Fishing, along with our lives, is very seasonal. In this article some of the key elements of what makes fall fishing so special are covered. I hope you enjoy!
Spring fishing is arguably one of the most productive times of year to fish. Moreover, it is a ritualistic opportunity to shed cabin fever and get out for opening day weekend. However, fall fishing can be just as good, if not better!
Below you will find some things to be mindful of in fall, tactics for catching fish, and more!
Tip #1 - Streamers can be your, and the fishes, meal ticket!
If you live in the northeast, you are acutely aware about how low and clear the water conditions have been since late June/early July. Fishing has been hard, and it has required stealth, delicate presentation, and great focus to have success on the water. Up until about two weeks ago that mantra held true. Even though the levels haven't changed, the fishing certainly has.
I was on a guided trip and we were having modest success, at best, fishing nymphs. With about two hours to go I suggested we switch gears/tactics, and start streamers, specifically CDC Buggers. On my first demonstration of the tactic, and how to fish them in a variety of ways, I landed a 12" wild brown trout. Immediately, proof of concept was given. Moreover, what we both took away from the experience was that just the smallest change in tactics, even when you have effectively fishes a section of water with nymphs, can easily change your day around.
My guest, Nick, was more than excited to try out the tactic. We moved a few fish and could instantly see the water come alive! Don't get me wrong, on other guide trips, and personal trips, I had been fishing streamers. However, the bite hadn't fully turned on yet. We moved up to the next run, Nick made a great cast into a slightly deeper than average run and we saw a large shadow emerge. We both get excited for the opportunity to potentially land his personal best trout. We repositioned, made a strategic cast, and BOOM! Fish on!
Nick landed his largest wild trout and this fish made both our days. This fish was a representation of seasonal changes. The spawn is now upon us, which takes me to my next point. Fish have to bulk up to help produce eggs, as well as have the energy/fat storage required for a successful spawn. Therefore, every year in mid to late October, there is usually a two week window where streamers are HIGHLY successful at potentially landing the fish of your year, or even lifetime.
Tip #2 - Don't tread on their redds!
A redd is a spawning area fanned out to give fish the best opportunity to lay, fertilize, and hatch the next generation of trout. They vary year to year, and place to place, on where and when they crop up. In Maryland, you can almost always count on them after the first week of November. Redd's most commonly are in shallow riffles/glides, that are highly oxygenated, have moving water, and tend to be near the head of a run.
Pictured above is a fanned out redd on the Gunpowder. When you encounter these please consider the following:
DO NOT wade through them/near then
DO NOT fish to actively spawning trout on redds
Be mindful these redds are active until spring, when the eggs finally hatch
By being a mindful fisherman, and wader, you are preserving the opportunity to potentially help spread genetics down to the future fish of the river. Without this annual tradition, we would not have the wonderful fisheries we do. RESPECT THE REDDS!
Tip #3 - Fish Bigger and More Aggressively!
In the fall, fish are foraging for a bigger meal. For example, here are some common flies that work well in the fall:
What is great about most of these patterns, especially the streamers, is you don't have to be delicate, or command a dead drift. I often demonstrate four different techniques for how to present streamers. Each one being a little more aggressive than the next. Trout are predators, and this is put on display even more so than other seasons. They are looking to put on weight, scare away other fish from their staging territory, and much more. As a result, you can get away with a little more this time of year. Finally, water temps are just starting to creep back into that optimal temperature, especially in the the freestone streams, so this is the most active they have been since May.
The fish above, lovingly named "Uncle Buck" is a 24" in brown I recently caught fishing the sculp snack. On my FIRST cast into a 3 foot ditch, this fish swirled and created wake to storm the bait that was tossed in. Not only that, he missed on the first attempt, as well as chased it down stream for a second miss. I changed streamers, in an effort to present him a fly he had not yet seen, and gave him a few minutes to settle, as to not feel my presence. I changed my black sculp snack, to a white sculp snack. Sure enough, this was the ticket! On the first cast I moved him on the initial landing of the fly hitting the water. He missed, and chased it down stream a few feet and inhaled my streamer. I was very fortunate to have landed the fish of my lifetime.
Why do I share this story with you? Mostly to remind you that it is the perfect time of year to be aggressive with your fly selection and tactics on presentation. This fish is a product of those steps and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity given to me by taking advantage of the season!
Get your boots wet and chase down some fish!
I hope this article with tips included, helps you the next time you head out to your local stream. Be sure to head over to my Youtube Channel and see the latest adventure, head over to the store for euro nymphs/streamers for your next outing, and consider booking a trip for next season through the website.