Be Stealthy For Fall Trout

The chilly night air is a sure sign of what is coming. Hot, hazy days of summer all too soon draw to a close for another year. While most bemoan the end of the warm-weather fun, trout anglers who put their sport on hold during the summer can now look forward to the final portion of the trout season — the great fall fishing!

Trout fishermen who spent their fishing season dealing with the high, cold waters of spring, and hopefully were able to reap the bounty of some great insect hatches during the late spring and early summer, now start the third and final act of the trout season drama. 

The author loves to fish for fall trout.

While fall certainly turns the trout on again, fall fishing conditions are often tougher than they are in the early part of the season. In the fall, streams are low and clear, and at this point in the season the fish have seen just about everything. While the fishing is not as easy as the typical springtime angling, there is one definite advantage during the fall. Big browns and brookies that were nowhere to be found through the majority of the season are now more prevalent as they prepare to spawn.

Think Small In The Fall
A stealthy presentation is the key to decent fishing in the fall. On some streams the water is low and clear enough that you may literally be spotting and stalking individual fish. You usually don’t get too many chances to cast to them, either, as they are easily spooked.

For those fishing with spinning tackle, ultra-light gear is much mor productive than the heavy stuff. By thinking small, and fishing ultralight spinning tackle rigged with 2- or 4-pound-test line, seasoned fall spin-fishermen can do just as well as their fly-casting counterparts. Small diameter, ultralight spinning line will fool spooky fish much better. 

A decent brown trout in its fall colors.

Tiny lures or baits work much better than the big spinners and night crawlers used in the springtime when the water is higher and off color. Subtle and small are the traits to look for in a good lure for fall trout. One great bait trick some anglers use is to drift a hopper or a cricket on a small hook without any weight, letting the current drift the bait downstream. Tiny jigs, such as those used for spring crappies in natural colors, are another good bet.

A number of spinning anglers even adopt fly-fishing tactics by suspending nymphs from a float and allowing them to drift downstream naturally with the current.  

Fly fishing is also good in the fall, but it too requires plenty of stealth and light tackle. Fly presentation is the key to success or the reason for failure. One errant cast on a crystal clear pool is all it takes to put feeding fish down.  

There are some insect hatches, which take place as late as September. Fly hatches for the fall include Blue-winged Olives, Tricos, and Caddis. Some streams will have a late hatch of Isonichia at times, too. Hoppers and ants are also prevalent during the fall months.

The tough part about dry fly fishing in the fall is simply getting a fly on the water without spooking the fish. This is an excellent time to fish longer leaders and to plan each cast out to maximize the chances for a good trout. I try to use at least a 12-foot leader when the conditions are like this.

Tease Aggressive Trout
Fall is also a time, where much like in salmon fishing, simply aggravating an aggressive trout will bring a strike. Drifting a streamer in front of a brown trout with spawning on its mind will often bring a “get away from me” strike out of simple aggressive behavior. For this reason fishing streamers in the fall is also great way to score. 

A fall trout fishing scene, right below a dam in the Adirondack Mountains.

Since many of the trout species will be spawning soon, this is a time for careful handling and release of caught fish, especially the big ones. They are there to provide for tomorrow’s fishing. It is great to get a quick photo of your fish and send it on its way.

While stalking small streams for native brookies is great fun in autumn, hitting the larger waters usually produces the best action. Flows are much more manageable, and the bigger trout streams should be easy to wade and fish at this time. Fall typically puts these waters at their lowest.

The scenery is one of the best reasons for fishing trout in the fall. Last season I enjoyed the crimson and yellow leaves as I cast for browns on an Adirondack stream. There was a small hatch going on and the fish were quite happy to inhale a No. 14 Ausable Wulff. I didn’t catch loads of them, but they were big, colorful and ready for the fall spawn.

It is easy to get caught up in running around doing all of the junk you have to do to get the house ready for winter, and if you hunt, there isn’t a whole lot of time in the fall to fish. Yet, if you don’t set aside a day or two to chase trout you are missing out on some exciting action. Besides, winter is long, a long time to wait before the trout bite again!

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