By Bill Cooper
Many fly fishermen avoid fishing during the “dog days” of summer. Dog days are the hottest days of the summer season, which fly rod enthusiasts historically have considered to be mid-July through August. However, in recent times, hotter temperatures have arrived in the Midwest a few weeks earlier.
In ancient times, people tended to associate the heat of the “dog days” of summer with the rising of Sirius, known as the Dog Star, during the same time period.
Those fly fishing for trout during the Dog Star phase often consider the part of the country they intend to fish. If one is considering fishing one of the trout streams in Montana, during the dog days, they may be in luck. It has long been considered the perfect time for fly fishing for trout in that region of the country.
On the other hand, if you are considering fly fishing for trout during the dog days in North Carolina, August is Brent of the dog days, and many anglers consider it a poor time for catching trout.
If you main concern is picking the best time to be comfortable while fly fishing for trout, then don’t plan a trip during the dog days of summer. However, if your main concern is catching trout, then by all means plan your fishing trip and go.
Fly fishing the dog days of summer should not be approached any differently than any other time of year. It does, however, require different strategies than the ones you utilize at other times of the year.
To be successful while fly fishing the dog days does require one to imitate different types of food on which trout will concentrate, as opposed to other times of the year. And don’t approach the fishing for the day with negative attitudes or thoughts of failure to catch fish. You will, in effect, jinx your trip.
Do not make the mistake of fishing only early or late during the dog days, when temperatures will be a bit cooler. Water temperatures should be your major concerns. Water temperatures over 70 degrees should prompt you to make adjustments. Look for cooler water temperatures, perhaps at higher elevations. In some cases, you may simply have to move to an alternate stream , with cooler waters, to experience success.
Keep in my mind also, that you will need to imitate the most plentiful and available food source to trout at the time you plan to fish. Terrestrial insects will be at their peak but do your homework. Aquatic insects will continue to be a force in the food cycle of trout, and possible more so than the ubiquitous terrestrials. However, pay attention to weather conditions. Rain and wind can turn on a terrestrial bite, as insects are landing in the stream as a result of wind and rain.
Tricos and Blue-winged olives are often abundant during the dog days, although they are generally of smaller size than aquatic insects of spring. Little Sister caddis and Little Yellow stoneflies are often found as well. There will be a few large insects around, but they will not be as abundant as at other times of the year.
Crustaceans and baitfish will also still be available in the trout streams, but you don’t have to worry about varying the size of imitator flies. These two categories remain virtually the same size year round.
A major factor in angler success during the dog days is the ability to properly present the small aquatic insects, like the Tricos, that you will be offering to the trout. Utilizing the smallest tippets possible and, paying special attention to mending your line will equal more hook-ups. Failure to mend line religiously is perhaps the biggest factor of poor fly fishing success during the dog days. Those tiny imitations must appear as lifelike and drag free as is attainable to fool trout when the water is at its lowest and clearest of the year.
Another key factor for success during the dog days is understanding the life cycle of the aquatic insects you are imitating and having the ability to understand what you are seeing in and on the water. Adapting to the current situation and quickly changing the fly you are using to match the stage of life of those tiny stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, and midges for the time of day you are fishing will greatly increase your success, and therefore your enjoyment of your time on the water during the dog days of summer.
Finally, don’t fall victim to the fly fishing crowd that prefers to scorn the Dog Star days of summer and stay at home in the air conditioning. Fly fishing time is precious and none of us seem to ever get enough of it.
The pessimists serve to provide the in-the-know fly fishers opportunities to fish their favorite streams with fewer anglers present. Go hard and go often and enjoy fly fishing under the magic of the annual Dog Star days of July and August.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Cooper is an award winning outdoor writer and inductee of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Outdoor Communicator. He is the host of the Living the Dream Outdoors Podcast, which can be found on most social media platforms. He lives in rural St. James and can be followed at www.facebook.com/ outsidealways.