By Zach Lazzari | Photos by Ryan McSparran
I love fishing on nice, sunny days as much as anyone. But the bright sun can put a damper on the fishing. I’ve literally watched fish turn on and off like a light switch as scattered clouds passed under the sun on the Missouri River in Montana.
Cloud covers the sun. Fish start eating everywhere.
Cloud uncovers the sun. Fish disappear and completely shut down.
This effect is most prominent in the late spring and early summer when the fish are used to cloudy winter days but it can dial down the fishing on just about any day of the year. Here are a few tips to work around the brightest days of the year.
Skip the mid-day
Every guide and fisherman around is out hacking away through the hottest part of each day. Forget the 9-5 and split your day into two segments. Hit the early morning hard, take a nice siesta and jump back out for the last few hours of light. This works equally well for floating rivers. Simply pick 2 short sections and do a double float. Or, hit the morning, set up a shade tarp and take a nap, read a book and lounge until the evening. I’m literally writing this article at 1 pm, between fishing sessions.
Avoid casting shadows
Shadows flat out spook fish. Especially trout. When the sun is bright, the fish has to fight through that light to scan for predators. Shadows are more predominant and risk putting the fish down in a hurry. Position yourself in a manner that puts your shadow behind your body and off the water when possible.
Direction of approach
Outside of casting a shadow, your directional approach will also influence the fishing. This seems especially common on stillwaters and slower moving rivers. Like people, trout are not likely to stare directly into the sun. Although they see in polarized light and have a different optical view than we do, the sun remains impeding and overwhelming in direct view. Cast in a manner that allows the fish to see your fly without having direct sun blinding down on their eyes.
Work the shade, cover and fast water
Simple enough. Shade is obvious and cover like rocks and log jams are prime for exploring. Fast water, heavy water is especially effective. If it looks too fast and heavy to hold a fish, think again. The dissolved again levels are high, making this water ideal for hot, sunny days. The turmoil also breaks up the sun’s rays. Add a few split shot and get down in the heavy pockets and fast stuff. You’ll be surprised where trout can hold comfortably.
Zach Lazzari is a fly fishing guide and an outdoor writer based in Montana. Zach has fished and guided in Alaska, Colorado and Patagonia. Zach is also the blogger behind The Busted Oarlock. Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, and a fly fishing and hunting professional based in Colorado.