Dog Days of Summer Fishing Tips


August is typically one of the toughest months for visiting anglers.  It’s hot out there right now and there are fishing restrictions on certain streams.  It can be intimidating and confusing for the fly fisher who just wants to get out and catch a few trout on their vacation.  Fortunately there are several things you can do to stack the deck in your favor and find plenty of Montana’s wild trout.

To sort out the current fishing restrictions and general fishing regulations visit the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks website .  There you can find all the information you need on what streams are open, closed, and what type of fishing is allowed.

Cold water is the key to good August fishing.  Seek out the coldest water temps in the area and you are very likely to find active trout.  Smaller streams and the uppermost stretches of the main river drainages are where you will find those cold flows.

Searching out high country cold water. August Fishing in western Montana

Searching out high country cold water.

Almost as important as where to fish is when to fish.  August is not a month to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast and then head to the trout stream.  If you expect to keep bankers’ hours then your fishing will suffer.  Plan to be on the water at dawn and packing up when the heat settles in around 2.  Big trout are prone to making aggressive mistakes during that first hour of light.  Don’t snooze through the most productive time of the day.  Get out early to find those alpha fish on the feed.

Sunrise on the Blackfoot River. Missoula, MT. Fishing in western Montana

Sunrise on the Blackfoot River.

Fly selection is another crucial element to success.  Hoppers, as in grasshoppers, are all over in the summer and every fly shop, website, fishing report, and blog is pushing hoppers, hoppers, hoppers.  They definitely catch a lot of fish each year but the trout see almost as many fake hoppers as real ones and they start to shy away from the big easy meal in favor of something safer.  Ants and beetles have become my go to flies when the fishing is tough.  They have taken far more trout, especially when wade fishing, than even my best hopper patterns in the past couple years.

Ants and beetles can save the day.

Ants and beetles can save the day.

The right stream, the best time of day, and killer flies won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to fish the water this time of year.  All of our streams are low and clear.  There is no mystery to where the fish are living, they are in the deep spots.  The trout are concentrated right now and that means you must approach the water with stealth and forethought.  Sloppy casts or noisy wading can spook the whole pool.

Even when you do everything right don’t expect to catch more than a fish or two in each good looking spot.  There may be a lot of other trout down there but after you fight a couple through the pool then the rest of them are spooked and on alert.  Either rest the water for at least a half hour or better yet, just keep moving.  When I wade fish I chew up a lot of river in a day.  I’m looking for those easy, aggressive fish and the best way to find them is to keep covering new water.

Keep moving when fishing the small creeks

Keep moving when fishing the small creeks.

A little thought and effort can pay big dividends during the dog days of summer.  Put a few of these tips to good use this August and experience the Montanan fishing trip you’ve been dreaming about all year long.

Tight Lines,

–Tony Reinhardt


Tony Reinhardt BioTony Reinhardt is the owner, outfitter for Montana Trout Outfitters in Missoula.  He has been a guide on the rivers of western Montana for 16 years and absolutely loves his job.  When he’s not working you’ll find him fishing with his two children or in the woods hunting.