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Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing


Of all the time I spend fly fishing, fall is by far my favourite season for many reasons. Once the kids go back to school in September the streams, rivers and lakes become less crowded, allowing you to fish your favourite spots with little or no competition from other anglers. Water temperatures drop and the fish get active and start feeding in anticipation of the on coming winter. Trout in lakes and ponds that have been sulking through the summer doldrums are reinvigorated by cooler water temperatures. Brown, Bull and Brook trout are all fall spawners and are very aggressive at this time of the year, and are also at their most colourful, in my mind there is nothing prettier than a fall caught brown trout. While it may seem like catching trout in the fall should be easier, it is often not the case. These fish have been fished for all season long, fish that were easy at the start of the year are now at their wariest. Let me share with you of few tips and tricks I use in the fall which often produce fish.

Fall is a great time of year to be out fly fishing.

Fall is a great time of year to be out fly fishing.

Even though the insect hatches that garner all the attention, Stoneflies, March Browns, Green Drakes, PMDs' etc. are all finished hatching for the year there is still plenty for trout to eat come the fall. In Alberta the fall fly fisher can count on hatches of Blue Winged Olives, Tricos, Midges and Caddisflies amongst others. For the most part insects that hatch in the fall will be smaller than the spring and summer hatches, Blue Winged Olives are usually a size 18 or 20, and will often hatch well into October, Tricos the same, sometimes even smaller. A couple of saving graces are the October or  Fall Caddis which is size 6 or 8, and terrestrials, such as ants and beetles which are always available. I fish ants all year long and I have a saying, "They'll always eat an ant". Even grasshoppers will be available up until a hard frost puts an end to them. Nymphs and streamers work all year long, because the naturals are always in the river, at various stages of their development.

The large bugs of spring and summer are mostly gone come the fall.

The large bugs of spring and summer are mostly gone come the fall.

With most of the insects hatching being of smaller sizes in the fall the dry fly angler is challenged with not only having to make a delicate presentation but also to be able to see where in the heck his fly is. I have a couple of tricks that I use to be able to track my fly, something that becomes harder every year. The first method is to use a small indicator of yarn a foot or so from your fly, this way even if you can't see your fly, if a fish rises within a foot of your indicator set the hook. I like to use a white yarn as I find I can spot it quite well and it also looks like a foam bubble on the surface, which is quite natural. You can also use a larger sized dry fly as an indicator, a size 14 or 16 parachute Adams works well and will also catch the odd fish. The above mentioned Fall Caddis and grasshoppers can be used to fish either a two dry rig or a dry-dropper rig, using the larger dry as an indicator for either a smaller dry or a nymph.

When fishing streamers in the fall I like to use a very active presentation, hitting the water hard and using a very quick retrieve. Trout are very aggressive at this time of year and will go out of their way to show any intruders whose boss. Running your streamer anywhere near their territory will usually draw a strike. Many anglers will only fish a single streamer but I almost always use two. A lighter coloured fly ahead of a larger, darker coloured fly on the point gives the illusion that the darker is chasing the smaller lighter fly, often agitating the trout to join in the chase and try and eat them both! When fishing double streamers I always tie the point fly on with about one foot of mono to the bend of the other fly, this way everything is inline and it casts and swims smoothly. The top hook doesn't seem to lose its' ability to hook fish as the takes are usually very aggressive.

Streamers can produce some large fish in the fall.

Streamers can produce some large fish in the fall.

While conditions would seem to favour the angler at this time of year that's not necessarily the case. The angler must remember that with the sun being lower in the sky their shadow will be longer and spooking the fish with your shadow in low clear water can be a problem. When the situation allows I like to use a longer leader, 12 or 15 feet instead of my usual 9 feet. Increasing the distance between you and the fish can help reduce the spooking. Also I like to use a lighter rod if possible which gives a gentler presentation with its' lighter line. Clothing colour should also be considered, save the Chartreuse and Hot Orange shirts for the winter salt water trips and stick with drab colours such as Olive and Pewter etc.

Water temperature plays a large part in trout fishing and more anglers should pay attention to it. In the summer months we get used to fishing early and late, but in the fall, mid day, once the water warms up, is when you will see the most action. Also don't shy away from the cold, drizzly days that fall can bring, the hatches and fishing can be fantastic. It's no secret that Blue Winged Olive, which hatch in Alberta in September and October hatch in great numbers on cooler days. The weather causes them to take longer to dry their wings after emerging, making them an easy target for feeding trout. Hatching bugs and feeding fish will soon make you forget about the miserable weather.

