With over 35 years chasing trout and 22 years as a trout guide, I’m going to reveal the best time to fish for trout in summer and my tactics and tips for consistently catching more summer trout.
There are certain times of the day in each season when the fishing is often best and summer is no exception. In fact, the feeding window for trout in the summer is small. This is why I plan my guide trips based on several factors that determine the best time to fish for trout in the summer, and I know many other river guides that do the same.
Normally the best time to fish for trout in the summer is first thing in the morning until about 11 am or again at dusk. However, there are a few factors that will determine if these are actually the best times to fish for trout or if there are other times of the day that can be even better.
First thing in the morning or dusk may not actually be the best time to fish for trout in summer, I will tell you why.
Is morning The Best Time To Fish For Trout In Summer?
I realize that targeting trout during summer comes with quite a few challenges since the hot weather in many areas does not do you or the trout any favors.
That is why one of the main factors for trout activity is water temperature. There are two things about water temperatures that I use to my advantage when trout fishing in the summer and it often means more trout landed.
Find Cold Water
The first thing I want to know is what sections of the river will warm up to much, and which sections will stay cold. I want to know the warm section so I can avoid them, and I want to find the cold sections because they will be the most suitable spots within the river system, and the trout will often concentrate in these areas.
Concentrated trout compete heavily for limited food so they are often easier to catch.
Often the lower wider sections of the river that are exposed to the sun the most are warmest during the summer and these sections may not have many trout in them.
This is because studies and reports show that trout in many rivers, especially in these warmer sections will migrate sometimes over 20 miles throughout the year to find suitable water.
Bigger deeper sections of the lower river that hold trout in the winter, could be void of trout in the heat of the summer.
During the hottest summer months, the upper headwater sections of most rivers will stay coldest. I also look for spring feed tributaries that dump cold water into the main river and I fish close to the month of those tributaries.
I also look for spring upwellings where trout can concentrate to take advantage of the colder water. These spots help the trout survive the hottest summer conditions.
If the river is a tailwater fishery, (meaning a dam produces an artificially cold section below the dam) often the coldest water will close to the base of the dam.
If you find sections of the river that stay very cold all summer, or the entire river you fish stays cold, then the best time to fish for trout in the summer won’t be so reliant on water temps, instead other factors with determine the best to fish for trout.
Fish During Peak Times
Once you know where the coldest water is, next you need to know when is the best time to fish those cold water sections.
The best time of day to fish for trout might be different on different rivers and at different times of the year.
It can be temperature, or insect activity, or weather that determines the best time to fish for trout in summer on different rivers.
On most rivers, the water will start cooling just before dark and will continue to cool overnight which is why most of the time during the summer the coldest water is at dawn before the sun has the chance to start warming up the water again.
This is why first thing in the morning when the water is coldest is often the best time to fish for trout in summer on rivers that tend to warm up in the afternoon. Often, the fishing can be good until the sun warms up the river too much which in many areas is between 11 am and noon.
Some trout rivers will remain cold all day, and on those types of rivers, the water might actually be too cold first thing in the morning and that could make the trout, and the bugs lethargic and inactive. Trout activity is often directly related to bug activity.
This means that morning is not always the best time to fish for summer trout on those rivers.
On very cold rivers that stay cold all day, often the best time to fish for trout in the summer will be late morning as the water warms up a degree or two and then activates the bugs which then activates the trout.
I have seen this on many rivers where everyone thinks the fishing is best in the morning but the water temps drop drastically overnight and the fishing is bad for the first two or three hours.
Most anglers will just say the fish are off, or they are not biting today, and they don’t take into consideration how the fast-dropping water temps overnight can negatively impact the trout, even when this occurs in the summer.
On my local spring-fed river that I guide on the water temps during the summer can drop from 72F at 8 pm to 58F by 6 am, a 14-degree temperature drop in less than 10 hours overnight, and the same 14-degree rise within 10 hours in the daytime.
On any river, it really helps to know how the water temps fluctuate on a daily basis. This is difficult to do for most anglers because they are not on the water often enough or all day to determine how much the temps fluctuate.
On my local rivers, I know within a degree or two how warm the water will be at every hour of the day based on the amount of sunlight and the air temps, and even the trend in the recent weather. I can probably predict the water temps from my couch at home.
