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Fall Fly Fishing


For some anglers fall is a sad time of year. The days get shorter and cooler and the signs that winter is just around the corner are everywhere. For many though, fall is their favourite season. The crowds thin as the kids go back to school, some outdoorsmen trade their rods for bows and guns, and others rush to knock a few items off the honey-dew list before the snow flies. In southern Alberta the "random" campers start to relinquish their spots along the forestry trunk road and the pressure on the cutthroat stream diminishes. It's a time of shorter, cooler days and wonderfully coloured trees, in other words a great time to be fly fishing.

Signs that winter is just around the corner are everywhere

Signs that winter is just around the corner are everywhere

In Alberta the East slope trout streams are open until the end of October and if the weather cooperates I will fish right up until closing day. Once fall arrives on most trout streams two things conspire against the angler, low clear water conditions and fish that have seen thousands of flies, real and artificial go over their heads over the course of the season. This combination makes for some pretty finicky fish that require longer leaders, smaller flies and precise presentations. To the anglers advantage it is also a time when the hatches get sparser and easier to match. During the summer season numerous different insects can be on the water, making it harder to figure out exactly which one the fish are feeding on. In fall the fly selection is easier. The fish are fattening up for the long winter ahead and are more willing to take whatever is offered, not as willing to pass up the anglers offering.

The fish are fattening up for the long winter ahead

The fish are fattening up for the long winter ahead

The Tricos, that were so important in August, will start to wane, but still catch the occasional fish. The major hatch in southern Alberta at this time of year is the second coming of the Blue Winged Olives. These insects first hatch in the spring, but because they are a multi- brooded insect they have a second emergence in the fall. It is a very important hatch in both spring and fall so be prepared with some BWO imitation in sizes 16 & 18. The fall hatch is usually smaller than spring so I lean towards the smaller size. It is also the time that terrestrials play an important part of successful angling. Even though the hopper population starts to diminish as the first frosts arrive, the trout are used to feeding on them and will happily munch on this big easy meal before the long winter ahead. Ants and beetles are also very important at this time of the year as they are always present along trout streams and imitations work well as the mayfly and caddisfly hatches end. One method that I have had success with over the years is a variation of the hopper dropper rig which is a small nymph fished under a larger buoyant pattern. What I do in the fall is fish a sunken ant pattern underneath another terrestrial such as a foam ant or beetle pattern. Fish are used to seeing ants and beetles both on the surface and below and will usually come to one or the other artificial presented in this manner. They say that ants have a slightly acidic taste that the fish like. I, personally, have never tried one but I do know that trout love them. I always use fluorocarbon tippet  material to connect my sunken fly to my dry. The low visibility of the fluorocarbon combined with its tendency to sink better than monofilament  makes it the right choice for droppers at any time of the year.

They say that ants have a slightly acidic taste and trout love them

They say that ants have a slightly acidic taste and trout love them

As the water begins to cool the fish start to relocate to their over wintering habitat. Pools with water depth of at least three feet or more are required to accommodate them once the stream freezes over. Fish that are found in riffles through out the summer will start to move to these areas. Pools are always a good place to focus throughout the year but they become even more important in the fall. Streamer fishing is a fun and effective tactic, particularly for fall spawners like brown trout. Browns can be very aggressive at this time of year and will often crash streamers with reckless abandon. The low, clear water allows the angler to see both his fly and the attacking trout making streamer fishing particularly exciting at this time of year. The lower water levels don’t require as heavy an outfit as in spring and often a floating line can be used effectively. I like to use lighter coloured streamers at this time of year such as white marabou streamers or the always reliable Kiwi Muddler are my choices.

