Tips for catching mountain trout in hot weather

Fish backcourntry streams during hot weather. Their shoreline shade will keep water temperatures as low as you will find.

Go early, go late, get off the beaten path and take advantage of the shade

George Gershwin didn’t write, “Summertime, and the fishing ain’t easy.” But he wasn’t far off, and in August, usually the hottest month of the year, fishing conditions are far from ideal. Water temperatures are higher, trout are less active, and hatches are minimal.

A successful, hot-weather trout-fishing outing depends on three factors: when you fish, where you fish and how you fish.

Early morning from first light to 10 a.m. is the best time because the water has had adequate time to cool overnight. Streams heat up quickly when outside temperatures hover in the high 80s and low 90s. And when water temperatures reach the high 60s, trout seldom feed. Ideally, water temperatures should be in the mid- to high 50s. Carry a thermometer and check the water often.

Fish small, backcountry waters that have abundant cover. These streams usually have the lowest water temperatures, even during the hottest part of the day. And they can be fished all day. Save the large streams for late-evening fishing.

Cast close to banks, under low-hanging mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes. You’ll lose a few flies and spend an inordinate amount of precious fishing time getting line and flies out of bushes. But that’s part of the experience.

Find the bubbly

Fish ripples, plunge pools and back eddies behind rocks. Oxygen levels are higher in places that have bubbly, white water, especially pools below ledges and waterfalls. Let a fly drop naturally into bubbly water or let it drift through riffles. Look for small tributaries that feed cooler water into the main stream. Think like a trout, and then fish the areas you’d prefer to be in the heat of the day.

Use long leaders, up to 9 feet, with 5X or 6X tippet. With long leaders, you can hit every spot you think that might hold a trout. Keep a low profile and fish upstream so that trout are less likely to see you coming. If you see a fish dart when you move in the water, forget about that particular stretch of water. No amount of coaxing will result in a strike. Learn your lesson and move on to the next stretch.

Hatches are limited in August, but sporadic hatches do occur, especially in late evening. Blue-Winged Olive, female or male Adams (winged or parachute), Light Cahill, Tan Caddis, and parachute Pheasant Tail in Nos. 18 to 16 are suggested patterns. Gray, brown or black midges in Nos. 24 to 22 also are good summer patterns.

Fish nymphs deep to catch more hot weather trout

Nymphs can be used all day and are especially effective for deep pools. Suggested nymph patterns for this time of the year are Secret Weapon, Sheep Fly, Pheasant Tail (nymph or emerger), yellow Tellico and Stone Fly.

Use a weighted nymph and let it bump along the bottom of a pool where trout are likely holding. To better detect strikes, use a strike indicator. A piece of yarn or patch of cotton attached to the leader works just as well as a commercial strike indicator. Watch the indicator as it floats. If it hesitates or moves to one side or the other, raise the tip of your rod; you’ve likely had a strike.

Dry flies also make excellent strike indicators, especially a yellow Stimulator or similar attractor patterns. Occasionally, a trout will hit the dry fly instead of the nymph. When using a dry fly as a strike indicator, use a section of leader and tie the nymph onto the shank of the main hook. If the stream is shallow, the dropper should hang about six inches below the dry fly, 12 inches for deeper water. The nymph should be small enough so that it doesn’t drag the dry fly down. If you’re using a No. 14 or No. 16 nymph, for example, use a No. 12 or larger dry fly.

Terrestrials rock for summer trout

Terrestrials such as ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, inchworms and bees are a constant and substantial summer food source for trout. They can be used all day, and they can be fished either wet or dry.

Thunderstorms are a natural part of summer in the mountains. Usually, though, they come in fast and end quickly. If you hear thunder, move off the stream. Water is no place to be when lightning is flashing. Also, water levels can rise to dangerous levels very quickly.

After the storm passes, water will be dingy for a short time, especially on high-gradient streams. This is an ideal time to switch to streamers: Woolly Buggers, Muddler Minnow, Dace and other patterns that imitate swimming aquatic life. Streamers also work very well in deep pools, places where big brown trout are more likely to be. Strip streamers through the water or let them float in a current. Strikes are less frequent on streamers, but when you get a strike, it’s usually a big fish.

Trout fishing is a year-round pursuit in the hot days of summer or in the dead of winter. Just as trout adapt to weather conditions, the trout fisher also must adapt.

If it’s brown, it’s down:

Look for midsummer brown trout to be in deeper pools of well-oxygenated water, then fish a nymph or streamer and get it down to the bottom where the reclusive fish are holding.

Click here to read about a much different way to catch trout on South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee.


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Robert Satterwhite
About Robert Satterwhite 178 Articles
Bob Satterwhite has been writing about the outdoors, particularly trout fishing, for more than 25 years. A native of Morganton, N.C., he lives in Cullowhee, N.C., close to the Tuckasegee River, Caney Fork, Moses Creek, and several other prime trout streams.