Bugs for the most part get smaller as summer progresses. And, fish have become more wary. So, on my last outing (more here), it took some deconstructing to figure out what the fish wanted.
In their most recent post, UpCountry had some great advice for late-summer fishing. It’s great. Here is an excerpt:
Fish are getting pickier and some fishermen are struggling to hook up, which we see happen every year in the Summer. The trout have been getting caught & released for months, and most of the bugs (Iso’s & Stones excepted) are getting smaller, with most in the #18-26 range (Olives, Attenuata, tan/black/brown Caddis, Summer/Winter Caddis, Midges, etc.). Trout sipping tiny bugs on flat water is some of the toughest dry fly fishing out there. Learn how to do a Reach Cast, which helps present your fly to the fish before your leader, and also usually makes it easier to get a drag-free float. Longer leaders, lighter lines, lighter tippets, smaller flies, proper fly selection, accurate casts, and drag-free presentations are the keys to unlocking the puzzle. Many anglers THINK they are getting a drag-free float, when in reality they are getting micro-drag they cannot see. Longer tippets & shorter casts will help give you a natural, drag-free presentation, and as flies get smaller you need to lighten your tippet. For all but the biggest dries, think 6x & even 7x tippet (for tiny flies like the #24-26 Needhami for example), for Iso’s and big foam terrestrials you can do 5x and even 4x (it’s a bigger, more wind resistant fly, and you are fishing it in the fast water). FYI if it’s not too windy and you are able to turn your dry fly over, lengthening your tippet out to 3 or even 4 feet will do wonders for reducing drag, it will give you the same effect as dropping down 1-2 tippet sizes.
For nymphers, some of the same advice for the dry fly guys applies to you too. Longer leaders, accurate casts, and drag-free floats are all very important. While there are exceptions (#6-12 Stonefly nymphs & #10-12 Iso nymphs), I frequently find smaller nymphs (no bigger than #16-20 patterns if tied on short-shank curved scud hooks, and #18-22 if tied on standard hooks) to be the key to success many days in July, August & September. Most of the natural bugs are smaller this time of year, and our highly pressured trout seem less suspicious of smaller flies too. Use a two fly rig with a bigger fly, but make your second pattern something SMALL. If one of your flies is gaudy, flashy or has a hot-spot, make sure your second pattern is drabber & more natural (maybe beadless or with a black or brown bead instead of a shiny gold, copper or silver one). Usually 5x fluorocarbon tippet is light enough, but sometimes in pressured spots (like Church Pool) I’ll go down to 6x, especially if it’s in the second half of the day after the fish have been punished & it’s sunny and the flies are small. No need to go light in the heavy pocket water, especially if you are fishing bigger flies. I caught fish in heavy pocket water no problem with a #14 nymph tied to 4.5x TroutHunter fluro tippet last night. Lots of trout pile into FAST water in the summer, so make sure to make some casts there. Big Stones, many Caddis larva/pupa, and certain Mayflies all live in faster water, so put your flies where the food (and the trout) are.