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Summer Fly Fishing Tips

It’s hot. It’s humid. Spring has passed. Summer is here in full force as July bleeds into August. For the mountain angler, this time of year can be a challenge.

Fly-fishing options, abundant in April, May and early June, are limited. However, this doesn’t mean you have to stay home until cooler temperatures descend upon Western North Carolina.

Below are a handful of tips to help beat the heat with the long rod.

Fish Early or Late

Any fly fisherman worth his or her weight in split shot knows trout like cold water. Prime water temperatures call for 52-62 degrees. When July hits, the window for that range shrinks substantially once the morning sun peeks above the trees.

Ideally, you need to be on the water at first light, approximately 6:15, 6:30. Sure, you can arrive at 8 a.m., but depending on the temperatures the night before, the fishing might be over by 10.

Once the water temperature reaches 67 degrees, your catch rate decreases dramatically. Plus, trout struggle to survive when temperatures approach 70.

If you do catch fish in warmer water, it’s important to release the fish quickly. Use heavier tippet to land your quarry efficiently and handle the fish as little as possible, so it can be revived. Warm water is hard enough on trout. There’s no need to make it more stressful with extended photo sessions.

Fish a Tailwater

Tailwater fisheries typically draw water from the bottom of a lake. Hence, the water temperatures stay colder longer. We have one viable summer option --- the lower Nantahala River in Wesser, which is just outside of Bryson City.

The Tuckaseegee, which runs through Sylva and Bryson City, is also a tailwater. But the water in the Tuck doesn’t stay as cold as the Nantahala, which is more shaded and fed by an underground pipe.

One warning about fishing any tailwater: You need to check the daily release schedule. Duke Energy manages the Nantahala and Tuckaseegee. Fishing during the releases, can be dangerous. It’s best, for safety reasons, to fish during lower water.

Bring a Stream Thermometer

For much of summer fly fishing, water temperatures will be borderline. Most of the time, you can evaluate the water temperature by feel: If it feels comfortable enough to take a swim, it’s too hot for trout; if it’s cold enough that you feel a noticeable, steady chill, you’re likely in cool enough water. However, one degree or two can make a huge difference between success and a skunking. A stream thermometer helps with accuracyand ensure the former.

Fish the Faster Water

Typically, trout like water fast enough to deliver food, but slow enough that they don’t have to work for their daily bread. That scenario changes a bit in the summer. Why? Fish need oxygen, and the riffles offer aerated water, which typically is in short supply as the water warms.

Use bigger, bushier flies and look for bank-side shaded stretches for the best chance of success.

Time to Hoof It

During prime time in the fall and spring, you can fish close to the truck and enjoy success. In the summer, you may have to hike to find smaller, high-elevation streams. Higher elevation means cooler water and less-pressured fish.

To make it into the backcountry, you need the right gear. Rubber-sole wading books are lighter than felt bottoms. Simms’ Flyweight boots or Orvis’ Ultralight wading boots are good options and easier on the quads after a long walk. Both brands are available at our shop.

It's Time to Kick Some Bass

Trout, without question, are the most popular fly-rod target. But don’t overlook smallmouth bass in the summer and early fall. Smallies, unlike trout, can tolerate warmer water and are a lot of fun on poppers and streamers on the lower Tuck or Little Tennessee Rivers.

Not to be overlooked are panfish. They may be small, but they fight hard and attack a fly or small popper with abundant enthusiasm. Brim are a great option for kids or beginners.

The dog days of summer can be trying for fly fishing, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until fall. Summer fly fishing in WNC can be challenging, but very rewarding


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