There is more to fly fishing than spring trout season – much more! If you’ve only toyed with the idea of fly fishing, but haven’t geared up yet, there is no better time to start than summer. No matter what region of the country you live in, there are a variety of species to be caught in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.
Most fly rods used for trout can do double duty in the summer. Beginners can piece together an all-around outfit like a 9-foot rod in 5 or 6 weight with matching line and reel. Those already into fly fishing for trout might only need a spare spool loaded with appropriate fly line. Prepackaged fly outfits are available at many price points to get you on your way.
Here are some suggested flies for a variety of species.
Bluegills and the sunfish varieties are common everywhere and make great targets for summer fly fishing. My favorite topwater fly is a foam spider, such as the Gaines Creepy Cricket. It hooks bluegills better than poppers, as bluegills have very small mouths and the foam cricket will collapse on the take. The best technique is to cast it out and let it sit until the ripples have settled, then give occasional slight twitches.
A great tactic in deeper water is to use a tandem rig (you may need help from an experienced fly fisher to tie such a rig) with a nymph and wet fly combination. Don’t be surprised if you catch them two at a time with a Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail.
Find a school of crappie and you are into some fly fishing fun! In the heat of summer, you may have to go out early or late to find willing fish, or go deep with a sinking line to search the water along structure. I think finding crappie is harder than catching them, so when you catch your first one, keep pounding the area for more. White streamers, like the P-Flash Fly are great search patterns.
No summer fly fishing is complete without the pursuit of large or smallmouth bass.
One of my favorite topwater poppers for largemouth bass is the Gaines Sneaky Pete. Truth be told, this isn’t a real “popper,” instead should be considered a “slider”. There is no pop when you fish this. I like to give it a good two-foot pull and watch the nose dive a few inches under the water, then resurface. This action is hard for a bass to resist.
While smallmouth bass will smash poppers, I catch them more frequently subsurface. Clouser Minnows are great minnow imitations and are available in a variety of colors and sizes to match the water depth and forage in your waters. I like to swing Clousers with the current in moving water and bottom bounce in still water. Here, a case can be made to invest in a spare spool for sink-tip fly line.
These are the most common summer fly fishing targets. I have been pleasantly surprised at the other species I’ve caught on the fly in Summer such as white bass, perch, walleye, rock bass, northern pike, channel cats, bullheads and sheephead.
Summer fly fishing will expand your enjoyment of the sport in ways you may have overlooked, and will increase your time spent on the water with the magic of the long rod.