Summertime Trout Fly Fishing: What You Need to Change to Fish the Sun and the Rain this Weekend

Summertime Trout Fly Fishing: There is challenge here, but also opportunity.
Summertime Trout Fly Fishing: There is challenge here, but also opportunity.


As a single fellow and saltwater fishing addict in my 20’s in Florida my fishing buddies and I would pore over moon rises and sets and moon phases, tidal charts, and distances from inlets to compute precise tidal delays and debate endlessly when the ‘bite’ would be- because THAT is when we would be on the water. Today life is fuller, and we exchange flexibility for the richness and joy of family and career. Nowadays, the absolute best time to go summertime trout fly fishing is whenever I can go!

This change results in a host of new challenges and problems to solve- and invites an enjoyable change in tactics and fishing philosophy in my summertime trout fly fishing pursuits. What do you do, how do you change or react, when faced with less than optimum conditions? Knowing what changes to make, or at least what variables to experiment with as you try to crack the summertime trout code goes a long way toward making the most of your precious summertime trout fly fishing!

Midday Sun and Heat

We’ll begin with probably the most common situation. I recently fished one of my favorite streams during the early afternoon bright sun because, well, that’s when I could. I got skunked. I only realized later that I had fallen in a rut and used my successful Spring and Fall flies, presentations, and techniques and failed to take into account the situation (I hadn’t fished it before in the Summer afternoon).

In general trout seek a cold water refuge as the sun warms the water, concentrate in numbers, and often move deeper to find the colder water.

  • Use lighter, longer tippet in clear waters on hot days- Unsure how to fight a fish on a light leader? Test it! Hook your fly to something and put a bend in the rod- go ahead give it some pressure- you’ll be surprised how much steady pressure it takes to break. FYI though: sudden or gross movements (such as a surge from a big fish) are sure to part your 7X.
  • Wade a little more carefully. Try not to push a wake into slower water and offer gentle presentations taking care not line your target. Try casting across or even angle down current rather than up or quartering as a way to present the fly first, and only.
  • Don’t get locked in on one or even a few flies. Summer is the time to try a lot of different fly options to see what fish are consuming. Don’t be mistaken or misled- trout have a lot of food choices in the summer.
  • Fish are rising/sipping something you can’t see- go small. This may be a little intimidating at first but now I love fishing very small nymphs and emergers. Feel free to use an indicator or a large lead dry fly to help you ID strikes. Some of the best advice I ever received when fishing small flies to finicky fish- find a reason to set the hook on every cast. That tiny twitch, pause, or movement could be the strike. I was amazed at how my catch rate went up!
  • Fish ant imitations more. Much more. Researching this article I didn’t find this advice in too many places- but it made a lot of sense to me so I decided to include it. Ants are more active during the hotter parts of the day as the sun warms them. Wait- an extremely prolific insect that gets more active (read as falls into streams and rivers) more often during the hotter parts of the day? Yeah I’m going to fish that fly. Don’t forget to carry and fish a few different colors and sizes to dial the trout in.

Rain- Light & Heavy Call for Different Adjustments

Light Rain- When I first started fly fishing I ignorantly found some shelter and waited out a little bit of rain. Now, I can’t get enough casts in during and after a nice light rain. Fishing flies that imitate worms, caterpillars, ants and other terrestrials can be incredibly productive at these times. Lots of these types of insects are washed into the water by rain and runoff. Especially fish terrestrials under overhanging branches along the banks- that’s where they fall in after all. If you’re fishing light tippet also feel  free to go up a size two- take advantage of the cloud in the water to increase your chance of whipping a big fish.

Heavy Rain doesn’t mean the end to your fishing day either as long as the water maintains some small level of visibility and you can fish from a safe place (always be very careful wading in rain and rising water conditions). Switch to heavier tippet and fish large and brightly colored wooly buggers or bunny leeches (black or yellow are my two favorites).

The Best Summertime Flies

I admit I struggle with writing an article to a national audience when fly selection can be so locally unique. Please visit for more specific and local attention and to learn about our Match the Hatch monthly subscription package. That said I’ve done my best to make the following recommendations both relevant to you, and general to your fellow readership. Here are some general summertime fly tips and recommendations:

  • Fish stone flies nymphs early and late in the day, and on the bottom. Very early and very late in the day present to your favorite Spring and Fall fish holding locations.
  • Watch for initial bug hatches in those areas first heated by the sun- then match the hatch
  • Fish terrestrials near stream edges and under overhanging brush and shade.
  • Experiment with different sizes and colors of ants- they are ALWAYS on the menu, especially during the warmer hours of the day when they are more active.
  • Fish small dries, nymphs and emergers based on what you see in sizes 18 – 22. These would include gnats, mosquitoes, midges, and blue wing olives (BWOs).
  • We here at would enjoy the opportunity to customize your summertime trout fly selections and send them to you automatically- just answer a few easy questions.
  • Soft hackle flies- Spend some time going deep with small size 18 & 20 soft hackles. These flies have great pulsating movement and are what I consider a great generalist fly- they just look ‘buggy’ and imitate a number of different insects.
  • Don’t forget there are little fishes in the water that the bigger fishes target as well- summer is a great time to induce strikes on flies that imitate minnows or other small fish like sculpins, or even on that crayfish fly you spent $2.00 on and have never fished…

In closing, I try not to get too philosophical with our blog because that’s not what we do, but always keep in mind the risk/reward equation in the summertime. This applies to trout and all animals. If you can present a sufficient reward that exceeds the perceived risk to get it, you’ll get that strike- at high noon, in a few inches of gin clear water, to a wary trout in the summertime. And let’s not forget: you’re fishing at that moment because that’s when you could go….

by Josh at



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