In June, July, and August, we all have a love/hate relationship with the sun. There is a lot more daylight, but the tradeoff is an oppressive heat. Some parts of the country can get downright steamy, forcing anglers to wear oxymoronic lightweight layers. At the same time, there isn’t another time of the year where you can fish until 9:00pm without artificial light.
All that to say, there are some ways that the late, hot summer evenings can be utilized to the fly fisher’s advantage. Weather, light, and time do impact the behavior of fish, insects, and other people. With a little planning and consideration, there can be a lot of angling benefits to the opportunities of this time of year.
Start fishing later.
“Fish smarter, not harder” is a great motto for the summer. There are very few good reasons to be out on the stream in the middle of the day when the temperature is soaring towards 100 and the sun is blazing. Under most circumstances, it’s bad for the fish and its bad for you.
So start later. If you’re just fishing a local water, getting out at five or six still means close to four hours of fishing. You’ll be rigging up when everyone else is leaving dehydrated and frazzled.
Plus, we all know how the fishing turns on as dusk draws near. Hatches pick up, feeding intensifies, and the bigger fish become active. Your worm can be the one that the proverbial early fish gets. You might not be fishing at night, per se, but you’ll be out there for some quality early evening conditions.
Pick the right gear.
Although it is still technically light between 8:00 and 9:00, clouds, trees, or other conditions can make it harder to see on the water. So pack accordingly.
Make sure that you have some flies with big, stiff posts for the sake of visibility. Contrast is always helpful when fishing dries, and this increase as visibility is diminished. Bump your leader up a size. Cast and mend well, and there won’t be an issue. The primary reason being tangles that would normally be manageable at midday become tenuous as the sun sets.
But the other, peripheral gear is vital as well. A headlamp is a must; in case you get overzealous. If you normally wet wade with open-toed sandals, consider wearing wading boots or old tennis shoes to avoid busting a toe. If pictures are important to you, make sure you have equipment and skills to capture low-light photos. I’m no good at it, and from what I see on social media, most other anglers aren’t either.
Remember to look up.
Many years ago a friend and I were fishing a spring creek in July. It was a perfect summer day, and we’d been out since dawn. The stream was mildly technical, so I was focusing on drifting small nymphs in each and every weed channel. In effect, I was staring at a dark fly in dark weeds in dark water. I can still remember thinking it was well after sunset when I looked up to see that the sun was still over the horizon.
I’m not an expert on ocular perception, but I do know that staring at one shade for a long time can lead to eye fatigue. Fishing hard necessitates looking at the water a lot, but there are other reasons to look up. As previously mentioned, insect activity changes as daylight wanes. Sometimes these hatches only last an hour or so, and seeing the spinners or duns moving above you can prepare you for the fast and furious action to come. Along with allowing your eyes to adjust to the changing conditions, consciously surveying your surroundings is helpful when low light conditions reduce peripheral acuity.
And looking up can help you…
Keep track of time.
If you’re thinking about fishing, you’re thinking about fishing. “I’ll just fish the next hole,” has gotten plenty anglers in trouble. And if not mortal peril, then at least an equally perilous situation when you have to explain why you’re coming home close to 10:00pm.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with fishing at night. In fact, it can be some of the most rewarding and exciting time spend pursuing trout, bass, and virtually all species. The big caveat is that successful night fishing is purposeful, not the result of accidentally staying out too late.
If you plan on fishing past dark, make sure that you are legally allowed to. Take note of the aforementioned gear suggestions. Don’t try new water, and make sure someone knows where you are.
But if you’re not planning on fishing after dark, just be aware how far from your vehicle you are. You can still “fish hard” and be cognizant of the time and your surroundings.
Don’t be fooled.
Fly fishing, like anything and everything else, has a significant mental component. Your confidence in a fly makes a difference. Your comfort level on a pond translates, to a certain degree, into success or failure. And perception becomes reality.
Don’t be fooled when everyone is leaving a river at 7:00pm in the summer. They’ve been sweating their brains out all day.
Don’t be fooled by your own routine. Yes, you might begin to wind down after dinner. But the fish don’t work a nine-to-five.
Don’t be fooled if streetlights come on, traffic quiets down, and you feel like it is later than usual. Those are all good things!
Getting out in the summer means thinking outside the box. You can still have some great fishing, and you can still take care of the fish and yourself. Being aware of yourself, your environment, and the differences in your routine can make all the difference. And, most importantly, you can avoid the oppressive sunshine for a few hours.