The scenery can be spectacular in the fall.

The scenery can be spectacular in the fall.

Safety, while always important doing outdoor activities, is paramount in the fall. Always fish with a partner, with fewer people afield help could be a long time coming if you’re alone and you have an accident. Fall is also hunting season so if you are in an area where there is hunting forego the above mentioned drab colours and where something bright, even if it's just your hat. Wade carefully and always wear a wading belt, while streams are lower and slower at this time of year the water is very cold and taking a dip can be very dangerous. Use a wading staff for support when crossing streams even if you are a confident wader. Dress for the season, layers under your waders, a good waterproof wading jacket, a toque or beanie and some fingerless gloves will add to your comfort. Remember the old adage that you can always take layers off if you get too hot, but you can't put them on if you don't have them. Bear spray and being bear alert is also of extreme importance, they are very busy at this time of year fattening up for the winter. Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you enjoy some fall flyfishing this year, and as always take the time to stop and look around, the scenery can be spectacular at this time of year.

Dress for the weather and fall fishing can be very rewarding.

Dress for the weather and fall fishing can be very rewarding.

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List

(2) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator

(3) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(4) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(5) There’s No Place Like Home

(6) A Golden Opportunity

(7) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(8) Un-matching the Hatch

(9) Alberta Super Bugs

(10) Glass is Back

(11) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(12) Speed Kills

(13) Entering the Twilight Zone

(14) Old Man River

(15) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(16) Small stream BT fishing

(17) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(18) In The Walleye Zone

(19) Zoo Trout

(20) Fly Selection for Beginners

(21) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(22) New Waters

(23) Big Bad Burbot

(24) Looking Back

(25) Out of Africa

(26) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

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

(28) The Browns of Autumn

(29) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(30) Walleye Town

(31) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(32) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(33) Going With The Flow

(34) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(35) Swinging The Fences

(36) A View From The Aerie

(37) Dixieland Delight

(38) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(39) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(40) Montana's Cool Missouri

(41) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(42) Toothy Critters

(43) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(44) Top Ten Flies

(45) Northern Exposure

(46) Home Water Lessons

(47) Chicken Of The Sea

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

(49) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(50) Keep It Up!

(51) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

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

(53) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(54) Hawg Holes

(55) Saltwater Salmon

(56) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

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

(58) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(61) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(62) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(63) Fall Walleye

(64) Wet Flies

(65) Versatility the Key to Success

(66) Grayling of the Boreal

(67) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(68) Size Matters

(69) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(70) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(71) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(72) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(73) The Point Of It All

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

(75) Fall Fly Fishing

(76) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(77) Big River, Big Fish

(78) Bottom Bonanza

(79) Fishing Small Flies

(80) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(81) Four Seasons of the Bow

(82) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(84) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

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

(86) Edge Walleye


(88) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(89) Four Corners – Four Waters

(90) Chasing Pothole Trout

(91) Springtime Stoneflies

(92) The Torrents of Spring

(93) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(94) Bust Them With Bait

(95) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(96) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(97) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(98) Terrestrials

(99) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(100) Rocky Mountain High

(101) Reading the clues

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

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

(104) Fly Fishing 101

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

(106) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(107) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(108) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

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

(110) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(111) Trust Your Electronics

(112) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(113) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(114) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(115) Walleye can be Humbling

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

(117) Winter Flyfishing

(118) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(119) Hot Fall Pike Action

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

(121) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(122) Frequently Asked Questions

(123) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(124) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(125) Deep Water Perch

(126) Post Spawn Brookies

(127) A Fisher's Life

(128) The River's Last Stand

(129) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(130) Coho on the Coast

(131) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(132) Summer in the Mountains

(133) Peak Walleye Season

(134) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(135) Last Ice Rainbows

(136) The Burbot Event

(137) Tackle Matching

(138) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(139) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(140) The Lure of Brook Trout

(141) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(142) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

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

(144) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(145) The Vesatile Plug

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

(147) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(148) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(149) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(150) Daily Fish Migrations

(151) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(152) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

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

(154) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(155) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(156) The Fun in Ultra Light

(157) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(158) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(159) Never Stop Learning

(160) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(161) Jigging through the Ice

(162) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(163) Rainbows on Ice

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(165) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(166) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(167) Facts On Cats

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(169) June Walleye Frenzy

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(175) Man Overboard