By Jerrod Vila
Oh, the fall. It brings us foliage, football, fresh apple cider, along with some large, ornery, colored-up trout. When the mercury begins to plunge and the length daylight begins to dwindle, big mature browns and brookies start their yearly routine of procreation.
What ensues is a feeding binge of mature trout that seemingly throw caution to the wind. These big guys, which have been professedly non-existent and uncatchable all summer long, have now become prime candidates to end up in your net.
You may have finished out the normal season delicately presenting a size 22 Trico pattern. This is not the time for small flies and subtle presentations. Large streamers are the name of the game here. Sure you can nymph and fish dry flies as well and undoubtedly catch fish; but I feel the largest fish around will be much more apt to be caught on some type of “meat” fly.
As a matter of fact, my personal favorite fall-time flies have always been streamers; something gaudy and articulated for sure. You want a fly that really pushes some water. Throwing larger sticks, like Rapala Husky Jerks and similar type of suspending lures for the non-fly angler will also produce well this time of year.
For some reason or another, big fall browns seem to love lures and flies with a bit of orange in them. Sculpin patterns can be especially deadly this time of year as well. Whether it be the giant protein packed snack a good-size sculpin delivers or a triggered attack response implanted in predatory trout to protect their roe, whatever the case may be, use it to your advantage.
It is also the time for stealth, with overly large trout sometimes being in some ridiculously skinny water, being sneaky pays huge dividends. Typically (while dry or nymphing) I prefer to work a river upstream, not the case when fishing streamers. I vastly prefer the opposite approach and will work it downstream. I feel I can be quieter and much more stealthy when walking with the current as opposed to it.
If possible, stay on the bank as much as you can. Most fish will annihilate your offering on the apex of the swing. Be aware to not point your rod directly at your fly, always keep your rod oriented in a position that allows the rod to cushion the blow of a large fish crushing your offering. I learned this fact the hard way and having broken off a few fish upon on the initial take, it came to light as the reason why. Don’t take this lightly, if you are not cognizant of it you will get broken off no matter the pound test of the tippet you are running.
The area you expect the take to come from will be downstream of your location, so if you were working upstream, you would have walked through this area already or at least close enough to it to have spooked a possible fish. Cast across, swing it down, take a few steps down stream, repeat. Working the river in this manner leaves no parcel of water uncovered. It does however become very monotonous, almost rhythmic in a sense.
The adage for muskie goes, “the fish of 10,000 casts.” This proverb has a large amount of merit when talking streamer fishing for big browns as well. Right about the time you are about to throw in the towel, a giant slab of butter will materialize from the depths and clobber your offering with such vehement indignation that you have but no choice to continue to seek out these vicious attacks.
Walking the river is crucial. Don’t just haphazardly crash through the water on your way to a “good run.” Hunt the river this time of year. Water levels are typically lower and clarity better than that of the spring season. Take a few determined steps and watch. This is where a good pair of polarized glasses are worth their weight in gold. Look over the entire stream, and not just the typical haunts. You may be pleasantly surprised and amazed by what you will behold.
Another autumn tradition on the soon-to-be horizon is the pursuit of brook trout in remote Adirondack ponds. It’s perhaps one of the most beautiful freshwater fish in existence. The fire orange underside of a male brook trout grows more and more colorful as the fall continues on.
The entire allure of Adirondack brookie fishing is incredible. Carrying canoes, sometimes multiple miles, is really the only way to access prime brook trout habitat. Usually the more remote and harder a pond is to access, the better the brookie fishing. There are many ways to catch them once there, but the long standing tradition of a Lake Clear Wabbler and a simple worm is really hard to top.
As the cooler nights of September come and go, the water responds accordingly. During the dog days of summer, the brookies are indeed still there, however 90% of the fish may be in 10% or less of the water. Brookies need cold water to thrive. During the heat of the summer almost every fish in a given pond may be found around a couple of cold water springs. If you cannot find this location, chances are you’ll be disappointed in bringing brookies to the net.
As the water cools and ultimately moves in the direction of turnover, the larger the area they’ll occupy and the more active the brookies become. New York’s trout season closes Thursday, Oct. 15, so plan your trips accordingly.
Instead of heading to the deer stand or taking up a spot on the couch to watch the big game, get out on the stream or plan a sizeable, off the grid, multi-day Adirondack brookie trip and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Jerrod Vila of downwindoutdoors.com is an outdoor columnist for the Amsterdam Recorder.