Just a few tips for your summer trout fishing trip
By Walt Young
For the Mirror
Summertime trout fishing presents a special set of challenges for even the most experienced trout anglers.
Compared to the bountiful opportunities of the spring, catching trout this time of year seems like a completely different game from what we enjoyed back in April and May.
Many anglers simply curtail trout fishing when summer arrives in favor of bass or other summer-friendly species. But plenty of stalwart trout fans embrace the task of solving summer fishing problems and find success.
One essential piece of gear for every summer trout angler should be a good stream thermometer. Trout are cold-water creatures whose feeding behavior, not to mention their very survival, depends on a very specific range of water temperatures.
Optimum temperatures for trout metabolism range from 45 to 65 degrees, and within this temperature window, they are likely to be looking for food. Trout also require more oxygen for survival than most warm-water fish, and colder water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warmer water.
Brown and rainbow trout can start to suffer stress when water temperatures reach 68 degrees or more. Brook trout need slightly cooler water and can begin to stress when the water reaches 65 degrees.
Therefore, as water temperatures approach 70 degrees, trout quit feeding and go into “survival” mode. Water temperatures of 75 to 77 degrees or more for extended periods can be lethal for browns and rainbows and 70 degrees or more for brook trout.
Many stocked streams that produced excellent fishing during April and May have now become marginal or simply too warm to support trout during the summer. If you are encountering sustained water temperatures in the mid-70s or higher, think about fishing elsewhere. Throughout south-central Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have many limestone streams that are fed by underground springs and freestone streams that flow through heavily forested areas.
These types of waterways generally remain cool enough to support trout year-round. They also tend to be the streams that produce good populations of wild trout.
During the summer, it is rare to encounter another fisherman on most trout streams, and I usually prefer to fish alone this time of year. On those occasions in the summer when I do fish with a friend or happen upon another angler, I’m amazed to see them make the same mistake almost every time. And that mistake is to scare off every trout in the vicinity before making the first cast.
Although we’ve had regular amounts of rain so far this summer, most of the best trout streams in our area are still generally low and clear. These conditions will put all trout living in them on high alert, so stealth is a major key to success for summertime anglers. A lot of the tactics that worked just fine in the higher flows of spring will fail you miserably now.
Any stocked trout that remain have learned the ways of the wild and will be every bit as wary as their wild cousins. On small to medium-sized streams, stay out of the water as much as possible. Stepping into any pool will likely create enough underwater noise and vibration to alert and probably chase away any trout within casting range. If I need to cross the stream, I always try to do so well above or below the next spot I intend to fish. Keep a low profile and move along the stream bank slowly and deliberately. Wearing clothing in muted green, brown or other drab colors will help you blend into your surroundings as well.
Fly-fishing is my preferred method for summer trout because it provides me with the flexibility to present a reasonable imitation of just about any food item on the trout’s summer menu from a bulky grasshopper to a tiny size-22 ant to a streamer fly that looks like a minnow or other baitfish.
But regardless of what fly, lure or bait you are using, a careful and delicate presentation will be critical for success. Sloppy casting will put off the fish just as badly as ill-advised wading or other excessive commotion.
One of my favorite tricks for fine tuning summer presentation came about somewhat by accident years ago. A friend of mine insisted that I try casting his new 2-weight outfit. After giving it a short workout, I told him it certainly cast well but was not a rod I would like to fish with. Even then I owned at least several dozen fly rods but none lighter than 4-weight. That was because all the 2- and 3-weight rods I had ever handled were much too light and whippy to suit my fishing style. I was impressed, however, by how delicately I could lay the 2-weight line on the water.
I asked my friend if I could borrow his reel and line for a few minutes while we were practice casting. When he wanted to know why, I explained that I wanted to try the 2-weight line on my favorite little 4-weight rod. He told me I wouldn’t be able to cast the light line on that rod.
That turned out not to be the case, and my 4-weight rod threw his 2-weight line just as far as his wimpy little 2-weight rod did. Soon after that experiment, I bought myself a 2-weight line and installed it on a spare reel, which has been my go-to for summertime finesse trout fishing ever since.