Fall fishing gives you a little bit of everything. Warm days, cool days, downright cold days are all in the mix. Dries, nymphs, and streamers all have a place on the menu. The foliage is an added bonus to spending hours on the water and if you live in a temperate region, like southern Appalachia, you may be lucky enough to still wet wade without waders.
As we get deeper into fall though, switching up from your summer tactics is advisable, and there are a few quick tips that will make you more successful fishing through Autumn.
Don’t Be Peter Pan
Be mindful of your shadow on the water. As the days shorten and drop in temperature, the sun will cast shadows farther than it typically does during the summer months. Fish are wary of the dangers above the surface, and a long shadow is a natural alarm for them to retreat.
Move slowly and stealthily as you approach a spot. When you walk along the banks, crouch and kneel where you can. It’s also best to fish further away from your position, if the water is big enough send your cast out a little farther to maintain a nice buffer.
When in a boat, stay at a healthy distance from rising fish. Consider your clothing as well. Many streams in the fall are low and clear, so fish have an easier time seeing through to the service. Wear muted, natural colors that blend in with your surroundings as opposed to brighter colors.
Mind Your Temps
The late spring and summer bite comes early or late in the day as temperatures are more inviting for fish activity. Once the weather cools off in the fall, fish may be more lethargic in the low light hours until the sun warms the water up. Fishing late morning through the early afternoon is often the more productive period.
If you’re fishing later into the day, make note of when the bite turns off. Once it does, it’s a good idea to call it a day. Sure, there’s a chance you may catch that “one last cast” trophy fish, but once the fishing turns off it’s usually off for good.
Throw the Meat
With dropping temps and winter drawing near, trout, especially big trout, look to pack on the pounds. Brown trout in particular commonly turn extra aggressive. The time for streamers has come again.
If you’ve had your fill of dry flies for the year, and fishing tiny midges aren’t your thing, slap the meat on and go to town. Remember these keys of fishing larger, heavier flies.
Add some flare. Try streamer patterns with autumn hues; bright oranges, reds, and yellows.
Size does matter. Don’t be afraid to size up. You may not catch in quantity, but one or two quality fish can make your entire season.
Fish stiff. Use fluorocarbon leaders. Fluoro sinks faster and has the toughness and abrasion resistance to fight serious predators.
Tie it right. When fishing streamers attach the fly to your leader using a non-slip loop knot. This gives the fly good action and allows the pattern to work as it was designed to.
Terrestrials Before the Frost
Terrestrials remain an important staple of the trout diet throughout the fall months. Large, land-based insects are full of protein and therefore very attractive to fish bulking up leading into winter.
Winged ants, beetles, and grasshoppers will serve you well before the first significant frost. Once the colder temps set in to stay terrestrial fishing will slow.
Long and Light
Autumn water is often flowing low, slow, and clear. As a result, fish will naturally be a little spooky. Lengthening your leader with a light, thin tippet will help you present flies delicately to wary trout.
Try bumping a 9 or 10-foot leader up to 12-foot. If you typically use 4x, try stepping down to 5x. If you’re in very small, high elevation streams, don’t be afraid to go even thinner. Long, thin leaders aren’t as easy to cast but will reward you with fish that are super on edge.
Make sure you’re keeping your fly line and leader butt away from the fish, and off the water entirely where you can.