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Falling for Cutthroat

 

To me fall is a conflict of emotions as far as fly fishing goes. Many anglers, myself included, consider it their favorite time of year, but with winter right around the corner the number of days to head to the stream are dwindling and a sense of urgency takes over. Rivers that have seen spring floods turn into the dog days of summer with high water temperatures have now cooled and are at their lowest and clearest. You will rarely find anything but good conditions in the fall, although this year we did have an all day/night rain dirty up a feeder stream which ended up putting the river off colour for a day. Many anglers have turned their attention to hunting, kids are back in school so the number of people on holidays has dwindled. Trout that have been spread throughout the stream are now moving into their over wintering holes where they will wait out the winter. If one species of trout begs to be fished for in the fall it’s the Cutthroat trout. Not only do they match the golds and orange colors of the turning leaves but they also feed with abandon, no doubt anticipating what awaits them in the near future. While browns and bulls are aggressive and brightly colored as they prepare to spawn, I leave them alone to do their thing, Cutthroats will do just fine.
Streams and rivers are low and clear in the fall.

Streams and rivers are low and clear in the fall.

Cutthroats are a native species to the west and have become the favorite target of many fly anglers. Once considered the most gullible target of the trout, catch and release on many western streams has educated them. They are still the most willing to rise of all the trout but getting them to eat is no longer a slam dunk.  While they still might not be as wary as a brown trout the days of plopping a Royal Wulff or any old Green drake pattern into the middle of a bunch of feeding Cutties no longer works. New patterns seem to appear every couple of years and for whatever reason they seem to work. For the last two seasons in S.E. British Columbia purple has seemed to be the color. Last year I had equal success with a big Purple Chubby Chernobyl and a size 16 purple parachute ant. This year the ant dominated over all other patterns including the Chernobyl. Seasonal favorites aside I always lean towards terrestrials in the fall, hoppers are still around, or at least the memory of them if we've had a killing frost. Ants and beetles are always around and are go patterns for me in the fall.

Cutthroats match the colors of fall.

Cutthroats match the colors of fall.

I stick with a 6 weight rod and line, even in smaller streams, you can get away with lighter rods and lines but most of the places I fish for cutthroats are notorious for their strong winds. As it is all catch and release fishing in these areas a little heavier rod helps me not only deliver the fly better in the wind but also land the fish quicker. Being able to put a little more pressure on the fish when fishing from a boat is important as you may not always be able to follow the fish as you when walk and wade fishing for them. I like to land and release them as quickly as possible.
Fall is a glorious time to be out fly fishing.

Fall is a glorious time to be out fly fishing.

I used to think that using fluorocarbon tippet for cutthroat wasn't necessary but I'm beginning to think with all the pressure being put on them it might be the way to go. While floating the Elk River in BC my friend Nick, who was using fluorocarbon tippet, definitely out fished me. I  like to think that it was my rowing skills that put him in the best spots, but I doubt it as he rows every bit as good as I do. In smaller streams like Alberta's Oldman or Livingstone River the use of Fluorocarbon is even more of an advantage as finesse is more important in these conditions. Leader length is also a consideration, I like a nine foot leader, with 12 - 18" of tippet of the appropriate diameter for smaller terrestrials and a 7.5" 3X or 4X leader with no tippet for the larger hopper and Chernobyl type patterns. The shorter, stouter leader will lessen the "helicoptering"  effect that causes twisting of thinner longer leaders and the fishare not as spooky with these big flies.

 

It's easy to see how Cutthroats got their name.

It's easy to see how Cutthroats got their name.

When walk and wade fishing in the fall not only is the water low and clear but, making a stealthy approach important but also the angle of the sun will play a greater part in your approach. With the sun being lower in the sky you will cast much longer shadows than it the summer. Keep the sun in mind when you approach the stream and approach from a different angle if possible or in the very least crouch to make yourself smaller. Leaves falling off of the trees can also hamper your getting the fly to the fish. There is no easy solution to this problem, when floating you can avoid the heavily treed stream bank, if there is only one, but this only works occasionally as eventually the leaves will spread out across the stream. The best solutions is to plan your casts to land in between the densest part of the flotilla. The bonus is that with the leaves come various bugs for the trout to eat, like ants and beetles. Also the same winds removing the leaves off the trees will be sending grasshoppers into the stream.

 

The trout aren't the only things getting active in the fall.

The trout aren't the only things getting active in the fall.

In the fall there is no need to hit the stream early, you won't find that cutthroat start getting active until the water starts approaching 50^F. Same thing in the evening, as the sun lowers in the sky, and both the air and water temperature start to drop, unlike summer when this might be prime time, the cutthroat will get sluggish and your dry fly efforts will be largely unrewarded. Another consideration for fall cutthroat fishing is wildlife. Bears are feeding in earnest to ready themselves for their upcoming hibernation and are out and about at all times of the day. Also as the rutting season gets under way Elk, Moose and even Deer can become dangerous. Be aware of your surroundings and give a wide berth to any wildlife encountered. Carry bear spray and know how to use it, even when floating rivers.

 

There's still time to enjoy some fall fly fishing before the snow flies.

