Now that the heat of the summer seems to be behind us, it’s time to start thinking seriously about fall trout fishing.
This is the time of year that the fish begin to feed actively in preparation for the lean winter months and that means you can have some outstanding action over the next several weeks.
To help you cash in, here are some tips and techniques to think about.
1. Go Drab – During the fall season, flies should be a little more drab in color. Whether that be brown/black streamers or dark olive nymphs, the days of bright, flashy colors are behind us. Even certain patterns that are used all year long should shift to drab.
2. Keep Moving – Windy fall days make it tough for trout to discern food from debris such as leaves, twigs and other fragments falling from trees. Moving flies are easier for trout to detect. Try twitching a hopper or beetle during a drift with your fly rod.
3. Tie On Light Line – Lakes and rivers are usually crystal clear in the fall, especially after a dry summer. Trout become line shy in the clear water so you need to scale down to 2- or 4-pound test low-visibility line.
4. Understand the Trout's Changing Behavior – Brook and Brown trout, typically spawn in late summer and/or autumn, and tend to be much more agitated and aggressive in the fall. This is a result of behavioral changes related to spawning that create increased territoriality. This is one of the reasons why fall is a great time to fish with streamers.
5. Find Shade – Trout use shade as cover for protection from land predators and birds of prey when the fish are feeding in the shallows. Wading in shady areas also makes it difficult for clear-water trout to detect you.
6. Use Eggs – Salmon, steelhead and trout in rivers create lots of eggs for resident trout to dine on during the fall. Bumping egg fly patterns or real eggs along the bottom will help you catch lots of river trout.
7. Stealth Tactics For Clear Water – In clear-water streams, trout startle quickly, thus stealth methods are required to catch these wary fish. To avoid spooking trout, wear clothing that blend in with the environment, wade carefully, and cast upstream. Another clever approach to fool fall trout is to keep a low profile while fishing from the bank.
8. Look For Stronge Flows – Water temperatures are still warm and oxygen levels are lower in early fall, so concentrate on areas with the strongest current to find the most active trout. Riffles and eddies are prime spots to try during this time.
9. Match The Fall Hatch – Because insects are trout's favorite diet for most of the year, matching your flies to the most abundant insects in the fall will boost your chances of catching them. During the fall, there are fewer insect hatching and the bugs are smaller. Blue-winged olive mayflies and midges are the most common insects in the fall, you'll need to match the hatch by tying on flies in sizes 18 to 24.
10. Pay Attention to Water Temperature – Anglers often believe that the optimum times to catch trout are early morning and late evening, and this is generally true. September and October see cooler water temperatures and typically result in conditions that make the entire day an opportunity for fish to feed. As the weather cools even more, trout may become more sedentary in the early morning and late evening hours, preferring to feed most actively in the sun-warmed water of mid-day. Keep an eye on the temperature of the stream or river you're going to fish, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Fall Fishing Setups:
September heading into October places us just at the tail end of the terrestrial season, with just a bit of good dry fly opportunity left. Save that effort for the middle part of the day, sunny days being best. There are still plenty of fish willing to look up, but temperatures play a more important role in their willingness to commit to a fly in the film.
Optimal dry fly locations change a bit as well. With the low water characteristic of most rivers in early autumn, fishing to bankside structure is no longer par for the course. Instead, turn your attention to the center of the river, that area where you typically get your spring and summer wading done. Those mid-river seams and bubble lines can be the dry fly angler’s meal ticket this time of year.
There’s an easy explanation for the fall streamer bite—the spawn. Late September usually kicks of this bite, and the following few weeks typically represent excellent fishing for both numbers of fish as well as size. That said, size of fish is not always proportional to size of fly this time of year. Until the first good fall rains bump up the CFS and stain the water, it’s best to downsize and de-color. Smaller flies, more natural colors and less flash is the way to go.
On rivers with significant summer weed growth, fall represents a time of expanding nymph opportunity—those slower seams and slots are finally free of green and open for business. It’s also time to break out that ‘other’ box of nymphs. Stoneflies and midge larvae are go-to flies in the fall. There isn’t a whole lot of caddis or mayfly activity this time of year, and those bugs that are present are small. But a fish will move, and sometimes move a good distance, for a meaty prince nymph. If migratory salmon are present in your system, egging in the slots behind gravel can also make for some truly epic days.