No matter the time of the year, you have a chance to land fish on a fly rod. While it may require some extra planning and a little travel, fish feed all year round and you’ll find that as long as you find the right location, you can fly fish every single month. Have an understanding of how fish feed depending on the time of the year, and you can almost guarantee success.
Spring Fly Fishing Season
Spring fly fishing is a great chance to shake off any rust that you may have developed over the winter. Starting in March and spreading through mid-May, you’ll find spring fly fishing conditions in most areas. High water levels, low clarity and hungry fish are all common circumstances that you’ll find in the spring. You may not be able to use your favorite methods, but you do have a chance at landing great fish that will be a lot more challenging to entice later in the season. While these months are maybe not the most ideal to book your fly fishing trip, but they are definitely productive.
Spring Fly Fishing Tactics
Nymphing in rivers rather than dry fly
Due to the higher water levels, food is more plentiful in the water in the spring. Fish aren’t relying as much on the hatches to eat their fill. Worms, grubs and other insects will have fallen into the water and the fish aren’t looking up as much to feed. Nymphs are going to get further down in the water column to where the fish are finding most of their food.
Stick to nymphing along the banks and in slower water. The higher water levels are going to mean faster water, so stick with any slack water you find.
Get deep with tungsten
Fishing deep in the spring is a productive way to land fish. With the cooler water temperatures and lack of interest in dry flies, the fish are only looking for what’s available near the bottom. Stick a couple of feet above the bottom and you’ll be good to go. Depending on the flow rate, tungsten is going to get you to where you need to go! A bead-head nymph may not be enough to get towards the bottom.
Fish Tailraces to Avoid Runoff/Snow Melt
Tailraces or tailwaters are great to fish during the spring. Since these are sections of water below a reservoir or a dam, you don’t have to deal as much with runoff and snow melt. These portions of the river have their water levels controlled, so fishing is usually great!
Summer Fly Fishing Season
Once June hits, the summer fly fishing season begins. It’ll end around September! Water flows regulate and all methods of fly fishing are on the table. It doesn’t matter if it’s early summer or late summer, the fish are going to be ready to eat. You have to pay close attention to the water temperatures, and make sure you head to the water when they’re going to be active!
Summer Fly Fishing Tactics
Dry Fly Fishing – yay!
For many anglers, dry fly fishing is the best time of the year. The best dry fly fishing is going to occur in the mornings after the sun has risen and right before the sun sets at night. While you have to be accurate with your casts, the most successful dry fly anglers are able to match the hatch and delicately present their flies. Find rising fish and make casts near them. Odds are, you’re going to land a fair share of fish.
Keep an eye on water temps – fish tailraces and headwater streams when hot
Paying close attention to water temperatures is vital for successful summer fly fishing. Anything over 65 degrees is going to cause trout feeding to slow down. They’re going to go to cooler waters and not be as eager to feed. Sticking with tailwaters and headwaters is going to lead to the most success. Even if the air temperatures are warm, the water temperatures will stay fairly consistent.
Fish hoppers and big terrestrials as summer wears on
As late summer fly fishing hits in August and September, terrestrial flies should be some of your most-used flies. Large trout love terrestrial patterns. Hoppers, beetles, and ants are all going to catch your fish. Summer weather is ideal for these insects! Fish these flies close to the banks near grassy areas. They’ll attempt to fly and get blown into the water or fall off of the grasses and hit the water near the banks.
Fall Fly Fishing Season
Come late September, October and November, you’re in the heart of fall fly fishing. The waters are cooling and fish are eager to fill themselves before the temperatures get too cold. These months are some of my favorite for fly fishing. The water isn’t as busy with anglers and the fishing can be extremely productive. A nice weather day can lead to dozens and dozens of fish. With a little work and trial and error, you’ll likely find that these months are more productive than most.
Fall Fly Fishing Tips
Hatches can be critical
Hatches are the name of the game in the fall. They’re still happening in full force and the fish are extra eager to feed. They’re even more predictable in the fall, so you can time your day on the water around the hatches. Blue Winged Olives are the most prominent hatches that occur in the fall.
Sleep in a bit … hatches take a while to get going
The beauty of fall BWO hatches is that they often occur in the middle of the day! Fall means fewer extremely early mornings on the water. Wait for the weather to warm and then things start to get going. Set that alarm a little later on the weekend.
The technique is key – stealth and careful casting
Since flows start to slow later in the fall, the water clarity improves. As a result, fish are extra alert and will easily spook. Make sure to scout the water from a decent distance when you fly fish in the fall. Pick the spots you’re hoping to fish before you even get to the water.
Also, you’re going to want to be more precise with your casts. Don’t slap the water over and over with poor casts. The fish aren’t going to be as forgiving as they might be in the spring! At this point of the year, they’ve been exposed to an entire summer of flies.
Don’t be afraid to swing a streamer
Swinging streamers in the fall is a blast. As fish begin to fatten up for the winter, you want to throw those bigger flies. Swinging streamers can lead to some great fishing. For me, it’s the best fishing you can do! Big streamers often mean fairly big fish. Take advantage of the opportunity to do this. Before or after a hatch is a great time to start swinging streamers.
Winter Fly Fishing Season
Winter fly fishing is from December to February. This time of year is when the diehard anglers find peace and quiet on the water. Expectations aren’t as high as they would be in the summer or fall, but you are still able to land your fair share of fish. If anything, you’re going to get better as an angler. You’ll learn more about fish behavior and feeding patterns.
Winter Fly Fishing Tips
Wear the right gear to keep warm
When you fly fish in the winter, you want to make sure you’re wearing the right gear. Warm base layers and wading clothes are vital. There’s nothing that can spoil a day of winter fly fishing more than improper clothing.
Patience is the name of the game in winter fishing. The fish aren’t as eager to feed as they would be in the warmer months. Your presentation has to be perfect and it must look like a great meal!
Dead drifting streamers is a great method for winter fishing. If it looks like a large, easy meal, the fish are going to take their chances. A juicy streamer right in front of their face is going to lead to some great fishing.
Fly fishing Season Regulations
While many states allow for fly fishing and trout fishing year-round, some have more strict regulations. Those with regulations will open sometime around April 1 and close around November or December. States like Arkansas, Colorado and Montana have wide-open seasons year-round. Do some checking on local regulations if you have any concerns!
Final Thoughts on Fly Fishing Seasons
Gaining knowledge of fish behaviors throughout the seasons is going to be vital for your success. Too many anglers find themselves using summer techniques in the fall or winter techniques in the spring. Do your best to learn your local waters in every season. The more well-rounded knowledge you have, the more fish you are going to catch!