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Summer Fly Fishing Tactics & Daughter of the Sea

Summer Fly Fishing Tactics

Jim Kukorlo, Head Guide

We are re-blogging this from last year at this time. Good tips and things to think about as we move into the heart and heat of summer. Thanks, Jim!

Summer Fly Fishing Tactics

Safely catching and releasing trout

If you know me or have read some of my blog articles, you know that I love fishing nymphs for trout. If there are no bugs and no trout rising, I never fish a dry fly. Well.... almost never.

On a early summer morning well before the sun hits the water, you might find me with my 9 ft. 5wt. Sage X and a Cathy's Super Beetle tied to a 4X flurocarbon tippet searching for hungry trout. My leader and tippet length will be somewhere between 14 and 16 feet and the 4X tippet will turn over the bigger flies and more importantly it helps to land trout quickly to avoid exhausting the fish. A lot of anglers like to use shorter soft action fly rods when fishing summertime dry flies, but I find that when using a longer rod with a stiffer tip, I can land fish quickly and safely. In addition barbless hooks are of the utmost importance in safely catching and promptly releasing trout.

I really enjoy making long casts along stream banks and riffles looking for a hungry trout that wants a juicy beetle or hopper. If the trout aren't looking up I simply add a nymph dropper to my dry fly. Summer water conditions are the perfect time for the dry/dropper method. Pheasant tail nymphs, green inch worms, rainbow warriors and euro nymphs are my favorite summer nymphs.

Euro nymphing is a very effective way to fish nymphs in low water conditions. When stealth is the name of the game casting a 10 ft. euro rod with a mono rig and two small euro nymphs causes very little disturbance on the water. If you aren't familiar with euro nymphing, it's another tool in your fly fishing tool box that can be a very effective way to fish nymphs. I find it a challenging and a fun way to fish nymphs throughout the season.

Early morning before the sun hits the water offers the best fishing with cooler water temperatures putting less stress on the fish. Sometimes the water temperature can drop as much as 20 degrees over night. It's best to fish in currents and runs where the moving water contains the most oxygen and the fish will often pull into these areas in the summer. Summer tactics includes doing some trout hunting and looking for fish in places where they wouldn't normally be in other times of the year. As the water warms, trout will move from pools and quiet water searching for cooler water such as underground springs or cooler tributaries.

Water Temperature! How warm is too warm to safety catch and release trout? Carry a stream thermometer and check the temperature in the morning before you start to fish, and again periodically throughout the day. When the water temperature rises into the high 60s, it can become dangerous to the health of the fish. As a rule of thumb 70 degrees is a good time to quit fishing.

Another factor to watch is how the trout reacts when hooked. If the fish puts up a good fight right up to the time you net it, he is comfortable with the conditions. However if he comes in easily without much resistance it could be a sign that the fish is stressed and the oxygen level in the water might be very low. At that point it's best to stop fishing.

Safely releasing fish is of the utmost importance, not only in summer water conditions but throughout the season. Once the trout is in the net, tuck the fly rod under your arm and put the handle of the net between your legs so you can use both hands to remove the hook and release the trout without taking it out of the water. It's best to release fish into the cooler running water of the riffles rather than a warm slow pool where there is much less oxygen. Once the hook is out of the fish's mouth, (many times barbless hooks with come out when you net the fish), I do a thing I call the tail test. I hold the fish in the water by tail until it has the power to swim out of my hands.

As the season moves into the heat of July and August, I prefer fishing in the mornings rather than later in the evening. The trout are more active in the morning and the water temperature sometimes doesn't drop enough to safely catch and release fish in the evening. Exceptions would be a rainy day or after a summer thunderstorm that helps cool down the water.

Summer was made for fly fishing, and when conditions are right and when precautions are taken, you can enjoy fishing even in the dog days of summer.

I welcome any questions or comments you might have about summer fishing or anything related to fly fishing. Please contact me through the Comments section of the blog (when viewed from a browser). Thanks.


Jim Kukorlo

Daughter of the Sea

For Jaeyoun Kim, the ocean is more than a connection to family, it's a path to healing. This is a 16 minute film about the haenyeo, Jeju Island's famed “women of the sea.” It's about culture, providing, family. Beautiful photography and message. Maybe we should take a good look at ourselves and our culture. What's missing?

Protect the ocean so it can protect us. Thank you Patagonia and Jaeyoun Kim.

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