Fall fishing. Feast or Famine.

September 14, 2015

Totally different water conditions apply for good fishing in the spring than do in the fall. In the spring we want falling water levels and rising water temperatures. After high spring run-off becomes more stable and water temperatures start to rise, hatches begin and fishing gets better and better. In the fall the opposite applies. When either fall rains or scheduled dam releases raise river levels and fall’s cooler conditions drop water temperatures spawning fish begin to enter the rivers. It’s a simple equation but very predictable.
Fall fishing can be feast or famine. If conditions are ideal you’ll talk about the great fishing for years to come. If the stars don’t line up, this year September has become our newest summer month, there are very few easy fish and you’ll earn everyone.
A little note about fall fishing:
Fish fresh from the lake are usually very eager to chase streamers. There is no screwing around and the strike is ferocious. If a fish misses your fly just leave it there and jig it a bit. New fish will almost always return and be more aggressive, not missing on the second strike. It’s like they want to rip the rod from your hand and there is nothing like it. Make sure you are using good stout leader material or that biggest fish of the season will own your fly and you’re left with just another sad story.
After fish have been in the river for a while, have seen plenty of streamers and likely been fooled a time or two the strikes become just passes at your streamer and don’t return when teased. A quick change of the fly may get the fish to come back but not always. Now it’s time to do a little nymph fishing. It’s about delivering a Lays potato chip to couch potatoes that have stopped chasing streamers. Drift, say a pheasant tail by their nose and they are apt to pick up the little morsel. After all they have eaten hundreds of them in the past.
We have always said fall fish do not feed. It should read, fall fish don’t eat much and they often don’t eat the same thing twice. So don’t be shy to change the flavor of the fly that isn’t working. Interview any number of late season fishermen about what they were using and you’ll get 10 different flies that caught fish and often it takes ten fly changes to catch 2 fish.
Until conditions change this fall isn’t going to be one you’ll brag about the fishing as much as the grand time you had with the company you keep and the great memories you’ll make around the campfire, that’ll keep you smiling during the off season.
It’s a beautiful time of season, our favorite, and some of the biggest fish of the year are going to be caught. The only problem with September fishing is it should be three months long not three weeks.
Have a great trip and don’t forget to support your local fly shop.