Updated: Mar 19
In the heat of the summer how we handle trout are very important for their chances of survival. Here in the Shenandoah Valley our mountain streams get quite low and warm, stressing out the native Brooke trout population. As soon as the water reaches 70 degrees they are in danger. Oxygen in the water dissolves differently, making it harder for them to breathe, and hence recover after being caught.
If you do have streams in your area that stay below 70 degrees there are still a few steps you can follow to make the trout's release a little easier on the fish. First, land the fish as quickly as possible. I know that can be tough already using light tippet, but not completely exhausting the fish is desirable. Second, use a net, preferable fine mesh or rubber. The material will hold water, and lessen the chance of removing the mucus membrane of the fish that is their immune system. Keep the net in the water so the fish isn't exposed to the warmer air temperature. Last, consider using barbless hooks. This will allow minimum handling of the fish. If the fly doesn't fall out when you net the fish, then a quick turn with your hemostats will pop the hook right out.
Upon releasing the fish just allow it to recover in your net. There is no need to remove it and please do not move a fish back and forth in the water. This actually forces water in the gills at an unnatural direction and does nothing to revive the fish. You should be able to lower your net further into the water and the trout will swim out on its own.
Look for the colder streams in your area, or consider some bass fishing until the fall, but if you are going to fly fish for trout in the summer keep them wet.