Late summer fishing in the mountains during August, September & into October is one of the most enjoyable and peaceful experiences Colorado can offer. To get the most out of your fishing at this time of year, there are numerous variables that need to be understood about what’s happening on rivers and streams. The top factors that affect late summer fishing are bright sunlight and high temperatures. Here are some tips on how to adjust your fly fishing strategies to catch more fish when the sun and temperatures are intense.
Sunlight Spooks Trout: In August and often September, the bright days of sunshine spook trout. To stay safe, they will hide in water shaded by trees. Anglers should be casting the fly onto shaded water for best results. Also, cloudy weather, as well as fishing at dawn or dusk, are great times to catch fish at this time of year.
High Heat Affects Trout: The sun will heat the water that’s in direct sunlight. As a result, trout will hang out in the shaded water because the water is cooler and more comfortable for them. This means the deep water under trees, rocks, and bridges or other structures will offer the best opportunities for finding larger trout.
Sun & Heat Increases Food Sources for Trout: One positive effect of sun and heat on the water is that there’s a lot of food for trout. The insects at this time of year are both plentiful, and BIG. The fish are expecting large, healthy bugs, and this affects your choice of flies.
Late Summer Fishing Tip 1: Use Big Terrestrial Bug Patterns
I like to use a grasshopper or cricket fly pattern. I mostly fish them on the surface with NO trailing fly. My leaders are created to be long 10-12 feet and around a 2 lb. tippet (7X or 6X). I like to cast in short distances, around 12 to 15 feet from my position. Less movement is important to not scare the trout. Also, for best results, you are encouraged to utilize long drifts of this fly on the surface of the water, by mending the line upstream (working to slow down the drift of the fly so it matches the speed of the current).
Late Summer Fishing Tip 2: Fish The Shady Areas, and Fish in the Early Morning
I always fish in the shady areas and or early morning. I focus on trees with a tree canopy that hangs over the water or trees that are in the stream. I also look for large rocks either standing alone or in groups that have a stout current that weaves between them. The key elements to target are shelter and reasonably moving water because food is constantly flowing by so that’s where hungry trout hang out.
Late Summer Fishing Tip 3: Use the Salmon Egg Pattern
For late summer fishing, I use the salmon egg pattern with a trail 20-24 size nymph fly. My favorite is the RS2 or pheasant tail patterns. This combination is known as “egg and meat.” Long fine leaders again require 7X or 6X tippets. I use the most minimal strike indicator I can find. Small double-sided tape indicators seem not to alert the trout. The important aspect of this rig is to get the nymph down in the feeding zone at the bottom of the pool. One of the biggest mistakes anglers make is that they fail to get their flies down to the feeding zone. If you do not see your indicator move when the fly bumps the bottom, you need to add more weight. I like to use this method when I am on a larger stream/river that has 6-10 ft. deep pools. Pools in the stream that are against large boulders are perfect targets. Big fish are found in these spots. The strike will be light so it’s particularly important to pay attention to your strike indicator.
Late Summer Fishing Tip 4: Use a Large Streamer Fly
I like to use a large streamer fly such as a Muddler Minnow or a Wooly Bugger. I prefer to use a bead head Wooly Bugger for this technique. Here’s how it should work: 1) Find a deep pool and cast UPSTREAM; 2) When the fly lands, start stripping 8-12 inch strips at a fast rate. As a result, the fly is now traveling downstream with the current. The speed of movement of the streamer fly helps trigger the predatory reflex of the trout. Just hold on tight to the rod and let the fish strike enthusiastically and hook themselves. When the fish hits in a ravenous way, the excitement is amazing. Also, fight your urge to cast across the pool and strip quickly upstream.
Fly fishing can be wonderfully challenging during the hot months of summer and late summer. You just need to adjust your strategies and technique to account for those hot temperatures, the size of the bugs, and the bright sunlight.
Just a quick reminder about handling the hooked trout during late summer: given that it’s hot, it’s even harder on the fish when you keep them out of the water in the heat. Here are some tips for handling a fresh-caught trout:
As you increase your focus and attention on the stream topology (location of pools, shady areas, etc.), you will discover the spots where trout are hanging out. Use my tactics individually, or in combination, to increase your opportunities to catch some nice trout.
While you’re at it, remember to also enjoy the peace and the wonderful encounters of nature in all its glory during this spectacular time of the year.
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