For avid freshwater angler Josiah Atkinson, summer brings some of the most exciting trout fishing of the year – but this doesn’t mean it’s the easiest time to catch fish. He lets us in on some of his tips and tricks for landing more trout in summer.

The cicadas are chirping, sun burn is now in fashion and mozzie’s aren’t the only animal looking for a feed!

Summer is an awesome time on the trout calendar. With clear skies, light breezes and low waters, summer is such a great time to be outdoors. However, it turns out that these conditions actually make trout fishing that little bit harder. The clear skies cause blinding glare, and the low waters make the trout lazy, picky and, worst of all, spooky!

Sight Fishing in Rivers

The summer sight fishing in rivers is one of the prime reasons people all over the world come to New Zealand. To see a fish and apply the necessary skills to get that fish into the net is a feeling avid trout fishermen long for.

It all starts with the stalk. While you’re walking along the riverbank, always have your eyes on the water and take note of all the “fishy” spots. Taking your time will improve your success rate ten-fold. The amount of people I’ve taken out who have been loud and careless in their movements is unbelievable. Of course, they will utter the classic phrase, “There’s one,” just as the fish shoots downstream. Take your time, because once a fish has seen you, it’s too late.

Once you’ve found the fish and confirmed it’s not spooked – you guessed it – take your time! Look at where the fish is holding in the water column. Is it up high? If yes, then a single dry fly usually does the trick. In the middle? A dry dropper rig with a light weighted nymph will be the best choice. Down deep in the pool? Heavy nymphs should be your go to. Make sure you’re set up for your cast so you’re not going to be giving your flies to Papatuanuku (Maori for Mother Earth). Remember, the water is most likely low and clear, so placement is key with each cast. I’ve found casting a little to the left or the right, two to three meters ahead of the fish is perfect as you avoid ‘lining’ the fish. This also gives the fish enough time to see and eat your fly of choice. Now it’s all up to you. Once the fish is on, the age-old angler vs fish battle begins!

Lake Fishing

If the long walks and the swift currents aren’t really what you’re looking for, searching for smelting trout in the lakes could be your answer. As I only have experience in the North Island of New Zealand, I can’t speak for all of the New Zealand lakes but going off numerous videos and having spoken to people from all over the county, there seems to be a very similar pattern for success wherever you are in NZ.

When summer has fully set in and the lake temps are getting up around the 20 degree mark, the fish are drawn to the cold currents that flow from the rivers into the lakes. In some cases, the fish will be holding in the nearest drop off that the cold currents are flowing out over and are snatching at the smelt and small nymphs that come with it. In other cases, the fish will be holding right up in the river mouth where they can be easily sighted and targeted. One thing I’ve always loved about lakes is that where there is one fish, there are usually many more around it, which can make for a fun session on the water. The wading is also very easy. You don’t have to do a lot of walking and the fish are usually a little bigger and a little nicer to eat as well.

Fishing for trout in the lake is usually done with a sinking line. Getting the smelt or bully fly in the fish’s face seems to be key. The lake is always a little different each day as well. One day the trout will be smashing the smelt, and the next they’ll be sipping nymphs off the bottom. It’s really all about changing your approach until something works. Start by mixing up the size of your offering, and then the colour. If these changes don’t produce results, try varying your technique as well. Finding that critical combination is absolutely essential.

Don’t be afraid to ask as well! If the fish are around, anglers will be too. Don’t hesitate to make friends and work out what the fish are doing together.

Summer trout fishing isn’t all sunshine and trout to the bank. It is, in my opinion, the hardest season to catch trout, but that also makes it the most rewarding. It’s taken me many days on the water spanning over five years to figure out what works around my area so I can consistently land fish in the summer months. However, we are very fortunate in New Zealand that even if we have a tough day’s fishing, the valley or lake or river we find ourselves in still makes the day worthwhile. It’s hard not to enjoy basking in the sun and taking some time out to relax!

The important thing is to learn from your trips and apply this knowledge to the next one. Eventually, something will click and you’ll be making memories that last a lifetime!