I previously wrote a piece on tactics to make your mid-summer trout fishing more productive. In this piece, I’m going to tell you how to deal with the hot mid-summer temperatures to make it easier on both you and the trout.
In the Driftless region of the upper Midwest, we always have a two week period(sometimes longer sometimes shorter) when daytime highs are in the 90’s and oppressively humid. Because this coincides with the longest, sunniest days of the year, these temperatures can take our spring creeks from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s or even low 70’s. Stream temperatures of 65 degrees can be very stressful to trout and cause some mortality, 70 degrees is lethal to trout. Best advice during these heat waves is to fish for smallmouth bass which have a higher tolerance for warm water and are more active in these temperatures, but many folks are “addicted to trout”.
Here's some advice on how to fish smarter during the heat of the summer. First, fish early morning to mid/late morning because the stream has been able to cool down overnight so it will be at the coolest temperature of the day and the fish are most active. If you start fishing at 6 AM, you’re fishing at least 4 hours, and have the rest of the day to do other things. Fish the upper stretches of a stream because this is generally faster pocket water that is cooler and more oxygenated. Save the lower stretches of stream for winter, spring, and fall. Carry a stream thermometer with you and use it religiously-you want to fish where the water temperature is coolest. It only takes 2 degrees to make a difference for example 58 degrees puts you in a better place than 60 degrees. Concentrate your fishing on areas where the water will be cooler such the shaded area by limestone bluff, pockets below riffles, and places where springs flow into the stream. Try not to fish too long by springs because fish stack up there and this can put added stress on the fish. Finally try to keep fish handling to a minimum because the longer the fish is out of the water the more stressed it is, and the less likely it’ll survive.
If you must take pictures of the trout, use a net to keep the fish in the water and don’t take more photos than necessary.
People experience discomfort in warm weather too, and here’s some tips to make you more comfortable in the heat of summer. Don’t wear waders-they’re too hot, wet wade instead with quick dry hiking pants and your wading boots. Wear a hooded sun shirt like the Buggstopper Solarflex Hoody from Simms-the hood keeps the sun off your neck and ears, it’s lightweight and comfortable, and the insect shield keeps the biting insects away. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn-SunBum SPF 30-50 is a good one because it’s sweat/water proof and lasts a long time. Finally STAY HYDRATED-carry a water bottle with you or a Camelback backpack with a water bladder to stay in good physical and fishing shape.
I hope this advice helps you get the most out of your summer trout fishing. It’s not about fishing all day from dawn to dusk but about fishing smarter, not harder. Good luck and stay safe out there.