Fly fishing in the late summer can be some of the most difficult and challenging fishing of the entire year. Typically, this time of year means low, gin clear water and fish with their PhD in fly assortments. For many of us, this means breaking out the 7x leaders and 20-24 midges.
Parasol Midge Emerger
Midge Parachute Black
Late summer means selective feeding habits.
River conditions can be a challenge. Normally on freestone rivers, the water is at its lowest level for the year and the flows are at their slowest. This means that the fish have ample time to see you offering.
For their part, the fish don’t play nicely at times either. They’ve learned since spring to be selective in their feeding habits after being caught and released over the course of the year.
Gone are the stonefly hatches and the parade of big bugs that trout gorge on in the early season. What's left is a procession of tiny caddis, mayflies, midges, and terrestrials, most of them size 20 and smaller.
Rather than keying on one major hatch, there are various insects appearing throughout the day. That means a sipping trout may take a couple of caddis, a mayfly spinner, some midge pupae, and then a small emerging mayfly.
For trout, it's a daylong buffet. For anglers, it's a smorgasbord of opportunity. For the savvy angler, this can be some of the most technical fishing of the year, and can be the most rewarding.
Caddis Pupa Emerger, Olive
Zebra Midge, Tungsten Bead
Catch a tree trout.
So, what are they things a savvy angler does to produce results? Firstly, let’s start with the gear.
Get some fresh mono. It deteriorates over time. When you are using sizes 6X to 8X, you want to make sure that your leader and tippet are in good shape. Flouro holds up much better, but it has a tendency to sink. So if you’re fishing a midge on the surface, I’d look to use mono.
It takes some getting used to using leaders this small, and the last thing you want to do is get educated on the water. For those of us that are well experienced on catching tree trout, this can actually be a worthwhile exercise…..just not on the water.
Get yourself geared up, and hit the front yard. This time, on purpose, hook a small branch. Back up to a relatively normal distance, so 20 -40 feet, and play that tree trout like there’s no tomorrow! In all seriousness, you’ll lead the breaking pressure pretty quickly and this can mean the difference between success and stories of the one that got away.
Netting differently in late summer.
Speaking of landing the trout of the summer rather than letting in be the story of the one that got away….you’ll need to net differently.
You’ll break off more fish than you care to admit trying to drag a big trout upstream. You’re going to need to head down stream to quieter water to land the fish.
This does a couple of things that are to your advantage. Firstly, you’re not dragging the fish through the feeding zone, disturbing other fish in the area. The current, in this instance, can be your friend as it will encourage the fish downstream as well. You’re going to have to be patient and play the trout.
Using a rod one size down from what you normally use can be helpful. This time of year, I typically break out my 9’4 weight.
Broaden your fly selection.
The standard elk hair caddis isn’t going to get it done here. The trout have seen the same ole same ole all season long. You’re not only going to have to down size in everything, you’re going to need to mix it up. The trout aren’t keyed into one hatch, so you’re going to need quite a few bugs.
Go through your fly box, hang up the yellow stones for another day. You want a variation of small bugs that are representative of the insects life cycle from emergers to duns to spinner.
When you cast to a fish a few times and nothing happens, but the fish keeps rising, you’ll need to change things up. Do it logically. Scale down to a smaller size. Switch from an emerger to a dun. Go from lighter to darker.
Using a common sense progression will help you eliminate some possibilities and you’ll eventually get the take you’re looking for.
St Joe Favorite
Time to get a line wet!
This can be a great time of the year to be on the water. Folks are getting into their back-to-school activities, the hunters are in the woods, and you can have the river to yourself. With the right approach, this can be a fantastic time of year to be on the water.
Tight Lines and Screaming Drags