The weather sure is warming and already fish are consistently looking up. However moving into summer, things aren’t always plain sailing. Flies, techniques and approach must be more refined compared to your springtime tactics.
SUMMER FLY FISHING SAFETY
Firstly, always stay in touch with the weather, and make checking the forecasts the very first, as well as final thing you do before walking out the door. Things can change on a whim across the summer months here in New Zealand and accordingly, forecasts and weather warnings can change rapidly too. With many of our biggest flood events occurring over the warmer months you do not want to be caught out.
SUMMER TROUT HABITAT
As the springtime rains clear away and the water levels drop, many fish depart our smaller tributary streams back to the main rivers which have now cleared of snow melt and cooler springtime flows. Those fish that remain in many smaller streams may be subject to lower oxygen levels and warmer water temperatures so consider this before choosing to target them.
Like their habitat, their diets change as more food becomes available over the summer months, and your early season fly box may need a touch up.
From November, the evenings come alive with the emergence of the brown beetle. During warm, balmy evenings they feed overnight, and as they clumsily bed down on daybreak, many fall to the water and again become victim to the trout. The early bird can certainly get the worm at these times.
Foam Manuka Beetle
The smaller Manuka beetle are a mainstay of my dry fly box from December onwards and despite their small size, will often have the trout looking upwards. Generally a high country / backcountry presence, they share a similar prey image with a number of other desirable food items so keep a pattern or three close at hand.
This is my favourite time of year. As the temperatures rise, the tiny willow grub emerges from its pupal cocoon on willow leaves and drop onto the water in their thousands, sending the trout into a surface feeding frenzy.
Sinking Willow Grub
There aren’t many situations in NZ when trout lock on exclusively to just one food source but with the sheer numbers of available grubs at any one time, it makes for very efficient feeding. Long, light leaders and pinpoint presentations are the key to success here, often to positions tight beneath the branches.
The fly fisherman’s Christmas. When the cicada fall and fish rise explosively to large surface flies, there aren’t many places you would rather be. Commencing in December with the smaller, darker bush cicada and peaking mid summer in the high country with the larger King Cicada, the opportunity to throw large, terrestrial dry fly patterns either to sighted fish or fishing blind through a large deep pool can provide some of the most heart-stopping entertainment of your season.
These are an anytime option and a great general pattern for searching foam lines and overhanging grassy banks. Don’t let the minute size fool you - trout will see an Ant fly and respond enthusiastically.
CDC Ant Fly
Due to the colder water temperatures over winter, spring time mayfly mature at a larger size. As water temperatures become more optimal across the summer months, time to maturity lessons meaning smaller nymphs and smaller emerging duns. Tune in by turning over a few rocks and observing what is lifting off the water and simply match the size you are seeing with something from your fly box.
BTB Micro May
MID SUMMER FLY FISHING TACTICS
Longer leaders are a summertime essential. With lower water levels and resulting less flow means the trout can see, and more importantly feel everything around them. The heavy drop of a fly line, and line shadow are things you must keep well away from the fish, and so longer, lighter leaders are necessary for success on many waters. Spend time learning to cast longer leaders accurately with both nymphs and dries and the adjustments required in casting different rigs.
A STEALTHY APPROACH
Stealth certainly becomes the key, especially in low water or on heavily fished streams. If the fish knows you’re there, you’re not going to catch them. Watch from a distance and spend time observing likely water, allowing the trout to move first and show itself to you. Utilise bushes, banks and other forms of cover where possible to further hide your presence. Move very slow and stay low. You are essentially hunting, so think subtle and stealth.
PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING
Presentations must be on point. You won’t often get multiple shots at presenting your fly where it needs to go. As mentioned, be aware of heavy landings and especially ripping your line off the water too fast, with too much slack. The audible disturbance can alert fish from quite some distance. Lift slow, and smooth accelerating into your stroke once the line is free, otherwise employ a dynamic lift. Keep your line clean and well-dressed to prevent stick.
BE SUN SMART
Sun protection is a must, and you have your pick of garments from the Simms range. From the ever popular Simms Solarflex hooded shirts to the Bugstopper range, through to the essential neck gaiters and Solarflex sun gloves. Keep covered and stay protected.
Summertime fly fishing can entice anglers further into the hills often into unforgiving terrain which they may not be prepared for. Carry a PLB and always let someone know your intentions, and what to do if you don’t arrive back. Get out there and enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.
In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.
For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?