What Time Should You Fly Fish?

Fly fishing is similar to other forms of fishing, as there are specific techniques and methods that are used to maximize the chances of success. One such method for improving fly fishing success is knowing when to fish. Many new fly anglers wonder what time of day and year is best for fly fishing and how you can know when the fish may be biting in specific locations. 

The best time to fly fish is at dusk and dawn in summer. During winter, fish in the warmest part of the day. During spring and autumn, focus your efforts on late morning and early afternoon. The best time to fly fish is when water insects are hatching. 

There are several methods for successful fly fishing, but it is important to remember that the fish will be more active during certain periods of the day and year based on their life cycles and the availability of their food items. Let’s explore the best time of day to cast a fly line and why the time makes a difference. 

angle fly fishing in a river on a clear day

What Time Should You Fly Fish?

Fly fishing is unlike many other forms of fishing in most regards, but certain constants remain the same regardless of the type of fishing, such as the fact that this type of fishing is best done during certain times of day and year to maximize success. 

Fly fishing typically targets trout, salmon, and grayling, but it can be used for catching a wide variety of fish. Any fish likely to eat insects that hatch on or near water can be caught by fly fishing. However, the time of day and season when you fish has a massive impact on how likely you are to catch them. 

The best times of day for fly fishing are when the water-bound insects that the fish feed on are hatching. If you can get your fly into the water where the insects are hatching during the same time of day, you are far more likely to catch fish with this fishing method. 

This means that the optimal time of day for fly fishing changes depending on the time of year and when the insects are hatching. 

It is also critical to know what the best time of day for fly fishing is, and it also depends on the type of fish you are targeting. Certain fish feed at certain times of day and are most active during specific temperatures. 

All of this means that the time you should fly fish depends on:

  • the season 
  • the weather 
  • the insects in the area 
  • the type and species of fish you target
  • the temperature of the water you are fishing in 

A good general rule for fly fishing is that you should fish during the early morning and evenings during the summer months, preferably at dawn and dusk. This is when the fish are most likely to be active, as several hatching occurs during these times. 

In the colder months of winter, it is best to try and fish during the warmest part of the day. This could be mid-day or early afternoon. Hatching will only occur when the weather is warmest during these months, as this is when the fish will actively eat. 

Spring and autumn usually call for fishing in the mid-late morning and early afternoon, usually between 11:00 and 13:00. This is the time of day that produces the most activity in both fish and insects in these seasons. 

These times are not the only times of day when fly fishing can be successful, but they are most likely to have the best chance of success. 

close up of a fly fishing rod and reel in hands of fishermen

Can You Fly Fish All Day?

We have established that fly fishing is better at certain times of day, but is it possible to fly fish all day?

You can actively fish all day, but the chances of success when fly fishing are significantly higher at certain times of day. 

Fish are active all day in certain seasons, and if you are lucky and have the right skills, you can catch fish all day. 

Fish are most active when the weather is warm and when there is an abundance of food to eat. This means that if you want to fly fish all day, the best time to do so is in the summer. 

In some places, the weather is so perfect for fly fishing in summer that you can catch fish with every cast all day long. If there are plenty of insects around, and there are hatchings happening all day, and if there are plenty of fish, you can fly fish all day and catch multiple fish one after the other. 

However, it is far more difficult to fly fish all day in any other season. When the water is cooler, fish like trout tend to slow down and become less active. This means that you will have plenty of success during the hottest part of the day, but the cold periods in the day will yield far fewer bites. 

You can fly fish all day, regardless of the time and season. You may not catch fish all day, and you are only likely to catch fish outside of optimal times if you are very highly skilled and know how to find fish. 

If you are very comfortable with the area, if you know the fish and the water well, and if you have the perfect flies, lures, bait, and tackle for fishing the area, you can fly fish all day with success. 

If you are fishing in familiar waters and you have not yet found the rhythm of the water and the bait that the fish prefer, then you may not have any luck fly fishing outside of optimal fishing times. 

a man fly fishing on a river bank

Why Is Fly Fishing Best At Certain Times Of Day?

We have now learned that you can fish at any time of time during certain times of year and that fly fishing is best done at specific times of day, but why is this so? Why is it best to fly fish at certain times of day?

Certain times of day are better for fly fishing than others simply because the fish that you are targeting are most active at certain times of day, as are the prey they eat. 

Fish are cold-blooded animals. This means that they are very sensitive to temperature and environmental changes, and they must conserve energy. They are usually only most active when there is plenty of food to eat or when they can be active without expending too much energy. 

The best times of day for fly fishing usually align with when the insects that the fish eat are most active. This is usually early or late in the day during the summer, mid-morning and early afternoon in spring and autumn, and during the warmest part of the day in winter. 

It is best to fly fish during these times simply because the fish in the area have learned to hunt at these times, so your chances of hooking a fish are far more likely. 

The fish are also more focused on feeding than on getting away from potential predators, so they are much less likely to notice you nearby, which also makes it easier to catch them. 

It is also important to consider that fish are most active when the water is warmer, as they are cold-blooded and become sluggish when it gets too cold. This means they are less likely to bite when they are cold and more likely to take a fly when they are active in warmer water. 

