Contributed by Austin Orr of Salt 396
My fly hit the water with a soft splat near the far bank. I waited a moment, then began twitching the minnow imitation along, as much like an actual injured fish as possible. Suddenly, a flash; my line came tight and a strong fish surged downriver! After a stiff battle, I held a handsome male brown trout, known as a ‘buck’, in my hand. A quick stretch of the measuring tape put him at 22 inches, a great fish by anyone’s standard.
Alight with Fall breeding color, the fish sported iridescent blues on his cheeks, with buttery gold flanks and black speckling. His wicked kype signaled that the time for spawning was near. As he swam off, I took a deep breath and smiled as I looked down the river bank at the beautiful patchwork of leaves. Ah yes – I love Fall fishing.
During the Fall months, trout are especially geared up to eat; after all, winter is coming. The biggest fish of the year are often caught during September, October and November. Take advantage of this excellent window of opportunity by following these simple tips for success.
5 Tips to Catch More Fall Trout
1. Show up early and stay late.
It’s no secret that trout, especially large trout, are most active during periods of low light. They are excellent predators and prefer to spend as little energy as possible catching their meals. Big trout like eating meat – minnows and young trout are staples on their menu. By being active during low light conditions, they can get closer to prey which gives the trout a better shot at a meal. Make sure that you’re on the water when the action is going down. That often means arriving and leaving in the pitch black, but when that big trout slams your fly, the extra time is worth it.
2. Don’t be scared to throw big.
With the hard times of winter breathing down their neck, Fall trout of all sizes are hunting whatever they can fit in their mouth. This is when I recommend breaking out the big guns – flies that sometimes seem as big as stocker rainbows. From a fly fisherman’s perspective, large flies are a catch-22. They’re easier to see and tie on than the tiny bug imitations we sometimes use, but casting large streamers can be a real pain in the neck. Literally. You don’t have to go crazy, though. Throwing streamers as big as the baitfish that live in the body of water you’re fishing is a great start.
3. Try speeding up your retrieve.
Due to the enhanced predatory nature of trout during the Fall, fishermen are often able to provoke more reaction strikes this time of year. Fishing flies on the swing (casting cross-current and letting the moving water drag the fly down and across the flow) is a popular way to trigger these fish to bite, as is casting across or upstream and stripping quickly back. It’s not a magic technique, but putting some zip in your strip can trigger strikes when nothing else is working.
4. Work smarter than the other guys
This time of year there are plenty of fishermen on the river, at least until the major hunting seasons start up. You may feel like all the water has been trampled, but with careful observation, you will start to notice water that the other guys consistently pass up. For instance, even in high traffic areas, swift riffle water often hold trout that most people skip over. Think outside the box; everyone wants to fish the deep pools and most obvious lies, but there are plenty of fish to be had in between the popular wades.
5. Don’t tread on them, please.
This last tip isn’t so much about catching Fall trout as it is about making sure that there are plenty of trout to catch in the years to come. Fall means spawning time for brown trout, and it can be easy to find pairs of big, tempting fish hanging out in plain sight in the shallows. During this time, the female scoops out her nest, called a “redd” (Scottish for “basket”), and a male will usually join her. During this time they will ignore food and the only way to catch spawners is by snagging them, whether intentionally or not. Please keep this in mind and don’t harass these fish; they’re in the middle of making more trout for you to catch. Anyway, how would you like it if someone disturbed you like that! The redds need protection too; they’re easy to see, plate sized or larger patches of different colored gravel that’s been scooped out. Eggs are deposited in the redds, and a single human footstep could crush dozens of the embryonic trout. Just watch your step as you move down the river, which of course you should be doing anyway. The local fly shops will know when trout are spawning, and will probably be able to tell you areas where you’re likely to encounter the amorous fish so you can plan accordingly to avoid them.