There are few better ways to spend a crisp fall morning than standing knee-deep in a favorite trout stream.
The leaves are in their full color display, deer are moving freely as the rut picks up, and trout are actively feeding as they bulk up for the long winter ahead. It’s a season that many look forward to, and those who experience a great day in the fall are hooked on it for life. The days of wet wading may be gone, but the tranquil serenity and unmatched beauty of fall is unrivaled by any other season.
Finding trout while fly fishing in the fall and early winter months can be difficult though, and knowing where to look is half the battle! Here's where to look.
Deep pools are a good bet to fish any time of year, but that’s especially true during fall. One of the misconceptions out there is that fall trout fishing brings a return to the conditions that exist during spring and even early summer. The truth is, fall is usually pretty darn dry and low water is commonplace on trout streams. Water temperatures certainly drop to safer levels compared to August and September, but the low flows still push fish towards those areas where they can safely feed without fear of predators above. The more depth a spot has, the greater likelihood there’ll be a trout there!
It’s no secret that trout congregate at tributary mouths during summer when temperatures are high and they search for the refuge of chilled discharges. What’s not quite as widely known is that the fish will stick around these locations well into fall because these are terrific areas to get plenty of food and oxygen! While it’s not always the case, tributaries entering a main stem usually create deeper pools where trout can get everything they need. It’s the perfect spot for them to summer and winter over, which makes it a valuable location during the in-between season of fall!
One of the ways trout combat summer heat is by pushing upstream into headwaters that are more shaded and provide cooler water temperatures. They’ll stay here well into fall as the spawning season fast approaches for brookies and browns. Headwaters, and small water in general, have more classic riffle-run-riffle setups, making it prime spawning ground. Trout that are actively on redds should always be avoided, but other trout will follow the spawners into these areas to feed on eggs, making them perfect targets for anglers!
Fall can be one of the most spectacular times to be on a trout stream, and catching a few is predicated on first knowing where fish are holding. By focusing efforts on these trout hotspots, anglers can increase their catch rate and maximize their time. While having the right flies and technique is important, it all starts with where the trout are during fall and why they spend so much time there feeding. Being armed with that intel is the first step in making a beautiful fall day unforgettable.