Wake up sleepy!!!
August - Right smack in the "Dog Days of Summer". You know, the Romans widely believed the Dog Days to be "an evil time where the the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."
I don't know from hysterics and phrensies, but August just seems like the time when fishing is so off the radar, that actually contemplating a trip is like saying, "Why yes, I would love to bushwhack through a nettle-patch in 90+ degree heat until I'm so sweaty that the leaves simply stick to my body. It sounds Delightful!"
Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit because August is an important transition time for a steelheader. Even though you might not realize it, the days are getting shorter, stream temps are beginning to edge downward, and most importantly, fish are quietly beginning to run.
Now, you'll have to search a little more and work a little harder, but August begins to pay dividends for your nettle-riddled sweat equity. For one thing, August presents great opportunities to scout rivers in preparation for steelheading. The water is lower and clearer at this time of year, which allows you to find those nuances in river features that pay off when water is higher and dirtier. Better still, putting in this work during August may very well pay off in fish, specifically lake-run Browns.
Minnesota's lake-run browns are not as common as they are in other States, but they do exist and can be found if you know where to look. The picture above is a pretty typical lake run that had been in the stream for a while; and yes they do change color, both from spawning changes as well as due to water color and bottom composition. Minnesota's fish average about 18", and while "X" markings are more prevalent in these fish, they can be all "X's", all "Spots" or a combination of both. They also tend towards the long and sleek profile with comparitively large heads and tails.
These fish also seem to follow the return schedule of Wisconsin's South Shore fish in that they can begin entering the streams as early as the first week in July, and typically peak around the third week of August from year to year. High flow events trigger lots of movement, so paying attention to rainfall is a good bet.
These fish will readily take almost any kind of fly, but remember that these adult fish are predators, so bigger "meat" patterns and even spinners, Rapala's and the venerable garden hackle are all good bets. So too is fishing low-light periods, particularly if water-levels have dropped after a good rain. Deep, slow-water structures and woody debris adjacent to or near spawning gravel are good locations to target using a "Run-n-Gun" approach. If you get one, slow down and thoroughly work the area because there are likely to be more nearby. And while you need to make careful approaches as these fish are skittish, they are not afraid to hammer a well presented fly, lure or bait.
So wake up sleepy, and don't neglect the "Dog Days"; your wine might just go sour, but the Roman's didn't have an Igloo or a Coleman to put their beer in, and you might just catch some of these elusive fish.