By Spencer Durrant
The only problem with summer fishing is how tough it gets as the season drags on. Despite the consistent hatches, great weather, and seemingly endless opportunities to explore, summer fishing has a way of getting caught in its own doldrums.
Now, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a “magic fly” that works all the time, in every trout fishery. What I’ve found, though, is that there are some flies trout are more apt to eat at this point in the summer, when they’ve probably seen hundreds of different fake flies already, thanks to the large crowds of anglers who fish this time of year. You can hardly blame the trout for getting a bit selective as the season rolls on.
With that said, we’ll take a look at five patterns I think are indispensable for summer fishing. They’re just different enough to get the attention of most trout, and should help you hook into fish even on your local rivers that get a bit of pressure.
Partridge and Orange
If you’ve never fished soft hackle flies, you’re missing out. They’re fun and simple to fish, and they’re effective, too. Soft hackle flies primarily imitate emerging insects, so this is a great pattern to pull out during an evening hatch. These flies are best to fish on the swing, although I’ve had success stripping them slowly back towards me on a traditional upstream cast, as well. Either way, few people fish soft hackles anymore, so when trout see them, they tend to react favorably.
This is a fly that tends to sneak below the radar, but always seems to work well for me when I tie it on. It’s meant to imitate a caddis pupa, hence all the bright green colors. It works great on any river with caddis, especially if the bugs aren’t hatching yet, or the fish aren’t rising. I prefer tying it with a bead and fishing it deep, but it works well fished higher up in the water column, too.
Black (or Gray) Ghost
This is one of the first streamers I learned how to tie, and it’s still a pattern I use all these years later. Popularized in Maine by Carrie Stevens back in 1924, this fly was originally developed for chasing Atlantic salmon, but has since proven to be a wonderfully effective trout fly, too. It’s different enough from all the other streamers trout see, especially in the West, that they’ll often investigate it just out of curiosity.
Utah Killer Bug
A few years ago, finding videos that showed how to tie this fly was a challenge. Now, the secret is out on the Utah Killer Bug, but it’s still an effective fly at this point in the summer. It’s meant to imitate a cranefly larva, but it looks buggy enough to pass for other insects, too, which is probably why trout love it so much. Tie it heavy with extra lead around the hook shank and a tungsten bead, and you can drift this through every deep hole to great effect.
This fly is meant to imitate mayfly nymphs, but it works as an overall attractor pattern, too. The combination of dark and sparkly materials makes it stand out in the water, which might be why it’s so effective. Even with how popular this fly is, it can still be a great producer on those days when the fish aren’t moving on much else. It’s easy to tie, too, making it ideal for anglers of all skill levels.
When summer fishing gets tough, it’s easy to want to throw in the towel. Instead, start to think outside the box (literally, outside your fly box) and try flies that you haven’t really used all season. Once fish start seeing flies they haven’t seen a thousand times already, I think they’re a bit more likely to move.
What flies are your go-to patterns for summer fishing? Share with us in the comments!