I know this because I have tested the water temps hour to hour over thousands of days and logged the data. I’m not bragging there is a point I’m going to make to help you.
I know this will be hard for the average angler to do since there is no way they can be on the water every day like a river guide can. This is why I recommend discussing water temps and the best time to fish for trout in the summer with your local fly shops and local trout guides if possible. They get reports from other guides and many other anglers.
I also recommend trying to network with other anglers, make friends, or see if there is a local river fishing or fly fishing club near you. You might also have some luck getting this kind of information from the local guides.
Sometimes hiring the best local guide even once will provide enough intel for many years and some river guides will be ok with answering your questions long after you have been on the water with them.
Most of the time you do not need to be on the water testing the temperature every day. Instead, go fish early in the morning on a hot day and check the water temps first thing and then check it every hour afterward, and record it.
Then do this every time you fish and within a year or two you will start to see a pattern that will help you predict the best time to fish for trout in the summer on your favorite river.
Get A Good Stream Thermometer
I have tested and compared many of my client’s stream thermometers and many of the cheaper ones are not very accurate and can be off by 2 to 4 degrees.
An inaccurate thermometer can be a problem. If your thermometer says the water is 65 or 66 degrees when really it’s 68 or 69 (which is when the trout aren’t likely going to bite) then you are wasting your time.
Using a good stream thermometer that gives you accurate readings is important. One thermometer that has always tested accurately is the Orvis Encased Thermometer.
You can also try:
- White River Fly Shops Stream Thermometer
- Umpqua Stream Thermometer
After testing the temps, if you see the water temperature has become too warm, go find colder water or go home.
Temperature is not the only thing that dictates the best time to fish for trout in the summer.
Bugs Can Determine The Best Time To Fish For Trout In Summer
My years of experience have proven to me that the best time of day to fish for trout in the summer is not always in the morning.
Hot weather combined with low water levels in rivers makes trout fishing in summer different than during spring or fall and other factors can dictate summer feeding windows.
There are numerous helpful hot weather trout fishing tips that can help so you won’t go home empty-handed. However, one of the most important things you should know is the best time to fish for trout in summer is often related to bug activity.
When the water is low and warm in the summer the aquatic insect activity can be spotty and there will be times when the bugs are active or not and this can occur at any time of the day.
Often anglers ask me when the time to fish for trout is and they expect me to say something like “morning and evening”, but when I get asked that question my response is always “the best time to fish for trout is when the bugs show up”
If there is very little bug activity in the morning you may not have any fish feeding even if the water temps are perfect. Instead, the trout will remain inactive and not feed until later in the day when the bugs show up.
Sometimes the bugs may have showed up the night before and caused a feeding frenzy that may have lasted into the night or even early morning.
When this happens and all those bugs have disappeared by early morning when you arrive, the trout are either full or are now resting and waiting for the next bug hatch.
I have seen this happen many times.
Some days, sometimes bugs like caddis or certain mayflies or stoneflies will hatch later in the morning or even mid-day, and when they do the trout feed heavily then.
As long as the water temperatures remain cold enough the trout will feed mid-day at the time their food shows up, knowing when the food shows up is a huge advantage.
I know at certain times of the year based on the local hatch charts or my experience on the river the insect hatches will occur that day between 9 am and 10 am, or we will have a hatch later in the day.
In fact, the hatches can be so predictable you can almost set your watch by them.
On rivers that remain cold all day and that have bug hatches that occur throughout the day, the best time to fish for summer trout is when the bug hatches occur and smart guides and anglers will plan to fish then.
I don’t know how many times I’ve shown up to the river late, and seen anglers already leaving because the fishing was slow, and I know that by the time I get my gear on and get to the river it should start getting good, and it does.
If you have hatch charts available for your area, they can be a valuable tool and predictor for the best time to fish for trout in summer, spring, and fall. But if you don’t talk to the local fly shops, other anglers, or local guides.
If you know when are the best times to fish trout in rivers during summer is based on water temps, and bug activity, you increase your chances of success.
There are some other factors that will also determine the best times to fish for trout in the summer as well.
As a guide, I have determined these are four key things that determine the best time to fish for trout in the summer:
- Bug Activity
- Water Temperature
- Time of the day
If you want to know why weather is an important factor for trou feeding activity, keep reading.