There's still time to enjoy some fall fly fishing before the snow flies.

Have it on board and have it on you whenever you leave the boat for a bathroom break, lunch break or when you stop to fish a run on foot. Also make sure it is handy when you are drifting as you never know what is around the next corner, things can happen pretty quick so be prepared. On our last float we heard a crashing and then suddenly a cow Elk came flying out of the bush, down a 4 foot bank and out into the middle of the river. It was far enough downstream and the river was wide enough at that point that is wasn't a problem for us to go around her at a safe distance. Something was obviously chasing it, cougar? bear? and the situation could have gotten scary if it was a little closer and the river was any narrower.
Whether it be for Cutthroats or whatever you fly fish for get out and enjoy the fall colours, winter is just around the corner.

 



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Discover Squamish, an Outdoor Playground
(2) Falling for Cutthroat
(3) New Water and Old Friends
(4) My McLeod
(5) Temperature and Trout
(6) On the Road Again
(7) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(8) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(9) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(10) Rollin’ on the River
(11) Windy Day Pike
(12) Cures for Cabin Fever
(13) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(14) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(15) A day on our foothill streams
(16) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(17) Fly Leaders
(18) In the Zone
(19) Learners Permit
(20) Flies of Summer
(21) Selecting the Right Boat
(22) The Italian Job
(23) Making a difference
(24) Pass the Salt
(25) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(26) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(27) Fall brings the big walleye out
(28) Hoppertunity Time
(29) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(30) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(31) Early Season Fly Fishing
(32) Walleye Logic
(33) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(34) Grammy’s Fish
(35) Top 10 Trout Lures
(36) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(37) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(38) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(39) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(40) There’s No Place Like Home
(41) A Golden Opportunity
(42) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(43) Un-matching the Hatch
(44) Alberta Super Bugs
(45) Glass is Back
(46) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(47) Speed Kills
(48) Entering the Twilight Zone
(49) Old Man River
(50) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(51) Small stream BT fishing
(52) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(53) In The Walleye Zone
(54) Zoo Trout
(55) Fly Selection for Beginners
(56) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(57) New Waters
(58) Big Bad Burbot
(59) Looking Back
(60) Out of Africa
(61) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(62) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(63) The Browns of Autumn
(64) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(65) Walleye Town
(66) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(67) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(68) Going With The Flow
(69) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(70) Swinging The Fences
(71) A View From The Aerie
(72) Dixieland Delight
(73) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(74) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(75) Montana's Cool Missouri
(76) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(77) Toothy Critters
(78) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(79) Top Ten Flies
(80) Northern Exposure
(81) Home Water Lessons
(82) Chicken Of The Sea
(83) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(84) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(85) Keep It Up!
(86) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(87) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(88) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(89) Hawg Holes
(90) Saltwater Salmon
(91) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(92) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(93) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(94) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(95) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(96) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(97) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(98) Fall Walleye
(99) Wet Flies
(100) Versatility the Key to Success
(101) Grayling of the Boreal
(102) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(103) Size Matters
(104) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(105) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(106) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(107) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(108) The Point Of It All
(109) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(110) Fall Fly Fishing
(111) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(112) Big River, Big Fish
(113) Bottom Bonanza
(114) Fishing Small Flies
(115) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(116) Four Seasons of the Bow
(117) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(118) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(119) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(120) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(121) Edge Walleye
(122) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(123) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(124) Four Corners – Four Waters
(125) Chasing Pothole Trout
(126) Springtime Stoneflies
(127) The Torrents of Spring
(128) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(129) Bust Them With Bait
(130) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(131) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(132) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(133) Terrestrials
(134) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(135) Rocky Mountain High
(136) Reading the clues
(137) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(138) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(139) Fly Fishing 101
(140) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(141) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(142) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(143) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(144) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(145) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(146) Trust Your Electronics
(147) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(148) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(149) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(150) Walleye can be Humbling
(151) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(152) Winter Flyfishing
(153) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(154) Hot Fall Pike Action
(155) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(156) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(157) Frequently Asked Questions
(158) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(159) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(160) Deep Water Perch
(161) Post Spawn Brookies
(162) A Fisher's Life
(163) The River's Last Stand
(164) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(165) Coho on the Coast
(166) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(167) Summer in the Mountains
(168) Peak Walleye Season
(169) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(170) Last Ice Rainbows
(171) The Burbot Event
(172) Tackle Matching
(173) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(174) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(175) The Lure of Brook Trout
(176) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(177) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(178) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(179) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(180) The Vesatile Plug
(181) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(182) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(183) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(184) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(185) Daily Fish Migrations
(186) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(187) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(188) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(189) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(190) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(191) The Fun in Ultra Light
(192) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(193) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(194) Never Stop Learning
(195) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(196) Jigging through the Ice
(197) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(198) Rainbows on Ice
(199) The Season of Ice Begins
(200) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(201) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(202) Facts On Cats
(203) West Coast Adventure
(204) June Walleye Frenzy
(205) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(206) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(207) Northern Exposure
(208) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(209) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(210) Man Overboard
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