There’s not much I like more than warm summer days. Feeling the sun on my face and cool water on my feet as I wade in a river or lake puts me in a great frame of mind. Unfortunately, the fish don’t often feel the same way. You’ve probably noticed that those hot, bright summer days can be very tough for fishing. You might be in a good mood, but the fish are not.
Don’t worry. There are ways to beat the hot summertime fishing blues. All you have to do is remember these tricks.
1) Early and late. Fish still have to eat to survive. The only thing that changes in the dog days of summer is that the fish do their eating earlier and later in the day. Fish as close to sunrise and sunset as you can, and your odds improve dramatically. Where it’s legal, you might even try fishing at night. You just might surprise yourself.
2) Get down. Another rule of thumb is that most fish (including baitfish) will be found in deeper water during hot summer days. In a lake situation, many fish will like to hang out right around the thermocline (the depth where water temperatures noticeably drop). In warmer months, that level is deeper. In rivers, fish tend to hang out in the bottoms of runs more in the summer.
3) Key in on changes. Some universal fishing rules still apply in the summer. One of the most important is understanding that fish like changes—changes in depth, changes in current, and changes in structure. If you are able to locate dropoffs, submerged rock piles, in-flows and out-flows, and things of that nature, you’ll be more likely to find fish in the first place.
4) Force the bite. Sometimes, when fish are in lethargic feeding mood the angler has to make them an offer they literally cannot refuse. I’m a big fan of “attractor” fishing in the summer. I use lures with bright colors and accents that grab attention (especially when I am fishing dark, deep water), and when I fly fish a river, I use gaudy dry flies that look like grasshoppers and other terrestrial insects.
Summer is for sure a great season for fishing, but it can be tricky when it comes to catching. Fish early, deep, and bright, and follow the food sources, and you’ll solve the riddles of summer, no problem.
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT magazine, and an editor-at-large for Field & Stream.