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Image by Keith Misner

the hunter's lane:
fly fishing
[spring trout fly fishing]


Summer is here and that means eager anglers are hitting the water. After the cold days of winter and high waters of spring, the golden months have arrived. Insects are hatching, fish are feeding, and the weather is great. While summer is most people's favorite season to fish, it does require changing up your techniques from previous seasons. Before you hit the water in the summer sun, make sure you brush up on your summer fly fishing techniques!


The Hunter's Lane is here to support your success with this brief guide

Spring Trout Fly Fishing [Spring Trout Fly Fishing]


Locating Spring Season Trout: 

Early in the season, trout seek shallower, warmer water in rivers and streams.  This is where insect, baitfish, tadpoles, crawfish, and other aquatic food sources start to activate as water temperatures warm up faster in the shallows. Same thing for spawning activity. Just think of locating fish the opposite compared to hot august when fish seek out the depths to cool off, in spring they have the benefit of higher water they can easily escape to, but need to follow the food.


Adapting Your Tactics To Match The Season: 

Early spring trout fishing demands attentiveness to flow levels, visibility, and temperature. Since trout are still in a slower metabolism, it also demands some of the same cold-water tactics you use in the winter. 

Understanding Stream Flow: 

Eastern streams usually experience higher flows in early spring, when rainfall fills many streams over their banks. Aside from rainfall ups & downs, the spring rainy period is followed by gradually decreasing / improving flows, often triggering the best fishing in late spring when flows stabilize and water temperatures rise. Many western streams, especially those draining mountains with snowpack, experience a different flow regime.  Early spring flows are actually more stable and lower than late spring. This is because it takes warmer temperatures melt the snow-pack and in some cases accelerate glacial runoff.

Avoid The Hottest Times Of The Day: 

There's more than one reason it's a good idea to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

First of all, the fishing will probably be a little slower than in the morning and evening. In the morning, temperatures are cool, fish are active, and insects will start emerging. In the evening, big hatches can happen. Clouds of caddises can be seen in the evenings of hot summer days, and mayfly spinner falls will be causing fish to go nuts. In addition to the actual fishing, the wellbeing of the fish is also an issue in summer. Once water temperatures get too warm, fish start to struggle. They get less oxygen and need to take it easy until the water cools down. If you catch a fish in warm water, there's a decent chance it won't make it after being released, especially if it took a while to land.

Take Notice To Water Temperatures: Trout feed most actively in water ranging from 52 to 64 degrees F.  Water colder that that, use winter and cold-water tactics.  In water warmer than that, they become more sluggish.  And in water over 70 degrees, trout are at a high risk of mortality if they get spent from a battle with your fly rod.  So many anglers switch over to fishing for smallmouth or largemouth bass, or other warm water species to protect the trout.

Mimic Natural Fly Life Cycles: While there are hatches that happen year-round, winter and spring are generally subsurface seasons. Throwing nymphs, and maybe the occasional dry if you see rises, is the standard practice. Summer, on the other hand, brings bountiful hatches. That doesn't just mean switching straight over to dries, though. Mornings are usually still nymphing hours, as the bugs take a little warming up before becoming airborne. The key to cashing in on this is to progress the life cycle of your fly as the day goes on. Early in the morning, when it's still chilly, nymphs are probably the way to go. As late morning comes along and you see fish sipping near, but not on, the surface, it's time to switch to an emerger. These bugs are moving upward through the water column as it warms up. In the afternoon and evening, many insects will start to actually come off the water. This is when you'll want to switch to a true dry fly, mimicking insects sitting on the surface. In the late evening, dry flies are still on the menu in the form of spinners. These imitate insects that are falling back to the water at the end of the day. Organizing your fly box to match this progression will make things easy and keep you dialed in as the day progresses.



One of the most famous, and most fun, parts of summer fly fishing is terrestrials. Although Tom Rosenbauer argues that terrestrials are actually on the menu during other months as well, there's no denying that the summer is when they're at their peak. Beetles, ants, and grasshoppers are some of the most popular, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. In addition to being deadly during the hottest times, like August, terrestrials are a blast to fish. Something about a hopper makes even the smallest fish bold, and getting to see the aggressive strikes on the surface is well worth forgoing the traditional delicate dry flies that crush it early in the summer. If you consider a mouse a terrestrial (it is from land, after all), you can try throwing that as well during the summer. In meadow streams at night, big browns are lurking for a meaty meal.

Practice Concientious Fish Handling: 

If you're fishing to take a limit home, handling fish with care in the net isn't of super high importance.

On the other hand, if you're practicing catch-and-release (or catch a non-legal fish), you'll want to make sure the fish has the best chance at survival upon being released. This means handling fish with care.

Treating fish well should be a staple of any fishing trip, regardless of the season. In the summer, though, the stakes are much higher. As air and water temperatures increase, fish have a harder time recovering. This was also an argument for avoiding the heat of midday. Apart from fishing during the morning and evening, proper handling is vital to the survival of released fish. This includes getting the fish in as quickly as possible, keeping it in the water or at least dripping wet, removing the hook quickly, and allowing it to recover in calm but moving water until it's strong enough to swim off on its own.

Image by Jack Charles
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