This week our head guide, Jim Kukorlo, talks about early fall fishing and how it is different from summer fishing. We'd love to hear your comments and/or questions for Jim. Please use our comments section below.
Early Fall Fishing Tactics
Where did summer go? School has started in most areas, football season is in full swing and people are talking about the Bloomsburg Fair. A hint of fall is in the air with cooler morning temperatures and the leaves are showing a slight yellow tint.
On the trout stream you can feel the difference in the water temperature and I replaced wearing shorts under my waders to long pants and a long sleeve shirt which feels good in the early mornings. It won't be long that it won't be necessary for early morning starts on the water and the best fishing times will shift from late morning to mid day.
I have already noticed that the trout aren't feeding on the surface has readily as they were just a week ago. Trout will still take a big juicy hopper or a Cathy's beetle in quiet pools so I'm using the hopper drop method with small zebra nymphs, cooper johns, pheasant tails, caddis pupa along with size 16 to 20 soft hackles.
As the day warms up the dry fly fishing gets a little better. Terrestrials patterns such as beetles, ants and hoppers work very well and are fun to fish.
Most fly fishermen are not aware of what great fly fishing the early fall season has to offer nor are they aware of the mayfly and caddis hatches that can occur. So here's a list of some of the hatches that occur this time of year and offer some good late season dry fly and subsurface action.
Early Fall Hatches –
Flying Ants - I'm still hoping to see the flying ant hatch here on Fishing Creek. It doesn't last long but if you are lucky enough to be on the stream when it happens you might witness the water boiling with rising trout.
Slate Drakes – The first hatch of Slate Drakes happens in early June. The second brood hatches in early September and sporadically throughout the month and sometimes into October. It is characteristic of the nymph to crawl up on rocks along the shoreline to hatch into the dun. Duns will usually hatch mid day and often on rainy overcast days. This brood of Slate Drakes are a little smaller in size than the June brood. I use a size 12 or 14 hooks. Since the duns hatch on the rocks they very rarely hit the water so I concentrate mainly on fishing the nymph along the edges of pools and riffles.
Caddis – I have already seen small tan and brown caddis hatches this past week on Fishing Creek. And I had some success using a size 18 deer hair caddis pattern for my dry fly. Subsurface tan and brown caddis pupae and soft hackle patterns are also working very well. It's a little early to see the orange October caddis which I look forward to and tie on a size 10 hook.
BWO'S – The Little Blue Wing Olive fall hatch usually isn't as heavy as the early spring hatch, but this is one fly that you must have in your fly box in size 18 & 20s. I believe I have seen and fished a BWO hatch in all 12 months of the year. My favorite BWO nymph pattern is the BH Pheasant tail with a red, fluorescent green or orange hot spot behind the bead. For all of my matching-the-hatch dry flies I only tie compara duns — simple to tie and they catch fish.
TRICO'S – Although we don't have a trico hatch here on Fishing Creek, many streams in Pennsylvania do. The trico hatch starts in July and on some streams will last well into October. Pennsylvania spring creeks such as the Little Lehigh, Spring Creek, Falling Springs, Tulpehochen and others have a great trico hatch. If you don't like fishing small flies then the trico hatch may not be the hatch for you. I tie my tricos in hook sizes 22 to 24s with upturned eyes.
Although September is still too early to talk about spawning brown and brook trout, you will however start to see trout pairing up in preparation for spawning which usually takes place in mid-October. Depending on water conditions the pre spawn can offer some really good fly fishing. So let’s talk about other early fall fly patterns.
Early Fall Fly Patterns -
As we move into mid September small egg patterns and sucker spawn can be very productive. Trout seem to know what we do about the nutritional value of an egg. Do you remember the commercial - “The incredible edible egg?” With this in mind, I tie my sucker spawn and egg patterns in light yellow, pink and Oregon cheese colors in hook size 14 to 18.
Another must have fly is the Rusty Spinner. I carry rusty spinners in hook sizes 12 to 18. It's a great imitation for various spinners, not just in early fall but throughout the year.
Here's a quick list of non-hatch-matching fly patterns that catch fish for me when nothing else is working:
Black wooly buggers & super buggers
San Juan worms – pink and red
Pheasant tail nymphs
Early fall fly fishing offers pleasant weather conditions, hungry trout and some great fly fishing. Water conditions can vary from day to day so be ready to adapt the way you fish to the changes. It's just amazing to me to see how trout behavior changes with changing weather and water conditions. One day it's fishing small caddis dry flies and the next day small nymphs or sucker spawn is the only way to get the trout's attention. Either way it's just a great time to be out on the water.
The New Bighorn
If you asked me my favorite tail water fishery I would immediately say Montana’s Bighorn. That’s been my answer for more than 30 years, and after spending the last two weeks on the ‘Horn with our Frontiers guests, that has not changed -- but the river has. For months I watched negative comments on the web about low fish numbers, high water levels, and woe-is-me complaints. At the end of two weeks I can honestly say that, yes, there are fewer fish and the fifty fish days are gone for now. The good news is the fish our group caught were some of the nicest and well-conditioned trout that we have ever seen on the ‘Horn. In my opinion the ‘Horn for the moment is quality versus quantity and I personally am fine with that.
The insect life is in great shape, tricos were on time every morning but anglers had to hunt to find heads up. The afternoon hopper fishing was incredibly good on the upper three miles but the best kept secret was the amazing fishing on the Afterbay. There were hundreds of carp and some nice rainbows eating tricos on the surface every morning. Heads were up everywhere and we had great fun fishing size twenty tricos. The carp became very selective and one bad cast and they were gone. Two Montana Fish & Game guys we met at the river made a point of saying that the big fish this year will be even bigger next season. We are excited about the future of the Bighorn River and look forward to returning in years to come. With that thought in mind our dates for the Bighorn are August 22-29 and August 29-Sept. 5, 2020.
Here are some images that our group took and shared with us. Enjoy!
Report from the Bahamas
More than a week after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, thousands of people are without shelter and food, 2,500 are still missing and the death toll (currently at 50) is expected to significantly increase.
Some 15,000 people are still in need of simple necessities like shelter, water, and food according to the Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
Limited commercial flights have resumed on Abaco, but the electrical infrastructure around Marsh Harbour, the island's largest city, has been destroyed.
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