Late Season Low Water

Sean Visintainer - 09/14/20

Fly fishing late summer for trout means downsizing your tippet and lengthening your leaders.

Long and lean when it's late and low

An image such as this can conjure all sorts of exciting emotions for trout anglers. A sizeable rainbow, quietly cruising and sipping insects in gin clear, calm waters. The trout can easily inspect flies before taking them in making them extremely challenging to hook without spooking.

The recent post I made about downsizing flies references situations such as this, but what is also important is downsizing tippet and lengthening leaders.

Early season high flows allow us to get away with burly, short leaders. Often we find ourselves throwing heavy or meaty flies in turbulent spring flows. However, now that those days are long gone, the late season, low water levels call for a different approach.

When water levels are at their lowest, the added stealth of a longer leader can payoff. Instead of your standard 9' leader try extending the leader out to 11 or 12'. Whether you simply add an extra chunk of tippet to the end, or tie on a whole new pre-made leader in that length, either will do. In extreme situations a 13-15' leader can be even more important.

Along with the added length try dropping a tippet size. Maybe you normally are running 4x tippet with that size 14 purple haze parachute... switch it up to 5x, or perhaps 6x. The challenge with dropping too small with your tippet size however is making sure the fly doesn't twist up the tippet and/or the knot will seat. If you run into those issues you may have dropped down too far in size.

Don't forget the fluorocarbon as well. Fluorocarbon reflects less light underwater and gives you that extra edge. Fluoro helps you get away with using a slightly larger size as well. The newer premium fluorocarbons are a little spendy, but they are also considerably stronger, and more abrasion resistant than standard monofilaments.

When the late season gets tough, the tough get lean! Next time you find yourself stalking a trout like in the above image remember to give yourself the advantage with a longer, finer leader. Good luck!