Think Wild Trout in the Fall

By Shannon Messer

The air is crisp with the chill of autumn and the leaves are starting to look like masterpieces of art that Mother Nature has created for us. The water temperatures are cooling off, making the trout a bit more lethargic earlier in the morning and later in the evenings; meaning that, the best time to hunt these beautiful specimens becomes mid-day, during warmer conditions. Animals are busy making last minute preparations for the onset of winter and occasionally, an elk bugle will dominate the forest, letting everyone know who is in charge. This is the time that I like to be in the water chasing wild trout.

When October hits, most anglers are thinking Delayed Harvest fishing with good reason. Lots of eager trout are willing to take a drifted Woolly Bugger under an indicator and that is great, but for me personally, I would rather get back to my roots and chase wild trout.

To me the best time to fish is during hunting season and since I fish where hunting is not permitted, I am pretty safe from flying bullets. You do have to keep in mind that weather conditions are affecting how trout will react to your presentation. Cooler temperatures, less foliage, and different sun angles can make October fishing more challenging.

Adjust the time of the day you fish. The water temperatures are cooling off which makes the trout less likely to strike early morning or late evening. Monitor the stream temperature and take notes on how this affects your outing.

As the leaves start blanketing the stream, the sun will penetrate the stream causing you to cast shadows alerting the trout of danger. A false cast can also alert these trout, blowing out a hole before you make the first drift. This is my hunting season and my fly rod is my weapon of choice so, I fish like it.

Watch your clothing colors and dress for the weather. This is the time of the year that I start using my waders again and this is also the time that dressing in layers becomes important. The morning could start in the 30’s but by the time it warms up, you could get a twenty to thirty degree swing in the temperatures. I still encourage wearing earth tone colors or even camouflage. I fished many years with Jerry and he would only wear a jungle camo jacket that he wore in the war. Jerry also caught a lot of wonderful trout when others were not.

I still like casting dry flies in October and some of my favorites include a BWO, Orange Palmer, October Caddis, and a Grasshopper. Midge patterns will produce trout and often times, the hook size will be a #14 to a #20 for a dry. Inchworms, Japanese Beetles, and stoneflies will work for nymphs. Local patterns such as Coffey’s stone and Howell’s Sheep Fly, work well and are favorites of local anglers.

If you are looking for solitude and natural beauty, then try chasing wild trout in the fall. You will be amazed by the colors and pure beauty that our mountain streams have to offer. You may even catch the most colorful trout you have ever landed.

Shannon Messer is the Manager of Blackrock Outdoor/Orvis Fly Shop located in Sylva, NC.