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Jason Leach | 09.30.2019

As the heat of summer dwindles and the threat of winter looms, we are rewarded with possibly the best season of all: fall. Fly fishing in the fall is perhaps the most idyllic time for the sport. The water is lower, and although the fish spook easier, chances are you won't be fighting other anglers for the same hole—not to mention catching a leery fish feels like an even greater achievement!

Fall is spawning season for brown, brook, and bull trout, which can mean a good fight if you manage to hook one. It also means that you need to be extra careful to not step in any spawning beds or to target actively spawning fish. Fall is a great time to slow down, and doing so will help you both protect and catch more fish.

This time of year might be your best bet for picking up the rod for the first time or the 100th this season. It is a great opportunity to get outside a few more times before winter hits and the waterways freeze over. With a bit of patience you might even land your biggest monster yet, or at least you won't have anyone around to refute your new fishing story!


The day's catch alongside rod and reel. Matt Leidecker.

Tips for Fall Fly Fishing Success

  1. Mind your shadow. Stay out of the water as much as possible and pay attention to where your shadow casts, especially while moving. This time of year, you need to move more like a game hunter or ninja.
  2. Long Leaders, Small Tippet. If a 9-foot leader isn’t working, try casting a 12-foot leader. If you haven’t cast a long leader, then fall is a great time to practice or take a lesson. Additionally, lighter tippet can also help prevent leery trout from being spooked by your line.
  3. Take a casting lesson from a certified instructor (FFI). Casting is a skill that can always be improved and ideally should be practiced regularly like any other sport. A fall dry-land lesson can be a great way to tune up your cast, work on your double haul, practice casting into the wind, and get some beta on good fall fishing spots. Fly Fishers International offers a database of certified instructors to find one near you.
  4. Sleep in. Cold water means the fish will be less active. Take fall as a great excuse to enjoy that extra cup of morning coffee knowing that the river will likely still be empty when you arrive and the colors just as beautiful. Let the sun warm up the water a bit, but remember to be mindful of that shadow!
  5. Check with your local fly shop for the best beta. If that is not an option then remember that fish are opportunistic hunters and winter is coming so a healthy streamer (think minnow, skulpin, or woolly bugger), or egg pattern might entice their feeding instincts in preparation for the cold. If dry fly fishing is more to your liking, insect hatches (namely baetis) still happen throughout the fall. Knowing which happen in your area can help you be more successful, but in general an attractor-type dry fly like a stimulator in varying sizes can prove fruitful. Meanwhile, it can’t hurt to throw a few nymphs into your flybox, since a large portion of a fish's diet is fulfilled by slurping midges off the bottom.
  6. Take it all in. You’re outdoors; the crisp morning air gives way to sunny fall days, the leaves change, mist rises from the water, and you’re likely the only one there. Some days you won't catch a thing, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the experience.

Places to Consider Fly Fishing


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