Fly fishing is using artificial fishing lures of flies, nymphs, streamers, and worms to catch different fish species in either saltwater or freshwater.
The best time to fly fish in North America is generally accepted as between the months of April and October, but technically fly fishing is considered a year-round sport.
To catch the fish that you are targeting, all you have to do is cast your small fly to a spot where the fish are waiting and hope that one of them takes the bait. There is some essential gear that you will need like a fly fishing rod, fly reel, line, flies, fly fishing net, and some accessories. The species of fish you want to catch is an important consideration because they can prefer different flies and presentation.
Though the time of year when you fish matters, don't let it stop you from fishing during the early spring and the early winter as well. If you're lucky there are probably several places you can cast a fly rod and catch your favorite fish. We've added some more in-depth information below about the best time to fly fish alone or with friends and family.
Afternoon Is the Best Time to Fly Fish in Spring
In springtime, the cold winter chill gives way to a warm spring breeze and the sun shining in the early morning on top of still ponds and lakes across the country. You will probably be eager to get out on the water after not fishing much during the winter season.
Though there will still be some fluctuations in weather patterns, spring fly fishing is one of the best times of the year.
Caution is sometimes called for because the weather can be unpredictable and some days the temperature can suddenly swing 20°F one way or the other. You should always be prepared for bad weather situations in the springtime as you probably know.
Some gear you need to bring along is a rain jacket, winter jacket, dry clothes, a hat, a lanyard, and some extra emergency food stored in your vehicle or at the campsite.
Pre-runoff fishing is in early spring when the air begins to warm up over the freezing mark during the day often enough that it starts the thaw of the frozen water bodies and ground. This starts in late March and early April and it's one of the best times to fish because there won't be too many anglers out in your favorite fishing spot. Also, it is wonderful to feel the sunshine again!
Pre-runoff typically creates excellent fly fishing opportunities. There won't be many flies around yet so you may want to fish deeper with a long leader to get your flies deep enough to be seen by fish. Add some weight to your fly to get it down deep enough.
As the morning warms up, the fishing should heat up too. The afternoon can be the best time to fish when the morning is too cold for fish to be active. On really warm spring days the bugs will start to hatch and the fishing will pick up exponentially.
So, warm weather can raise water temperatures and increase fish activity and at the same time a dry fly feeding frenzy may begin. Spring brings a lot of runoff water as small streams and lakes increase the volume of water and fish realize just how hungry they are after a slow winter without much food.
The most activity in Spring is in the afternoons on small ponds and lakes, so focus there. The rivers and large lakes take longer to change and for the action to heat up.
Nighttime Is the Best Time to Fish in Summer
Fly fishing anglers who've fished during the winter really enjoy it, but the thrill of being out there during spring and summer cannot be matched. As much gear as you have on you during the summer, it still feels like you're going totally minimalistic when you fish in the summertime in waders out on the water when compared with all your winter keep-warm clothes.
Peak summer fly fishing season is so much fun for both new and experienced anglers, particularly those using fish finders.
You may not have thought to do this, but fly fishing at night under the protection of darkness can give you a couple of advantages over your target species. Fly fishing at night with a flashlight or headlamp can make your experience even more memorable.
I don't know if you heard of this before but some anglers will rig multiple fly fishing rods and leave them on the bank to try as needed. You can use different flies and different length leaders to test the depths and to find out where the fish are exactly.
Early morning has always been known as a great time to fly fish in the middle of summer when the water is always warm. What many people don't realize is that as the sun sets in the water starts to cool off it is also a very good time for fly fishing.
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Mid-morning Is the Best Time to Fly Fish in Fall
In early fall beginning in September, just as the NFL football season is starting, the best fly fishing action is right outside your door. It's rather sad that these two epic times have to coincide, but you are going to have to make a choice because the fly fishing season in the late summer and early fall is really the best time to fish in my personal opinion.
There are a couple of things at play here that ramp up the fly fishing season during this time. One is that the land around ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers is full of terrestrial bugs like crickets, roaches, ants, grasshoppers, and beetles.
You can throw your big flies at this time and you have a better chance of hooking up with a large fish.
Brown Trout are known to spawn and increase their territorial behavior at the end of the summer months. You can throw a streamer or any large fly close to them and you will get aggressive strikes.
Start your fall fly fishing experience in the mid-mornings when the fish tend to feed most during this time. Remember, fish are sensing the need to fatten up before winter as they feel the first cool water start to wind them down from heightened summer activity. This begins a feeding frenzy like no other, except possibly the springtime thaw.
Mid-morning and Early Afternoon Are the Best Times to Fly Fish in Winter
When high temperatures still don't peak beyond 32°F, fly fishing isn't really all that exciting, is it? It may be hard to motivate yourself to get out there and fish knowing it will be slower than what you're used to in warmer periods.
I have a friend with a small cabin on an ideal little trout stream in western Pennsylvania that we began going to as high school kids. We were so into fishing that we fished straight through the cold winter, even on Christmas Day, by drifting flies about a foot underwater with the current. There were days when we caught nothing but I remember most days we were able to catch fish.
We would wake up in mid-morning around 9 am. to get out on the stream until we needed lunch sometime in the early afternoon.
Fly fishing in winter is for die-hard anglers who just can't get enough!
Walleye, crappie, northern pike, bass, and trout are still biting in the winter but they are lazy and cold and they don't want to move far to grab your fly. Precise placement of flies is necessary during this time. Ideally, you'll figure out what depth the fish are at and cast upstream to float it down to bump them on the nose. The less they have to move to feed, the better.
A lot of anglers will plan a trip that involves not only winter fly fishing but they'll combine it with some other activity like downhill skiing. There is something magical about standing in freshly fallen snow on an empty trout stream and fly fishing for a couple of hours to the sound of the occasional bird or even absolute silence.
Of course, when you're fly fishing during winter and you have to sink the flies a bit to carry with the current, you are going to snag more often. Make sure you bring some extra leader, tippet, flies, and other accessories so you always have enough gear.
What I've noticed over the years is that the really patient anglers enjoy winter fishing more than others. It may take 20, 30, or even 100 casts to catch a fish! Some people are fine with that. Others would rather be sitting in the living room watching the NFL on TV.
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While everyone knows the joys of fishing during spring and summer months when the weather is warm, not all that many fly fishing anglers will go out into the winter to see what they can find. Fly fishing is like a meditative experience when there is no one around and you are catching the occasional fish. Life is about moments like this and the more of them that we have the more well-rounded our lives will seem.
It is possible to fish ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers during the winter cold and you should try all of them to see what your preference is. For me, I enjoy fly fishing the water moving in streams the most. I can use my problem-solving ability to try to find where the fish might be, and that's exciting to me.
Is the best time of year to go fishing in the early spring or summer, when there are anglers everywhere you look? Or, is the best time to fish when it's only you and the elements and your wit as you try to outsmart and entice your target species to take your fly?
Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions about your favorite time to fish and the best time to fish, we're anxious to hear what you have to say!
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