Two Tips for Beating the Heat

These summer days are the ones we wait all year long for. The ones that keep us anglers going through winter, sustain us through the day jobs and inspire long February evenings of tying hoppers and stoneflies in anxious anticipation of the hatches we love. While the bugs are here, that doesn’t always mean the fishing is easy. The height of summer brings its own fishing challenges, not least among them are the long bright days and heat that drives fish into the deep pools and shade. Fish have lots of bugs on the menu, and clear water means they can see your approach a mile off.  Depending on the day, sometimes this heat can throw the bite off and rivers can seem like they’ve shut down completely and the fish have all but disappeared. Heavy floating traffic and finicky fish on the river can also send some fly anglers into fits of rage, but this doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve all been there. You’ve read the reports, talked to the guys in the shop, loaded up on the hot fly and hit the river for a healthy dose of no action whatsoever. Ain’t fishing grand? In these times, experimentation can change your day for the better. Here are two tips to beat the heat this summer.

This healthy cutthroat trout was caught in the middle of a 90 degree day using a size 16 flash emerger on a long leash. Experimenting with the depth of your dropper can get you back into fish when the sun is out.
Drop it Deep 
Summer means tossing the big dry flies to rising trout. But what happens when they just aren’t rising? Oftentimes, the fish are eating the bugs that are rocketing toward the surface well underneath the water. Tying a smaller nymph behind your dry fly on a 3 to 4 foot section of tippet can help find fish when they’re not eating on the top. Experimenting with the length of the tippet and changing the dropper fly often until you find the depth and fly combination of the day can get you back into fish when the heat is on.
Double your Dry
Summer means big dries in western Montana. Size 10 or larger stonefly and hopper patterns are great – we can see them for a mile, they float high and catch lots of fish. But when river traffic gets high, the fish can see a whole lot of the big stuff, and refusals can be maddening. Tying a smaller dry fly off the back of a big dry fly lets you cover more bases. On rivers where multiple bugs are hatching at the same time it’s worth doubling your chances by imitating two at the same time. A favorite combination for guides in western Montana is a large stonefly pattern trailed by a smaller parachute adams or purple haze. The second fly covers the many mayfly hatches, and oftentimes fools those wary trout that have seen the big ones and left them alone. The added bonus of being able to actually see your larger fly when the little one seems to have gone invisible is always nice as well.
Summer goes by fast, and fishing is red hot here in western Montana, so get out while you can! Keep these tips in mind when the heat slows them down, and don’t be afraid to experiment on the river, it can save your day and keep you smiling.
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