New water
hot weather
Fishing strategies
article and images by Bill Byrd

It is hot! Really hot -- 97F or even 100F in the sun. Yes, you'll find me on the water taking on the heat and fish are in the water ready to feed. If you can gear up to take the heat, and use a rational approach to fly fishing, you can find some strapping gills and active fat basses in HOT weather.

What is your hot weather strategy for fly fishing? Some smart anglers just switch to trout. Other cool water fish hang out in small rivers and streams - Smallmouths, Redeye bass, Suwanee bass, and other smallmouth bass like species. You'll find green sunfish, bluegills, yellow perch, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish in many small cool waters. The 'Hooch is running with cool water and wading in that low temp water this time of year is refreshing! There are tree covered, fish filled streams all over the south to fish this time of year.

In some streams that run cold most of the time we are entering the border temp season. In these streams the temperature borders on causing trout extinction. Be sure to check conditions before fishing in those situations.

Another option is to properly prepare yourself and get out there among the still water fishes, hot or not.

I recently fished a lake located in a wildlife preserve/recreation area. On my first trip I decided to fish from my float tube (image right). I went back with my boat for trip two. My fishing strategy was the same on both trips -- rig, probe water, catch fish, document fish, quickly release fish.

Float tubes allow more intimate fishing and allow one to better connect with the body of water. They are less obtrusive than fishing from a boat many times. The down side is you can't cover as much water quickly, you can't stay air dry, you can't carry much tackle and cool drinks, and they aren't snake proof! All of that aside, being in the tube again brought back memories of my guiding at a Georgia resort known for big bluegills, shellcrackers, and redbreast sunfish. I hoped this water would provide the same kind of big gill action close to home.

My first fishing day's arrival was a little later than my target time, but I made it on the water fishing by 12:30 PM. July Weather conditions were HOT -- 89F with PC skies and a light breeze. The totally unknown lake lay out before me with only a slight ripple breaking its surface. The reflection of the mixed woods created a patchwork pattern on the water. My next issue was whether I could still kick myself around in a float tube.

Duck style I waddled into the water and sat down, spun my tube around and began kicking toward the far shore about 200 feet away. It looked FISHY. Finally I arrived. Low overhanging bushes and small trees shaded the water, and I could just feel the fish in the area. Based on my calculations the water dropped from about a foot at the bank to 7 or 8 feet right under my tube.

I tied on one of my favorite size 12 weighted streamers and began to probe the water from right at the bank on down to six or seven feet. I must have probed this great looking water slowly moving to my west for 20 minutes without encountering a fish and then I probed the water in a small shallow cove. On my retrieve from a spot just by a bush in the water, I felt a smack on the line, raised my rod and was slammed by a really strong fish.

My Thomas & Thomas 862 two weight arced and the fight was on. Based on the fish's circling motion and power I knew that it was a big gill. When I finally got it to my tube, it was a 10 inch bluegill (image right) that weighed a real pound. "Not a bad start" I thought to myself.

I continued to probe the area discovering some 5 foot deep water that sloped up to 2 feet at the rear of the area. I carefully probed that and caught three more even bigger bluegills. By even bigger I mean one was probably 12 inches long with about a 17 inch girth. It was a monster and I believe it weighed at least 1.5 pounds. It reminded me of the tremendous "copperheads" that I have caught on the St. Johns River in Florida. The other two were only 1 pounders at about 10 inches length.

The image left is a different view of the opening image. This is a shallow flat with a normal contour. By looking at this image with highlighting graphics drawn in, we can see what we must do to access subsurface fish in this shallow water. I approached as described in the following information:

I kicked my way back up toward the shallow flat at the West end of the lake casting right up to the shoreline bushes, trees, and objects. I let my streamer settle, then began my short strips down the contour to deeper water. I found that more giant gills were holding 8 feet from the shore in about four to five feet of water. When they picked up my fly, it was a normal take. They didn't jerk the rod out of my hands. Then when I raised the rod, it quickly bent under the power of their hasty departure. Ultimately the big gills would end up at my float tube, circling, until they could be pried from the water. Some were so big I just cradled them with my hand -- there was no palming them.

Once you can visualize what you are doing in a two or three dimensional way, you can probe water much more effectively for suspended fish and fish holding near the bottom of the lake.

Selecting the best patterns to fish, using a long leader/tippet, carefully probing new water for contour and depth, fishing structure and cover. That's the basis for good subsurface fishing, and these principles certainly apply to fly fishing.

There are the obvious places like wooden docks with algaes growing on them. In high sun periods, in most cases you'll find bluegills or mixed sunfishes assembled under these docks in the shade. There is security and the food chain is fully growing on and around these structures. Literally every spot with a log, a piece of brush, and old tire, a spot under an overhanging tree or bush, any shade will attract fish. I find big bluegills and bass suspending under big algae heads floating on the lake's surface. Even a shallow channel will hold fish. You should probe all of these features for feeding fish. In streams wood is fine, and fish will hide in grasses, plus under individual rocks and ledges.

In some fisheries small insects found on surface are the major forage during this midday period, but not in most cases. In some fisheries where I'd expect very aggressive surface feeding on size-14 sponge water spiders, I find that size-14 suspending nymph imitations get hammered by the fish just below the surface.

In this fishery with pea colored water and the heat, I probed the depths with size 14 and then size 12 or 10 streamers. I like a larger profile and dark colors to contrast in these conditions. It paid off. Remember, you have to probe the water to find out what the fish want. If you get no response, switch off and try something else. If you'll do that the fish will show you what they want -- just pay attention!

If you have read my articles on fishing the water column, or my other articles in which I describe probing water -- I know it sounds boring, but it is effective and efficient. Once you establish a pattern stick with it until conditions shift, and they will. As long as you understand the process of keeping your flies in front of the fish WHEREVER THEY ARE you'll catch plenty of fish.

On both days fishing this water so new to me I learned about the lake's basic contour, bottom structure and lakeside cover, and caught big gills like the 10 inch fish right. I found water to depths of 15 feet, wood strewn shallows, pea gravel bottoms, lots of overhanging trees and bushes for cool cover on hot summer days. Because of making mental notes of where I found fish and didn't and what it took to catch those fish, I am more efficient each time I fish the lake. In two trips I caught and released fifty seven -- eight, nine, and ten inch bluegills. The largest was over 11 inches and about one and a half pounds. I also caught and released 3 bass.

After approaching new water like this with many trips in all seasons you will begin to learn the lake's patterns. You will eliminate water that typically doesn't hold fish, and concentrate on fish holding water. You will learn the most productive flies and presentations and enjoy knowing that you can catch and release plenty of fish. Put in the time on the water getting to know the dynamics of the system and you can do this.

Hot summer conditions are here. It is your opportunity to be THE fly fisher on the water catching and releasing fish. Try using these tips on your favorite water and let me know how you do.

There are many other articles on this website to give you insight into flies and methods for probing for summertime fish. Remember, subsurface fly fishing tactics apply all year long in all types of water.


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