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Fly Fishing Tactics in the Summer Heat

Chasing fish in the middle of the summer requires some different tactics than in the cooler months of the year. Many fish tend to become more wary in the broad daylight, and some species become more lethargic with extremely warm temperatures. However, there are other species (including many of our Midwest species) that are more than willing to chase flies in warm water.

Smallmouth bass fly fishing in Iowa
Marty with a smallmouth from a cooler morning

largemouth bass fly fishing in a pond in Iowa
A largemouth from a central Iowa pond in some warm weather

As a reminder, trout tend to be sensitive to warm water temperatures, and so if you are planning to chase trout in the Driftless region of Northeast Iowa, be sure to bring a thermometer along. Do not target trout when water temperatures exceed 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

rainbow trout fly fishing in Iowa

Here are some methods and tactics to help you get on fish despite summer temperatures:

1. FISH EARLY. In the evening, the waters have been heating up all day long, and until that sun drops behind the horizon, the water temperatures continue to rise. During the night, the temperatures continue to fall. Because of this, water temperatures are coolest in the mornings.

smallmouth bass from a river in Iowa

2. FISH LATE. Fish at dusk (or even at night!).

fly fishing for bass at night

Many fish are predatory and will come out to feed, potentially feed fiercely, at dusk or in the dark. Brown trout, largemouth bass, and catfish are a few examples of some of these species, but even other species like white bass, smallmouth, and walleye are able to be caught in the dark, too.

3. FIND COLDER WATER. If you're fishing a lake, look for areas of the lake that are shallow enough to target with flies but close enough to deep water access where fish can stay cool and hidden from midday sun. This might include:

-deep drop-offs in lakes

-ponds where there is water flowing into them

-places where tributaries meet larger rivers

-areas near springs

-shaded areas

walleye fly fishing in Iowa
Erin with a walleye from a deep, shaded hole in the river

4. KEEP EXPLORING! Maybe you have a river near you that is considered "meandered" in Iowa- this would be a really good time to check out those sections of it that are tougher to access during higher water. In Iowa, you are legally allowed to access only these specific waters that are meandered by wading below the high-water mark. Go walk one of these meandered streams and see what hidden honey holes you can find! If there's a pond or lake in your area that you haven't been to yet - it's a good idea to give it a look. You never know, you may find your new favorite fishing spot! Check out the Iowa DNR's Fish Local page to discover new fisheries in your area.

Get in touch with us to book a fly fishing trip in Iowa! We are floating the river still, even though it's too low for most other boats to access. Fish are still around!

raft fly fishing in Iowa

Fishing Report

Click here for the Iowa DNR's Fishing Report (07/26/2023)

Local Reservoirs: Fish early and late for best results.

Local Ponds: Early mornings will be your best option, because water temperatures will be lowest. Find ponds with less algae if you are able to - check the DNR's fish local page for public waters in your area.

Des Moines River: Water levels are getting pretty low, as they have for the past few summers. Mornings and evenings are good options, and finding holes is going to be your best bet at finding fish.


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Great article Ryan.

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