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Catch Fall Trout and Tranquility; Challenges and Tips for Fall Fly Fishing


A series of waterfalls with Autumn leaves
Waterfalls on Cascades Creek

Autumn in the Appalachians paints the world in vibrant hues, and as the leaves begin to fall, a unique serenity envelopes the waterside. For fly fishing enthusiasts, Fall means a season of change, challenge, and opportunity. In this blog, we'll explore the joys and intricacies of fly fishing in the fall, focusing on the challenges posed by leaves in the water, and the effects of colder weather on trout fishing. Understanding these changes, we offer tips to catch more trout in the fall.


One caveat is that our brown and brook trout spawn in the fall. Water levels can be very low, and in fact this year streams our closed due to dangerous levels. Normally fall is a great time to fish, but we ask that you respect their spawning redds so we can increase numbers of fish in the future.


Fall's Foliage Challenge: Leaves and Low Water


As the temperatures drop and the trees shed their leaves, the pristine rivers and streams that beckoned in the summer months transform into a mosaic of autumn colors. Yellows, Oranges, and Reds abound, but while this landscape is breathtaking, it introduces a unique set of challenges for fly anglers.

  1. Leaves in the Water: The most apparent challenge during the fall season is the presence of fallen leaves on the water's surface. These leaves not only obstruct the angler's line but can also spook wary trout as they drift by. It's not uncommon to find your meticulously presented fly drifting amongst the foliage instead of enticing a trout to strike. There are no vegetarian trout, so every leaf has to be removed from the hook.

  2. Reduced Visibility: Fallen leaves in the water can significantly reduce visibility. This makes it more challenging to spot trout and their movements, making it necessary for anglers to rely on their knowledge of the river's features and the behavior of the fish. Trout know the water temp is cooling so they find spots with lots of food present.

  3. Fly Selection: The changing season also affects the types of insects and aquatic life available to the trout. Anglers must adapt by selecting fly patterns that mimic the insects found in the water during the fall months. There are less terrestrials (ants and beetles), and the cooler temperatures mean fewer dry fly opportunities.

The Effects of Colder Weather on Trout Fishing


As the calendar turns to late October, the drop in temperatures can have a significant impact on trout behavior and the strategies needed for successful fly fishing.

  1. Temperature Sensitivity: Trout are cold-blooded creatures, and their metabolic rates slow down in cooler water. As the water temperature drops, trout become less active, making them less likely to chase after fast-moving prey. Trout begin to spend more time along the bottom as the temperature decreases.

  2. Hatch Dynamics: In colder weather, insect hatches tend to decrease in intensity. This means that trout rely more on opportunistic feeding, making them more selective and cautious when inspecting potential food sources. BWO's and October Caddis are still present on warm afternoons.

  3. Time of Day: With colder mornings and shorter days, trout often become more active during the warmest part of the day. This can influence the optimal times for fly fishing outings, with midday often being the most productive time to fish.


Tips for Fall Fly Fishing Success


To overcome these challenges, fly anglers often employ various techniques.

-Use a Dropper System: This allows the angler to present the dry fly on the surface while the subsurface fly avoids the leaf litter. Use a larger dry fly with a nymph tied off the bottom.

-Give the Sun a Chance: This is a good time of year to sleep in and let the sun warm up the stream bed, triggering more aquatic insects and wait for rising trout.

-Slow Down Your Presentation: Slowing down the presentation of your fly is crucial. Trout are less likely to expend energy chasing a fast-moving target, so a more deliberate and gentle presentation can be more effective.

-Use Smaller Flies: As insect activity decreases, it's often beneficial to use smaller fly patterns. These imitate the available insects more accurately and are less intimidating to trout feeding on small bugs.

-Time to Fish with Streamers: Streamer fishing, which involves casting large, often brightly colored flies that imitate small fish or other prey, can be effective in colder weather. Trout may be more inclined to pursue a substantial meal.

-Focus on Warm Spots: Trout seek out areas where the water temperature is more stable and comfortable. These might include deep pools, slower-moving sections, or spots where tributaries introduce slightly warmer water.


Fly fishing in the fall offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards. The enchanting autumn landscape comes with the obstacle of leaves in the water, demanding adaptability from anglers. Additionally, the colder weather brings changes in trout behavior, necessitating a shift in tactics. Still lots of fish to be caught for those who embrace these challenges and adjust their approach, fall fly fishing can be a deeply rewarding experience. The tranquility of the season, the vibrant colors, and the satisfaction of landing a trout in challenging conditions make it a season that many fly fishers eagerly anticipate each year. So, as the leaves tumble from the trees and the air grows crisper, don't hang up your fly rod just yet – there's a world of fall fishing adventures waiting to be discovered.



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