lesser extent the sun that affected the tides that he came up with a table that worked. Thats how he got the name Solunar Tables ( Sun & Moon). The best time of the month for the market boys was what they called "moon under foot" or the dark of the moon- the period when there was no moon in the sky at night. It was also of course the time of high tides, because the moon travels in sort of an oval course around the earth and the dark of the moon is the time it is closest to us and exerts the heaviest pull, causing the high tides. But Knight over the years also observed that fish and game in inland waters also moved and fed in cycles, just like salt species, so he adjusted the tables so they could be used in freshwater. Also he discovered that there were two periods of stronger activity every day (major periods) and two periods of lesser activity between them (minor periods). Sorry John, I hope I didnt mutlilate your theory too much in my clumsy attempt to explain it.
I have found the periods to work best in the dark of the moon to the first quarter. For us they have been the most productive. Being of a rather stubborn nature I still to continue to plug away at the fish for hours and days, often with minimal success. But it has helped me to watch for signs. For someone starting I would advise you to concentrate on the dark of the moon and make sure you are out for at least one of the major periods. You have a lot more chance of seeing a period work. The worst time for the periods is the waning moon down to the last quarter and if you are not sure what you are looking for, you can easily become discouraged with the periods.
I have found some of the periods on the dark of the moon in the middle of the day to be great! If conditions are right the major may last for 2 hours or more and the minor for half an hour. But on the waning moon (when the moon is the farthest from the earth) the periods may last only 15 minutes and its easy to miss them. And you have to use your common sense. The periods dont override natural conditions. Sunrise & sunset are normally natural feeding times and of course insect harches.. So if the fish have fed heavily on a hatch or at sunrise or sunset and you come inon a period not too long after that, you are not likely to have much success. But it works the other way also. If you have a good period that ends an hour or so before dark or before a hatch the fish have already fed and they may just close their mouths at the time you figure you are going to clean up!. Incidentally, while we are talking about good periods, if it is a good one we have noticed that at least 40 minutes before it starts the fishing will die right off and since the good periods are between 10 and 2 guess what? You have been fishing for 4 hours or so with maybe a few fish and everything quits. So you head in to eat and miss the best chance of the day.
The other natural condition that affects the periods is the barometer. If it is steady (high or low) for a long time the periods usually dont work as well. In Mactier where we spent a lot of time fishing the barometer would go steady, sometimes for days ( usually on a waning moon) and the fishing would be lousy, but we still would pick up some fish on a period (usually the minor for some reason). Also while talking about the barometer I read a couple bits of interesting information. The one mentioned that there is a diurnal? movement ( I probably have the name wrong) of the barometer every day about 10am & 4pm and the barometer will move a fraction. I have also noticed, especially in the morning, if it has been calm, a breeze will often start around that time along with some fish activity. The other item had to do with plants. I read it in tyhe readers digest. A scientist attached electrodes to plants and was able to monitor a natural electric current in the plants and he noticed that the current fluctuated during the day and was also stronger at certain times of the month. However I dont think he was a fisherman so thats as far as he went in that article.
The other thing we noticed quite regularly when fishing for brook trout( who are suckers on a period) was that if it was one of those days when it was overcast and it looked like rain, and a good major period was due, everything would happen at once- the period started, the rain started and the fish started biting. Did the barometer move? I dont know- we were too busy catching fish to notice. Also keep your eyes and ears open. Birds often get more active on the period and you will hear more of them singing. On the pond I fish now if the Canada geese will almost always get off their butts and swim around the pond on a good period. Also if you are on a pond before a period check out the bottom. 15 or 20 minutes before a good period the nymphs will become more active, the next thing we would see would be minnow activity, then the trout would start.
One other thing if the barometer is low and steady we would usually pick up our fish near the bottom
but if it was higher or moving they would be near the surface.
Years ago, when I had a fishing store in Delaware Ontario I got a lot of kids using the tables. Most of their Dads though it was a lot of nonsense, but after a while the kids were catching more fish than they were! The kids used to call the tables the "Delaware Bible". Well its not a bible, but if you keep your eyes open during the periods and observe the changes, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
Good Luck on your fishing John Ritchie London 2007
More to come (someday)