Obviously, if the water conditions are too hot for trout fishing – either the trout are not surviving, or catching one would kill it – than the best way to get your angling fix is to pursue other species of fish. Bass, carp, bluegill, crappie, etc are excellent fish to catch with a fly. While the traditional fish to catch on a fly rod is trout, don’t overlook other types of fish. There is as much to learn about fishing for these other species as there is for trout & so is a larger subject than the scope of this article.
But, what if you’re a “purest” & only pursue trout? What do you do in the heat of summer? Here are some thoughts on catching trout in the heat:
As I said earlier, summer can be long & hot making fishing difficult at best in some situations. Let me state here & now that there are times when fishing for trout should not be considered at all. These are times of heavy drought, especially during periods of prolonged high temperatures. When conditions are like that, trout die & it’s all some of them can do to survive. The last thing they need is to be overly stressed by an angler who should be home in the air conditioning.
Since the heat & lower, less oxygenated waters of summer do weaken trout it would be a good idea to adjust your tackle. In the summer, play & land trout as quickly as possible. This isn’t the season to let the trout take long runs on you. Bring them to hand as fast as you safely can. If this means using a heavier, longer fly rod than you did in the spring, so be it. A prolonged fight with a trout in the summer can kill the fish. Besides, the fun in summer fishing isn’t the adrenaline rush of fighting powerful trout; it’s in finding where they are & fooling them into taking your fly.
To get the most out of summer trout fishing you’ll have to adjust the time of day you go. Most anglers hit the stream in the evening & that’s fine, but what you’re after is to be on the stream when the water is the coolest. Since trout activity very much depends on water temps, I would recommend wetting a line in the early morning hours until about mid-morning. As the dog days approach & the water temps rise higher, move your start times back even earlier, so you are fishing in the pre-dawn hours. During the hottest weeks of the year, night fishing will be your best bet. Folks may think you’re daft for heading to the stream at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but this is when you’ll have the longest window of cooler water temps to fish.
While fishing at night, you’ll have a chance at catching some of the biggest trout in the stream. Trout will grow to a point where feeding on insects alone doesn’t provide them enough nourishment to survive. When they get that big, they begin focusing their feeding efforts on larger prey like other fish. They become stalkers & hunters & do their best work in the cover of darkness. To target these monsters, use a large sub-surface fly that will make some noise as you move it through the water. A muddler minnow is a perfect choice.
To find the coolest water in the summer, look for the most oxygenated water: riffles, water falls, & anywhere you see faster water broken up by rocks. One of the best places to try would be just down stream of where a feeder creek or a spring dumps into the stream, as this will mean cooler water.
Look for shade as well. Streams that flow through wood lands will stay cooler longer than meadow streams. Also, stand in the shade while making your presentations to the trout. Summer conditions usually mean low, clear water making it easier for the trout to see you. Likewise, the trout will be thinking along these same lines, too, so think about targeting areas of the water that are in the shade.
Deeper water is cooler than shallow water, so be sure to fish the deepest pools of the stream. Get your fly down as close to the bottom as you can & make sure your fly drifts through the pool as slow as possible. Summer trout won’t be moving as fast as they did in April. Give them a chance to strike your fly. When you see a deep pool, add weight to your line & fish it thoroughly.
It should go without saying, but if you’re fishing in the heat, stay safe. Remember all those things they told you when you were a kid: drink plenty of water, don’t over exert yourself, wear a hat & sun screen, tell someone where you’ll be fishing, etc, etc. Also keep in mind that if you’ll be fishing at night bring along a flashlight – just in case - & only fish areas of water that you know very well. It would also be a good idea to wear a life jacket. That could save your life, should you fall into the water in the dark & not able to see what’s around you.
Overall remember that summer trout fishing is a slow, easy going activity. It’s not meant to be a circus of adrenaline. The real joy of it is finding a well hidden trout that other anglers have given up on finding & then having the skill to fool this wise trout into eating your fly!!!