Helpful Tips for Fishing Low Warm Water

by Kevin Howell

Over the years I have been forced to fish for trout in some of the worst possible conditions, from high water, to days that the ice freezes instantly on your guides. The absolute hardest fishing of all though is the low, hot water of late summer.  Not only do the fish not want to feed but you have to worry about killing them when you hook them.  The main thing to remember is that you as an angler have an ethical responsibility when fishing low, warm water.  Use as large a tippet as you can, so that you can land the fish as quickly as possible.  If you are struggling to land a fish then break it off, so that you don’t stress it and kill it.  Spend as much time reviving the fish as you spent landing, if you spent 10 minutes (which is way too long) landing it, then spend 10 minutes reviving it.  In low, hot water you should not spend more than 1-2 minutes to land any fish regardless of it size.  The other big issue in the summer is pictures; do not take the fish out of the water.  It is kind of like you running a half marathon and the very second you are done, someone holding your head under the water.  Here are some of my best summer tips:

  1. Fish, like most other animals, are reluctant to feed in times of warm water or low water.  They are trying to survive so you are trying to draw a reaction or impulse strike.  Your flies should have extra life added to them, rubber legs, soft hackles, Emu feather gills, etc.  The more annoying the motion of the fly the better your chance of getting a reaction strike.
  2. Trout will not move a great distance in low, warm water to feed; your presentations will have to be almost in a direct line with the fish.  This may require more sight fishing and or/ multiple casts to the same area.
  3. Be exceptionally careful of running waves in slow or shallow water to your fish. This will spook them quicker than an errant cast.
  4. Fish any decent flow of water; this is where the trout find oxygen and food in low water.  The better fish will lie directly under the fastest part of the flow where the most oxygen is located.  This requires that you fish flies that are weighted heavier than normal.  Your flies should sink to the bottom rapidly and stay there and tumble along like an injured our wounded piece of food.
  5. Never under estimate the power of the terrestrial pattern and often times larger is better. There are some large land born insects that get blown or knocked into the river, or maybe it is how bugs commit suicide, regardless of how it got there it is an easy meal. 

Always take advantage of summer rains.  The rain provides a burst of cool refreshing water which will make the fish more active.  It also displaces more food that has been trapped by the rising water on the stream bank.  Trout will take this time to feed aggressively until the water starts to drop and warm back up.