Missouri Trout Hunter

Blog for sharing thoughts, beliefs and opinions on issues affecting the world of trout fishing in the Ozarks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Late Summer Trout Tactics

Get ready! I'm about to pull back the curtain a bit. I just hope the other fishing guides don't beat me up.

The transition from summer to fall feels fantastic to most sane human beings, and trout are much the same. There is a difference, though, and this difference often makes trout fishermen want to pull their hair out. When the water temperature starts cooling off, the trout should bite, right? Not necessarily.

Most folks know that fish are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature takes on the temperature of their surroundings. Did you know that this means that fish DON'T CARE what the water temperature is? It's true! Trout are perfectly happy in any water temperature, as long as it doesn't freeze them solid or cook them into a flakey entree'. Mmmmm... flakey....
Sorry -- it's getting close to dinner time. What trout DO care about is oxygen. Cold water has a higher oxygen carrying capacity than warm water does. In other words, as water warms, it sheds oxygen. Trout need a lot of oxygen -- more than bass, bluegill, and catfish. So, when the water warms into the upper 70's, the oxygen drops like a rock. Trout don't die of warm water. They suffocate.

Water temperature DOES affect trout in one very important way, though. It affects their appetite. When their bodies are warmer, they burn more calories, so they need to eat more calories. Makes sense, right? So, why are trout harder to catch in the summer? Because they can't breathe. They won't move 3 inches to take your #16 pheasant tail, because there aren't enough calories in a bug that small to make it worth the effort. They'll eat pretty much anything, but it almost has to drift right into their mouths. So, how do you catch 'em?

As the water warms, it stays coldest longest in the deepest sections, meaning there is more oxygen there, meaning that is where you'll find the fish. If you can drift big meaty flies that look like they have a lot of calories down to those fish, you'll get some. They're willing to move for a bug that looks like a real protein power snack -- not much, but they will move. As summer progresses, even that deep water will warm and lose oxygen, and you'll find fish closer to the surface, where the last bits of oxygen will be found -- at times you'll even see them sip air directly from the surface. They still need calories, though, so a big meaty dry fly will often pull some fish from the surface. This is a great time of year for hopper fishing, in fact.

In the next few weeks, we'll begin to see water temperatures slowly drop. Your favorite stream's riffles will gradually add oxygen to the gradually cooling water, and the fish will gradually begin to feed more aggressively. If we get a rain storm along with cooler water temps, the oxygen level will jump, and the fish will start feeling frisky. During this transitional time, though, you'll probably have to do some sight fishing for the best results. Get those polarized glasses on and find a fish. Stalk the fish, tie on something meaty, and present to him without spooking him. If you can get it close to his mouth, his need for calories will take care of the rest.

Good luck out there.


Anonymous In search of trout said...

Thanks for the advice, I am always looking for ways to be more successful in the stream. I hope to make it back to Montauk in a week or so, and with the temps. slowly dropping I hope the trout will get more aggressive. I know there are times there where the fish are very aggressive but I was there recently and had a tough time, I got 2 and of the two, one fish was about 2 pounds. But its always nice to fill your stringer.

1:39 PM  

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