Understanding Stillwater Trout – Part 6: Fishing in Summer

In the previous article we discussed .  Next up is summer – roughly mid June to mid September – is a popular time when many people fish.  Good weather, time off from school and work, and wanting to spend time outside all contribute to making summer a great time.

However many people are confused why the places and tactics they used during spring no longer get as many fish as they were.  Each year I hear frustrated people at the boat launch say “This lake is fished out.”  Nothing could be further from the truth – you just have to adjust for the season.

In this article we will pull together in information of previous articles such as the traits of trout, the makeup of the lake, and how the lake changes with the seasons – and the apply this to summer conditions.

Limits of rainbow and cutthroat trout from Lake Maragret in July
Limits of rainbow and cutthroat trout from Lake Maragret in July

Early Summer

Early summer brings with it more consistent weather and warmer days.  The water at the surface soon exceeds the mid 60s where the fish are comfortable.  A thermocline has formed, and depending on the lake and weather may already 10 to 15 feet down in the water column.

During this time the trout will concentrate around the thermocline.  They will tend to only leave the thermocline to actively feed – which is primarily in low light conditions like sunrise and sunset.

As such having the best access means being on the water as close to first light as possible.

Fishing from the bank gets tougher, as the fish will tend to be in deeper water out of casting range from shore.

If the shoals are deeper than the thermocline, then that is a good place to find fish.  Otherwise off points and near drop offs are ideal places to focus your efforts.

We need some strategy to get down deep enough – at this point several split shot is usually enough.  You will need to experiment with your gear to determine how much weight you need.

For lures in low light when targeting the shoals the best lures I use are:

As the sun comes up, and I’m targeting the points and drop offs it can be helpful to use brighter colors, to compensate for less light reaching your lures.   My favorites at this time are:

Mid and Late Summer

The thermocline continues to get deeper, and will get deeper than the shoals.   So we can concentrate on the points and drop offs, or even the depths.

While weights, divers and lead core line may be sufficient to reach the required depths – at this point I feel downriggers are more effective technique.  I use downriggers even on small lakes out of a rowboat.

For lures, down that deep we need color, flash and size to be visible to the fish.  My favorites are:

Like early summer, targeting the fish around sunrise will give you the best success.  Overcast days are also great – not only do the fish like them, but your fellow anglers and power boaters might not show up.


Summer is marked by hot temperatures and a deep thermocline.  The key to fishing during summer is by targeting the thermocline with lures the fish can see at that depth.  The fish will be actively feeding around sunrise and on cooler, overcast days.  If we follow that recipe we will have considerably more success than other anglers.

Next we discuss .

For more information about fishing for trout, please check out the trout page.

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