Top Tips For Summer River Fishing
As we move into the summer months temperatures start to increase and in many rivers water levels drop to a fraction of their spring flows. Summer can be one of the best times of year to fish UK rivers as food is abundant and all native fish including trout, grayling and coarse fish are in season and feeding well, however it can also be one of the most demanding due to the conditions.
Each year the warm temperatures provide the same challenges to the river angler. The tips I am going to give in this blog have been covered by many writers, including myself, but it is a fact that some things do not change and simple solid advice is often better than the latest technical leader or method which, in reality, only confuses things for 90% of anglers.
Below are my 4 top tips for river fishing in the summer, tips which have allowed me to continue to catch large numbers of fish, even when temperatures are high and water levels low.
Choose your day
Conditions play a key factor in river success, so if you have flexibility, try to choose the day you fish the river. Check the weather forecasts and if you can pick a day with light winds and cloud you will be giving yourself the best chance of catching fish. Bright conditions will almost always send the fish looking for cover where they will often not feed actively during bright daytime conditions. There are of course ways of catching fish in these conditions but if you can stack the odds in your favour I would advise that you do so.
Fish early or late in the day
If you are faced with hot bright conditions try to fish either very early or late in the day, cooler mornings and evenings usually see the fish far more active and the evening rise is a well known and very real part of summer fishing. If you can stay late you will often find that you can catch as many fish in the last hour of light as you did in a full session during the day. Remember in low light conditions you can usually get away with a heavier tippet which allows you to fish with confidence that you can land the larger than average fish which choose to feed late in the day. When fishing the evening rise I would recommend that you focus your fly selection on spinners and sedges. Patterns including a high visibility sighter made of bright material also help to track your fly in low light. Fish will often move into shallow tails and riffles in the evening to pick off spinners and sedges, try not to disturb these areas before the fish have settled. If in doubt move to fresh water just before the rise starts.
Look for oxygenated water
During low water conditions oxygen levels often reduced, particularly is water levels have been low for long periods, whilst coarse fish will often continue to feed in slower water, trout and grayling will look for the areas with the highest oxygen levels and this usually means fast water. If you are fishing during the day I strongly recommend that you focus your efforts on the faster water. In these areas weighted nymphs are essential and fish will often be feeding on relatively small food items. Therefore the angler must look at options to get their flies down deep in these areas. There are two ways which effectively do this, the first is to use small heavy nymphs such as perdigons or ‘bullets’, these flies are tied with tungsten beads and slim varnished bodies resulting in a fly with a very natural profile and high sinking rate. These type of flies would be my first choice however at times they are just not heavy enough (for example in fast wear pools with water of over 5ft depth which are magnets for fish in very hot weather). In these areas a very heavy sacrificial point fly with one or two smaller flies on the droppers is often the best method. The weighted fly is not designed to catch fish but to take the other flies down to the fish and allow the other nymphs to be held at depth in the ‘taking zone’. This method is also great if you wish to fish more mobile patterns, for example nymphs with dubbed bodies or cdc hackles where you have the benefits of the additional movement in the pattern.
Look for cover
During the hot days of summer fish will always look for cover, this may be in or around undercut banks, large rocks or structure such as sunken trees. If you are fishing a pool with one or more of these features, try to concentrate your efforts around these features as fish will usually be in these areas. Try to fish as close as possible to these features as the fish will often be right under them where they feel safe. It is important to fish very close to, or under structure as the fish will not travel a long way to take food items. It is also worth trying larger or attractor patterns when trying to draw fish out and strike. If the usual imitative nymphs and dries dont work try a larger fly, squirmy worm or even a streamer to give the fish something worth the risk of breaking cover for.
If you are relatively new to river fishing I hope these simple tips help you catch more fish this summer and if you are experienced angler that they have provided a reminder. If you stick with these approaches you should maximise your chance of catching fish during the hot summer months.