What Kind Of Weather Is The Best To Fish For Trout In Summer?
The warmer it becomes, the lower the water levels get and the warmer the water can get.
This matters because trout are cold-blooded fish with no eyelids, and they often do not like extreme sun exposure in low clear water.
For this reason, trout might seek out different sections of the river that have shade or depth and they may feed less in the high sun.
Why is all this important?
Because of this, it makes sense to choose to fish on the summer days with plenty of cloud cover and avoid the extreme sun and bright lights.
Fishing under cloud cover means that water temperatures will likely also be lower. If you feel obliged to fish trout on a sunny day, at least find a shady area.
The weather also plays a role in water temps.
When temperatures are high for a prolonged period, like during a heat wave that lasts for many days or weeks, the water temps will be at their warmest and the trout can shut down during this time so it might be best to avoid fishing during this time.
But if you have weather with cooler temperatures and cooler nights the fishing can be much better so plan your trips around these cooler weather patterns.
What About Summer Rain?
Summer rains are a double-edged sword. Summer rains are not always a good thing, but they can also be the best time to fish for trout in the summer.
On some rivers, it is very productive to fish for trout during rain and immediately after rain, especially on a cool cloudy day.
When it rains heavily during summer, the run-off from the rain can wash in lots of bugs and other food into the river. The rains can also increase the water levels or even make the water less clear making the trout less cautious. Both an influx of bugs and higher off-colored water can cause a trout feeding frenzy.
So, what are the downsides to summer rain then?
If a rain shower or a thunderstorm on an otherwise hot sunny day especially during the midday when the ground is still scorching hot from the sun, the run-off that pours into the rivers can raise the water temperatures quickly.
An influx of hot water from run-off can make the river too warm for trout and even put them into shock. As a result, they might shut down completely, and you won’t have any chance of catching any.
Therefore, it’s best to go out after the rain on cloudy or cool days or after an early morning rain.
Nighttime rainfalls are also ideal. So, if you wake up and see raindrops on your window, get your wading boots and hit your favorite fishing spot immediately.
We discussed fishing after a rain, but is it good to fish in the rain: I discuss this in my article Trout Fishing In The Rain – Is It Better?
For tactics on fishing after the rain, which include effective dirty water tactics and the best baits, check out Trout Fishing After Rain – Expert Guide Tactics And Tips.
Time Of Day
Because summer water levels can be extremely low and the light penetration from the mid-day sun is tough on the trout, morning and late afternoon and even the first few hours after dark can be a great time to fish simply because it is low light.
These times may not have anything to do with the temperatures or the bugs, it can simply be that the trout are not as stressed by bright sunlight during the low light hours of dawn and dusk.
The trout may also feel less vulnerable from prey like osprey or eagles so they might feed more freely and even feed closer to or on the surface.
On cloudy days, bright light is not an issue.
What Is The Best Water Temperature To Fish Trout In Summer?
I’ve talked a lot about water temps, but what is good and what is bad for trout?
According to experienced trout fishing guides, trout are most active when water temperatures are between 56 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit especially when those temperatures are stable and not going up or down very fast, and I agree.
To make sure the water temperature is optimal for trout fishing, I use a reliable stream thermometer.
The time of the day and water temperature are closely related. During summer, it is the sun that can dictate the water temps.
As a result, the water temperature in the river can be 60 degrees Fahrenheit just before sunrise, increase to 66 degrees later in the morning, and finally reach its maximum of 70 to even 75 degrees during the midday. By dusk, it can be back down to 65 and fishing well again.
They say, any temperature higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit is intolerable for cold-blooded trout, but my experience is that trout will shut down and stop feeding at 68F so there is no point in fishing for them until the temperature drops.
The best time to fish trout in summer is either early in the morning, or later in the afternoon when the temperatures start going down again. Going out during the midday won’t do you any good unless it is a particularly cold or cloudy summer day or the river you fish remains cold all day.
It is also highly advisable to check if there are any temperature-related fishing restrictions in your area or on your river because sometimes anglers aren’t allowed to fish trout during certain times of the day.
If you are learning to trout fish or want to get better at it, a good resource is Trout Fishing: A Complete Guide.
Best Time To Fish Trout In The Summer Q&A
If you have a question, comment, or some advice pertaining to the best time to fish for trout in the summer, let me and other readers know in the comments section below.