Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Late-summer secret

By Richard Tate
Contributing Writer

Over the years, fly-fishermen have come to realize that fly-fishing for trout during the late summer can be productive. There are numerous reasons for this.

The main one is that mid-summer’s high water temperatures often are not conducive for good trout fishing. The trout become torpid in the warm water of the season. 

However, when the water temperatures of late summer sink into the low 60s or even the 50s, the trout become more active, since these temperatures are metabolically appropriate for trout.

Trout that have stacked up in cold-water refuges begin to spread out in the cooler streams. 

A couple of fly-shops in northcentral Pennsylvania actively discourage trout fishermen from fishing during the hot weather when water temperatures actually threaten the very lives of the trout; but with the advent of late summer and cooler water, these shops encourage fly-fishermen to again hit the water.

Fly-fishermen who have been confined to streams containing cold water or who may even have fished for bass during the hot weather gradually return to their favorite waters.  

Some of these fly-fishermen become discouraged that the flies and the tactics they used earlier in the season are not as effective in late summer as they were earlier.  They become upset when their favorite nymphs or streamers do not produce the numbers of trout that they hope to catch.

 These fly-fishermen have not discovered the “big secret” that successful late-summer fly-fishermen have discovered.

Although late-summer fly-fishermen continue to use their favorite nymphs to catch trout, they often choose a different path to catch trout.  They have learned the secret that dry flies are the ticket for latching on to late-summer trout.

As a fly-fisherman who prefers dry-fly fishing over other methods of fly-fishing, I often choose times to fish that are favorable for dry-fly fishing.  In late-summer and into the autumn, these adventures are often afternoon affairs when cool water temperatures rise a few degrees and stimulate trout-feeding activity.  

For instance, last Aug. 20 began with a cool morning.  The temperature rose to 75 degrees by midafternoon, and I hit the creek from 1 to 3:30 p.m. as the water temperature gradually rose to 64 degrees by the time I ended my outing.

 My fishing journal reads, “The action this afternoon was not fast and furious. But, using a size 14 Adams dry fly, it was steady. Fishing a wooded section of the creek, I picked up more than 15 wild brown trout between 8 and 15 inches.  In the low, clear water, I was happy with the results of this outing.”

Many fly-fishermen know that freestone streams are often at their lowest flows during late summer.  However, a significant rain can change that and can raise the water enough that the trout become approachable.  

Again, my fishing journal from last year reveals that a dry-fly fisherman can enjoy a fine outing under these conditions.  It reads, “The remains of Hurricane Laura dumped 1.2 inches of rain locally yesterday/last night. The local streams were out of sorts, so I drove to a mountain run 25 miles away.  

“Though it was not flowing at springtime levels, it had risen from its summer low point and was fishable with a dry fly. I knotted on a size 14 Wright Caddis and fished from 11:15 a.m. until nearly 2 p.m. when the humidity along with a high afternoon temperature of nearly 80 degrees finally got to me.  

“Even so, I enjoyed a productive outing, catching and releasing nearly 20 wild brown and native brook trout. A 9-inch brookie was the biggest native I landed, and a 15-inch brown was a nice surprise from this little mountain run.  It was a satisfying adventure.”

From these journal entries, you might figure that dry-fly fishing in late summer and into autumn is something that is useful on small streams, that you need to resort to nymphs or streamers on larger waters.

And I often use nymphs for late-summer fishing on larger streams. However, I learned a long time ago that fishing dry flies “to the water” can be the ticket to fast action on bigger streams as well.

When I was much younger than I am now, the union I belonged to called a strike beginning in late August. I was devastated, but I dutifully carried a picket sign for the duration of the strike.  

After finishing my picketing each morning, I drove along a famous central Pennsylvania trout river on my way home.  Of course, I chose to fish there numerous times. 

One afternoon on a whim, I clinched on a size 14 Double-Wing dry fly that I was experimenting with at the time and fished a nice section of river.  The action was good, and I continued to use the Double-Wing on subsequent outings on the river on my trips home. 

During the three weeks of the strike, I landed a lot of fine trout up to 16 inches from the river, which did not then have no-kill regulations established on it. Over the years, the Double-Wing has become a reliable late-summer dry fly for probing large streams.

Another late-summer dry-fly-fishing situation you may encounter involves finding fish softly rising to flies that are not readily apparent.  When I encounter such fish, I often tie on size 16 Black Ant or size 16 Foam Beetle patterns.  

Many times the trout will eat these. If these do not work, a size 18 Griffith’s Gnat will often fool these smutting trout.

It seems to be a big secret that using dry flies is one of the most effective fly-fishing methods for fooling late-summer trout. If you are an enthusiastic fly-fisherman, you just might want to knot on a favorite dry fly and get in on some exciting late-summer action.

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