Fly Fishing Around Summer Storms
Tuesday Jul. 1st, 2014
Summer storms are a staple in Southwest Montana and provide amazing displays of Mother Nature’s true force. They can also turn our rivers into a muddy mess and ruin the fishing for days at a time. What most people don’t realize is that these drastic changes in weather can provide new fishing opportunities and can give rivers a needed rest during the hot and busy summer months. So next time you are on the river and see a storm front coming in, don’t row to the take out, put on the rain jacket, change up your patterns, and catch some fish.
Storm systems bring changes to our barometric pressure. Fishes swim bladders are affected by the changing barometric pressure and predatory fish use this change to their advantage. A dropping pressure system is often one of the best times to target large fish. These big fish acknowledge the fact that baitfish will have issues controlling their air bladders and will key in on their struggles. So when you see that storm front rolling in and feel the air change, try swapping your rigs to larger dries, nymphs, and streamers and you may have the opportunity to catch that trophy fish everyone hopes for.
Once the storm hits and the weather takes a turn for the worse, most baitfish will seek shelter in shallow water and back eddies. The larger trout use this to their advantage and target the baitfish as they move to the shallows. Changing to larger streamers at this time enables you to target trout feeding on the moving baitfish.
When fishing different streamer patterns your retrieve should be based on the pattern you are throwing. Small baitfish patterns should be stripped with short, fast strips while Sculpin patterns should be retrieved with a long, fast strip and a pause to imitate them “hopping” from rock to rock. Throwing a large mend immediately after your cast will imitate a fish having trouble adjusting their swim bladder to the pressure system and make them easy prey for opportunistic trout.
Summer thunderstorms can dump inches of rain in an evening and consequently push mud and debris into our river systems. If you can fish in front of a “mud plug,” it is usually a recipe to catch fish. Fish can sense when dirty water is headed down towards them and they take the opportunity to pack on a few extra calories before they have to wait for the rivers to clear up again effectively feed.
Another important aspect of fishing dirty water is understanding where the fish will be holding. Just like with runoff, fish will be tucked under banks, behind rocks and logs, and in back eddies. If you can put a bright, flashy, or ugly fly in front of them – chances are they will eat it. With limited visibility you need to place the fly directly in front of them and just like when fishing runoff you can expect to lose some flies, but you can also catch some great fish.
At times fishing in front of these storms can produce fast fishing for eager trout and as such, can make the decision to seek shelter more difficult. If you do run into a storm with thunder and lightning, be sure to seek shelter in the lowest area possible and if the lightning gets too close for comfort sit on your life jackets to minimize contact with the ground. Fly rods consequently make for a great lightning rod and you should stow your rods away from yourself when seeking shelter.
Summer storms give you as an angler the excuse to go explore some new and different water than you would normally fish. Look for tributaries and feeder creeks to clean up before the main rivers. Lakes and ponds are another often overlooked option that will fish regardless of the rain and mud in the rivers. If worse comes to worse you can chase carp around on a number of different waters that aren’t affected by mud plugs.
So, when the rain starts to fall, don’t get discouraged with summer storms, they can offer chances at large fish and can provide our rivers a much needed rest during the busiest time of the year. And remember, we live in Bozeman Montana, there is always water for us to fish.