The summer is here, the camping gear is in the car, there are burgers on the grill, and the call of the river is strong! Some of the best and most exciting fishing of the year can be experienced in the dry fly-rich days of summer, but the warmer weather can bring a number of challenges. Low winter snowpack or summer drought can cause rivers to drop, forcing trout to school up and go on high alert. In Low Water Trout Tips & Tactics: Part 2, Peter Stitcher breaks down tactics for increasing your catch and having a great time on the water when fishing in the heat of summer.
Fish Cold Water Springs
Cold water springs welling up into the bottom of the river are going to be points of fish concentration and active feeding during low water years. Shallow reaches of the river get roasted by the sun and can quickly exceed 67° forcing trout to seek out cooler waters. Springs act like aquatic air conditioning units as they consistently flow into the river at refreshing 45-55° temperatures that allow the trout to thrive. The location of these springs are easy to identify when wet-wading or with the help of a fly fishing thermometer tucked through the laces of your boot. The existence of these life-giving underground flows can often be marked by the presence of the long arms of water-loving Aspen, Birch, or Poplar trees reaching down upland gullies to the river’s edge.
Keep it Short and Sweet
When fishing the low flows of summer, a three fly fishing rig is likely going to prove to be more trouble than it is worth. Warm, shallow waters create the perfect conditions for explosive aquatic plant and algae growth, so using multiple nymphs or wet fly patterns will create a nightmare of snags and weed covered flies. To avoid having to clean your rig after every cast, move to a two fly, shallow dry-dropper type rig. This should allow you adequately cover the water column with minimal loss of gear to snags.
No, this is not a call to wade without your tighty whities or boxers, but instead the need for additional stealth when pursuing trout made skittish by low water. As water levels drop, trout are forced to take refuge in the few remaining deep pools, making them go on high alert. In order to have a shot at these fish, you will need to get close to the ground as you approach, break up your profile with trees and bushes at your back, and stick to shadows whenever possible. A little bit of stealth will go a long way in helping you catch more fish.
Following the advice of fly fishing legend Hank Patterson, don’t be afraid to fish the “Hopper, Hopper, with a hopper dropper” rig. In years when there is lower than average winter snowpack or a summer drought, terrestrial insect populations explode. Trout will aggressively feed on grasshoppers, ants, crickets, moths and beetles during low water years, and anglers should be ready to give the fish what they want! Tying on multiple dry terrestrial fly patterns on a single rig can produce some of the best fishing of the season. So, on your next trip to the river, don’t shy away from fishing several hoppers together.