November Fly Fishing Report

by Henry Cowen

It appears that fall is coming and is only a few days away. Hurricane Michael will come and go and bring a sweeping cold front down that should help us transition from summer to fall. It will affect the striper fishing on lakes throughout the Southeast. Most of the time, we are fishing the south end of the lake until the water cools and turnover is finished. It appears like turnover started earlier than usual and the fish are already starting to move north earlier than in previous years.
November is clearly one of the three best months of the year to fly fish on Lake Lanier as well as many of the North GA lakes around the state. It is one of the few months that you can count on to see significant topwater action. This plays right into the hands of a fly rodder as well as the conventional angler. While fishing can never be considered a “sure-thing”, November fly fishing on our area impoundments is as close to a sure-thing as one can get. The only problems you will face during November are the days after the front which can shut the fishery down for a day or two.
Last November we had some epic topwater fishing, and I fully expect the same to happen again this year. Giant schools of fish can be found crashing the surface eating young-of-the-year threadfin shad. The big question is where to look? As the water temperature cools down out of the low seventies in October to the mid-sixty degree and under for November, the striped bass start schooling all over the south end of the lake. There might even be fish seen further north, but in previous years your best bet will be on the south end to start. While fish can be seen feeding on the surface at any time of the day, it is a good bet that the first 2-3 hours after first light as well as the last 3 hours before sunset will be your most opportunistic times.
Fish may still be feeding on 2-4” long blueback herring, but you can count on the fish gorging on 1-2” long threadfin shad. It is the small threadfin shad that have fly anglers excited about November fishing. This is why fly anglers have a specific edge in hooking fish at this time of year. Simply put, they match the hatch better than conventional anglers. A conventional angler will need to fish a small white Fluke, a small Sebile or a spy bait. Or better yet, a casting bubble with a fly will get you a few extra bites.
Overcast days will see more epic surface feeding than sunny days. Light winds will also allow the topwater bite to be more relevant. If you are out when the Corp of Engineers is generating water from a dam, you’ll hit the jackpot.
        Best bet for fly fishers will be to carry two outfits rigged on the boat. First an intermediate line with a small shad fly tied on will work perfectly for surface feeding stripers. You can throw a topwater fly, but you will not get nearly the number of bites as a subsurface fly. An alternative is to attach a Wiggle Minnow to the end of the tippet. If fishing a Wiggle Minnow, it is important to keep a continuous retrieve in motion. Stick the fly rod under your arm and use a hand over hand retrieve for fishing what may be considered the most fun fly to fish ever!
For my second rod, I would go with a fast sinking line and a small Somethin’ Else fly attached to the end of it. The Somethin’ Else matches the small threadfin shad perfectly and will get you a few extra bites that other flies will not. My second choice would be a small grey over white Clouser Minnow.
Conventional anglers should also rig up a small ¼ ounce buck tail. Another option is to fish a small Crocodile spoon. Matching the hatch is critical to getting bites when these fish are eating little itty bitty baits. If the fish are on herring, then a swimbait is your best choice. A Zara Spook or pencil popper might work just fine too earlier in the month.
Keep a pair of binoculars at the helm to help locate the busting fish. By mid-month, we will even see our terns and gulls back on the pond to help locate fish from a long way off. The fish will eventually migrate to the north end of the lake by month’s end. Burning gas is the ticket to finding fish. If you are fishing, then you aren’t looking. If you’re looking, then you aren’t fishing! That is always the conundrum at this time of year. Try to plan your trips on or around both the new and full moon as this moon phase makes the topwater bite more epic.
See you on the pond! We still have a couple of days left in December but are mainly booking January now. To book a trip, please contact us through our website