All of this means that it is important to know the area where you are fishing, the types of fish you are targeting, and the type of insects the fish are after, and by these observances, decide which time of day is best for fly fishing. 

angler holding a freshly caught rainbow trout

How Do You Know The Best Time For Fly Fishing?

If you are new to an area, or if you are new to fly fishing, how do you determine what is the best time of day to cast?

The first thing to look for when determining when to fly fish is the weather. If the weather is hot, the fish are more likely to be active but are likely to only eat in the early morning or late afternoon. If the weather is cold, it is best to wait for the middle of the day when the temperatures are highest. 

Aside from the weather, to help you determine when to fish, look for insect activity. If you are near your fishing location and can scout the area over a few days, visit the water at various times of day and look for the highest level of insect activity, especially hatchings. 

When you see a lot of insects leaving the surface of the water or a lot of insects hatching, this is when you should fish. 

These hatchings are most likely to happen near the shore of a river and in water that is not fast-moving. Keep an eye out on these locations and near tree lines to look for insect activity, and determine when to cast your fly line based on what you find. 

It is also good to understand the type of fish you are targeting. Some fish only take the bait in certain seasons when they are most active. Some fish are only likely to take the bait at certain times of day, and some fish do not eat at all in certain seasons. 

The best way to know when to fly fish is to get to know the area, the fish you are targeting, what the fish eat, when the fish eat, and when the insects near the water are most active. 

Is The Best Time to Fly Fish Dependent On Location?

Many fly anglers get varied results when fishing in different areas, even if they follow the same techniques, methods, and fly fishing practices. Are there differences in the time you should fly fish based on location?

Fly fishing in various locations can be different. Every river and section of the river is a micro-environment, affecting the results of fly fishing,

The water and weather vary depending on the following:

  • the location
  • the size of the river
  • the flow rate
  • the temperature of the water
  • the vegetation
  • the health of the habitat and 
  • how many fish and insects it can support 
  • the amount of sun the area receives 

Some areas support a large, thriving, hungry population of fish, while other areas can only support very small fish populations. Some areas have insects that hatch all day, while other areas only get warm enough for insects to hatch at specific times of the day. 

Some areas have very clear water, enabling the fish to see flies easily, while other areas have very murky waters that make it more difficult to fly fish. 

All of this means that the time of day and the time of year that you fly fish can drastically change depending on location. 

The further you go from the fly fishing areas you are accustomed to, the more you must change your fly fishing style, lures, techniques, methods, and practices. Every good fly fishing location has its own challenges and advantages, so it is critical to understand the region you are visiting or to spend as much time there as possible to get used to the area and what the fish do. 

If you have the opportunity, speak to as many local fly anglers as possible to get a feel for what the fish do, what they tend to bite on, and when they are most likely to bite. This is the best and quickest way to learn about when to fly fish in specific areas. 

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Fly Fish?

Another commonly asked question regarding the best time for fly fishing is what time of year is best. This is a critical question to answer if you are learning to fly fish or if you are not having much success when fly fishing. 

The optimal time of the year to fly fish, regardless of where you are in the world, is usually during late spring and summer. 

These seasons are when there is an abundance of food for all fish species and plenty of insects hatching. Some insects hatch all throughout the day during these seasons rather than only at dawn or dusk. 

Late summer can sometimes be the best time of year for fly fishing, especially when the water temperature drops slightly. This can cause a surge of activity in the fish as they begin to eat more to prepare for the lean winter months. 

However, it is impossible to say the month of the year that is best for fly fishing, as this changes depending on where you are in the world. This is why it is important to take note of the activity of the fish throughout the year where you are and look for the optimal fly fishing seasons based on what you observe. 

What Time Yields The Best Fly Fishing Results?

If you have tried fly fishing during multiple times of the day and have had trouble nailing down the best time to get the most fish, what time of day should you focus on for fly fishing?

The reality is that most fish are caught while fly fishing at dawn and dusk. The first and last few hours of sunlight are when this fishing technique is most successful and yields the best results. 

The colder months of the year can have the best results at mid-day, but if you want to catch the highest number of fish possible, go fly fishing as early as you can and stay as late as you can. 

This is especially true for trout and bass, but almost all species can be targeted with fly fishing. 

Can You Only Fly Fish During Hatchings?

Fly fishing is best done during hatchings, and this is when fly fishing is most successful, but can you only fly fish when insects are hatching?

You do not only have to fly fish during hatchings. Fish do not only eat one type of food, and they are known to take flies, nymphs, and hatchers whether insects are hatching or not. 

Fish are more likely to bite when you fish hatchings, but you can have success when fishing away from hatching or when there are no hatching insects. 

Fish targeted by fly fishing are known to eat all manner of insects, including beetles and other larger insects, so try and fish as often as you can. Do not wait for hatchings to occur before casting; simply vary the bait you use and try to catch as many fish as you can whenever you can. 

caddisfly crawling on sand


Fly fishing is best done in the summer, and the best results are had at dawn and dusk. The fish targeted by fly fishing are usually most active during these times. However, when fly fishing in winter, focus your efforts on the warmest part of the day rather than dawn or dusk. 

Always pay close attention to when the insects in the area you are fishing are most active, as this will be the best time to cast. Fish learn when insects hatch or are most active and feed more readily during these times of day. 

Tommy Bull
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