Autumnal Trouting

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By: Alice Tesar

With high water temps and river closures this summer throughout the west it is likely you’ve been fishing some unfamiliar high-country creeks and lakes.

Exploring new water shouldn’t end because summer is over. Fall fishing in the high country can produce some of the feistiest and color-rich browns and brookies you see all year. I’m all about hucking streamers the size of my head at angsty browns in the fall along my usual rivers but there is something exhilarating about catching a pre-spawn brook trout in cool water, surrounded by changing leaves and mountain peaks dusted in the year’s first snow fall. Early October can be a great time to head to the high country to get in some fishing before winter gates close and the rivers and lakes freeze. 

Brook trout spawn in the fall when the water temperature drops to around 52 degrees Fahrenheit, so pay attention to water temps and look for redds to know when to stop fishing. Prespawn they are eager to eat any well presented blue-winged dry and emerger patterns. My favorite patterns for this time of year are a BWO Film Critic, a Barr’s BWO emerger, a parachute BWO, I’ll also set any size 18-20 black midge pattern behind a natural colored terrestrial. Rivers this time of year can be low and clear so expect the fish to be spooky. Getting at these fish may require army crawling, smaller tippet, and longer casts. If you are in a space where long casts aren’t an option, try high sticking with a longer tippet section. When you’re fishing emergers, lift the rod tip slowly before you recast, you’re more likely to find fish making quick decisions on emergers and you can get some hard strikes using this tactic.

If you’re lucky enough to get out there after a hard rain, go.

Rains drop water temps and with the influx of water from muddy banks large terrestrials and small rodents are swept into the water which means you can throw the bigger meat- ugly hoppers, streamers, and yes, mice. Browns are especially aggressive pre-spawn so they’ll attack larger flies with vigor. Be respectful of your fisheries and leave staging fish in shallow water alone. 

Hungry and exhausted post spawn as water temps get even cooler and days shorter Brook and Brown trout return to their hungry selves. As we encounter winter along our trout streams look to midges and bourbon to help you through the coldest months. 

Alice Tesar
Gink & Gasoline
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