One of the more difficult times to catch trout is during the scorching heat of summer when the fish turn lethargic and hatches shut off.
Unfortunately for us, the urge to get out on the water doesn’t wane, even if the fishing productivity does. Trout fishing with a fly rod doesn’t have to cease once the temperatures creep towards 90, however; anglers just need to recalibrate and adjust their tactics to mirror the conditions. That can involve everything from fishing location, choice of flies, and a whole lot more!
Head for the High Country
Regardless of your location around the country, the higher elevations will keep streams a little cooler than those down lower. While that might be a hindrance in the early season, it’s critically important now. Once water temperatures reach 67-68 degrees, anglers should start to shift their focus more towards these high mountain waters. In the East that typically means brook trout in the headwaters of popular trout streams, and in the Rockies anglers can head for alpine lakes and the streams coming in and out of them are often teeming with cutthroat trout!
Adjust Your Rig
Warming water of summer also coincides with dropping flows and increasingly clear streams. Those stream conditions can be incredibly difficult to navigate as trout become awfully wary and cognizant of any would-be predator that might be lurking above. This is the time to stow the heavy tippet and go to something a little more discreet, like 6X or 7X fluorocarbon. The lighter tippet/leader will undoubtedly make it harder to land fish, but the hookup rate cannot be ignored as trout won’t be able to see the line as well and thus will find your flies irresistible! At the same time, fly selection should drop down in size as well, with the notable exception being terrestrials that still might come in robust sizes like #10 and #12. Nymphs, typically little caddis and midges, will dip down into size 20’s as water becomes skinnier and so does the bug activity.
Keep the Fish in Mind
There comes a point each summer when trout rods should be put away out of respect for the fish. Some years that comes in July, and other times not until late August, but eventually the beating sun becomes too much and the water temperatures become unsafe for trout to be caught and released safely. Check water temperatures to monitor when this happens, but in this seemingly bleak time there is also opportunity! When water temps are consistently above 70 degrees, fishing should cease. However, on the next cold spell when those temperatures drop back down into the low 60s the trout will go insane as they feed on everything in this more comfortable condition. By keeping a mind to the fish, anglers can then time up the perfect trip upon the next cool spell and ensure that any caught trout can be released safely to fight another day!
Hopping from rock to rock flipping dry flies to rising trout is one of the things anglers look forward to each season. Sadly, these opportunities can be fleeting unless there is a willingness to alter thinking and strategy on the fly as the weather gets steamy during the heat of summer. It all starts with knowing where to go, how to fish those places, and having the mindset to keep the fish safe in the face of rising water temperatures!