Low, clear water allows the angler to see both his fly and the attacking trout

Low, clear water allows the angler to see both his fly and the attacking trout

You will also find that in the fall fish will be more active in mid-day than they are at this time during the heat of the summer when it is often necessary to fish early and late to be successful, especially with dry flies. This makes for leisurely fishing days, bankers’ hours if you will and after a full season of dining on bugs, trout are at their prime, fat, firm and full of fight. The best trout you catch all year may very well be one of your last trout as well. Make sure you don’t forget your camera as not only are the fish colourful at this time of year but the scenery can be spectacular. Wildlife is more active with the cooler daytime temperatures, making for some good photo opportunities. So if you're one of those anglers that hang up their waders after the September long weekend perhaps this year you should think about extending your season into the fall, it's a great time to be on the stream.

Think about extending your season into the fall, it's a great time to be on the stream

Think about extending your season into the fall, it's a great time to be on the stream

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(2) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(3) There’s No Place Like Home

(4) A Golden Opportunity

(5) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(6) Un-matching the Hatch

(7) Alberta Super Bugs

(8) Glass is Back

(9) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(10) Speed Kills

(11) Entering the Twilight Zone

(12) Old Man River

(13) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(14) Small stream BT fishing

(15) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(16) In The Walleye Zone

(17) Zoo Trout

(18) Fly Selection for Beginners

(19) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(20) New Waters

(21) Big Bad Burbot

(22) Looking Back

(23) Out of Africa

(24) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(25) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(26) The Browns of Autumn

(27) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(28) Walleye Town

(29) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(30) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(31) Going With The Flow

(32) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(33) Swinging The Fences

(34) A View From The Aerie

(35) Dixieland Delight

(36) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(37) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(38) Montana's Cool Missouri

(39) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(40) Toothy Critters

(41) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(42) Top Ten Flies

(43) Northern Exposure

(44) Home Water Lessons

(45) Chicken Of The Sea

(46) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(47) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(48) Keep It Up!

(49) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(50) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(51) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(52) Hawg Holes

(53) Saltwater Salmon

(54) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(55) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(56) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(59) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(60) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(61) Fall Walleye

(62) Wet Flies

(63) Versatility the Key to Success

(64) Grayling of the Boreal

(65) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(66) Size Matters

(67) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(68) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(69) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(70) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(71) The Point Of It All

(72) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(73) Fall Fly Fishing

(74) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(75) Big River, Big Fish

(76) Bottom Bonanza

(77) Fishing Small Flies

(78) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(79) Four Seasons of the Bow

(80) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(82) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(83) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(84) Edge Walleye


(86) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(87) Four Corners – Four Waters

(88) Chasing Pothole Trout

(89) Springtime Stoneflies

(90) The Torrents of Spring

(91) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(92) Bust Them With Bait

(93) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(94) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(95) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(96) Terrestrials

(97) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(98) Rocky Mountain High

(99) Reading the clues

(100) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(101) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(102) Fly Fishing 101

(103) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(104) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(105) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(106) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(107) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(108) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(109) Trust Your Electronics

(110) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(111) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(112) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(113) Walleye can be Humbling

(114) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(115) Winter Flyfishing

(116) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(117) Hot Fall Pike Action

(118) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(119) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(120) Frequently Asked Questions

(121) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(122) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(123) Deep Water Perch

(124) Post Spawn Brookies

(125) A Fisher's Life

(126) The River's Last Stand

(127) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(128) Coho on the Coast

(129) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(130) Summer in the Mountains

(131) Peak Walleye Season

(132) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(133) Last Ice Rainbows

(134) The Burbot Event

(135) Tackle Matching

(136) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(137) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(138) The Lure of Brook Trout

(139) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(140) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(141) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(142) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(143) The Vesatile Plug

(144) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(145) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(146) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(147) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(148) Daily Fish Migrations

(149) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(150) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(151) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(152) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(153) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(154) The Fun in Ultra Light

(155) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(156) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(157) Never Stop Learning

(158) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(159) Jigging through the Ice

(160) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(161) Rainbows on Ice

(162) The Season of Ice Begins

(163) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(164) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(165) Facts On Cats

(166) West Coast Adventure

(167) June Walleye Frenzy

(168) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(169) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(170) "Northern Exposure"

(171) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(172) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(173) Man Overboard