By Zach Lazzari
The late summer and early fall season is a special time on the water, especially for trout fishing. The fish are busy eating, packing on calories before the waters cool and winter arrives. Brown trout are especially hungry because the spawn is approaching and they need energy to reproduce.
The game has changed however and the big stoneflies and mayflies from springtime are long gone. Smaller mayflies, caddis and stoneflies dominate and some hatches create extremely picky fish holding in tricky waters.
Here are a few quick tips for your late summer fly fishing adventures:
1. Reading Summer Water
During the early summer season, trout are often found pressed tight against the banks. But late summer conditions open more habitat. Trout spread into different lies. Look for mid-river boulders, heavy riffles and highly oxygenated water. The heavy stuff is critical habitat on the hottest of days and the turmoil of fast pocket water becomes preferred habitat.
When a hatch takes off, the flats and easy paced water become popular for fish sipping emergers or spinners at first and last light.
2. Skip the Heat
Concentrate your late summer fishing efforts during the early morning and evening. There is no reason to grind out 8-hours in a drift boat when you can catch more fish during the last two hours of daylight. The mid-day slump is very real and catching fish in the heat is more difficult.
The mayflies hatch early, caddis hatch in the evening and many stoneflies like the nocturnal half-wing variety are after dark only. Unless you are fishing ice cold mountain streams and lakes at high altitudes, focus your late summer efforts and catch the action while skipping the sunburn.
3. Salvation through Hoppers
Tired of 6x tippet and difficult trout sipping spinners? Hoppers bring the bigger bugs back into action and a good hopper year makes for incredible trout fishing. Walk the grassy riverbanks and pay attention to the number of grasshoppers clicking their wings and springing from the ground. When they are present in reasonable numbers, give the foam patterns a try.
Windy days are ideal, especially after the first frost of the year. An early frost can debilitate the grasshopper wings and they will fall into the water when the wind blows. Get ready for some explosive strikes if this scenario comes to fruition.
4. Chase New Species
Summer is ripe with opportunities at different species. Looking beyond trout opens a ton of fishing. During especially hot years, hoot owl restrictions actually limit trout fishing hours. Look to pike, carp, bass, panfish and anything else that will eat a fly this time of year.
Pike and bass are pure predators and they are widely distributed with habitats and ranges often overlapping trout. In Montana, Colorado and the upper midwest, this is not uncommon. Take advantage of the lesser targeted fish and you just might find a new favorite species and some lesser pressured waters to enjoy each summer.