By Richard Tate
Fly fishing for trout gets a nice boost in the autumn from decreasing water temperatures. The cooler water helps move trout from their summer cold-water refuges, and it also increases a trout’s metabolic rate.
This increase in metabolic rate, along with the need to feed prior to the autumn spawning season and the winter to follow, makes trout vulnerable to enthusiastic anglers. Though a fisherman can choose a variety of methods to tangle with trout, catching trout on dry flies is probably the most enjoyable method.
During autumn, dry-fly fishing does not normally heat up until the early afternoon. This is a function of water temperature. The water is coldest during the morning, and trout are reluctant to feed on top until the water temperature approaches a favorable temperature for their activity.
As the water temperature rises toward trouts’ optimum temperature of about 64 degrees, they become more active. This is when they are most likely to rise for dry flies.
This rise in temperature is most pronounced beginning a little after 1 p.m. on most autumn afternoons. You can enjoy fine afternoons of dry-fly fishing for two or three hours during both overcast and sunny afternoons.
Most of the time, there will not be hatches to match during these afternoons. Instead, you will be “fishing the water” with attractor dry flies to try to lure autumn trout to the surface.
There are many flies to choose from for this type of fishing, but I have settled on three for the bulk of my autumn dry-fly fishing in the absence of hatches.
These are the venerable Adams, a tan version of the Wright Fluttering Caddis, and my adaptation of Gary LaFontaine’s colorful Double-Wing. For large streams, I tie them in size 12; for smaller waters, I like size 14s.
Although sometimes one of these might work better than the others, I have found that it usually doesn’t matter which pattern I tie on when beginning an afternoon.
Other folks tell me that they favor terrestrial bug imitations, such as black ants and foam beetles, for fishing the water during autumn. No matter which fly you choose, it is common to catch and release a dozen or more while fishing the water during an autumn afternoon.
For instance, last Oct. 5 found me on a small local trout stream. I often like to fish when the sun is shining in the autumn, as it was this day. I hit the water at 1:30 p.m. and fished until a little after 4. I had clinched on a size 14 Adams to begin the outing and was able to use it until a little after 3 p.m., when the trout had torn it to shreds.
Being unimaginative, I replaced the tattered Adams with another one and finished the afternoon with it. When I had ended, I had landed 18 lovely wild brown trout up to 16 inches and had missed several others. It was a satisfying mile-long walk back to my parked truck.
If you’re lucky, you might come upon hatches of aquatic flies. Lately, I have not encountered many hatches of slate drakes after early September, but I have run into nice hatches of small blue-winged olive mayflies and evening hatches of brown caddis flies.
I favor a standard size 18 Blue-winged Olive pattern for matching olive hatches, and it served me well last fall. Using olives, I landed numerous wild brown trout and native brook trout from several streams.
Dry-fly fishing is a wonderful way to spend an autumn afternoon. You can bet I will spend as many afternoons as I can tossing dry flies to autumn trout.