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> > Tough Fall (just around here?)

MotroutNovember 2nd, 2010, 12:36 pm
Posts: 319
The fall trout fishing here in the Ozarks has been a little subpar this fall, I have to say. A low water year combined with blue-bird days everyday has made this year's fall Blue-winged Olive fishing very slow -the only upside is with the lack of naturals some of the trout are still on the big attractor dries...

In any case I am hoping greatly for some of those nasty, rainy, chilly days when the Baetis really pop and no one else is out on the river, but not even one of those yet! Come on crappy weather, where are you?

I don't know what the weather is like elsewhere, but is anyone else having kind of a dissapointing fall this year?
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
LastchanceNovember 2nd, 2010, 3:12 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
In my area of PA we have been in a long dry spell. The creeks and streams are very low and clear.I've been doing a rain dance, but it doesn't seem to be working.
TroutnutNovember 2nd, 2010, 4:57 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2555
Around here the rivers are all frozen solid. ;)

Tried some terrestrials for those no-hatch days?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MotroutNovember 3rd, 2010, 5:03 am
Posts: 319
I've tried some terrestrials-but we have been having below freezing temps some of the mornings lately (it's 29 degrees right now), so that's really slowing down. Attractor dries have been catching me a few trout though even without the bugs-something like a #14 Parachute Adams or an Ausable Wulff.

The fish don't even seem to be overly interested in baetis nymphs. Kind of weird stuff-the streams I fish usually have very strong Baetis hatches this time of year.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
Jmd123November 3rd, 2010, 11:50 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2416
Here in Michigan we had a really dry and hot summer too. My local lake, which I have been fishing for 36 years now, is the lowest I've ever seen it, with areas where the sunfish spawn by the tens of thousands high and dry (you can see all of their little saucer-shaped depressions in the dried-up mud and sand, including some still under water in places I didn't know they spawned). October was semi-productive for me there if I fished areas where I could cast into deeper water, as the areas that produced the most fish in spring were still way too shallow and weedy. I caught a fair number of sunfish, a few black crappies, and a few largemouths, the biggest being 12 1/2" on last Sunday evening. Our days and especially nights are getting really cold now so those warmwater fishies are slowing down - didn't catch anything at all yesterday...

Been out twice looking for steelhead on a local river as well, but it is also very low so not many fish there yet...We could use about a week of rain!!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MartinlfNovember 3rd, 2010, 1:33 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2968
Hey Bruce, when was the last Trico date? Hope you and Tony continued to find 'em for a while.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PaulRobertsNovember 3rd, 2010, 8:27 pm

Posts: 1776
Late Fall/Early Winter

Droughtish weather is here too –about 2 months now. Except that flows aren’t esp bad bc winter-killed vegetation is not siphoning water, and two things mostly unique to the west -water isn’t being siphoned off for agricultural use as it is spring and summer, and also there is some snowmelt contributing from the high country. But, since we’re here to talk fishing, I’ll pony up some on my experiences/thoughts on fishing in low flow.

Trout species react differently. Both brookies and browns will feed in very shallow depth, esp if there is some overhead cover –this last is esp so for browns. With adequate temperature, these fish will accept low food rewards and stay on station. Lotsa anglers spook these fish. My fishing report “Stealth, Patience, and NO micro-drag” describes such a situation. On that same day, those sports and their guide could have caught some fish on their chosen nymph rigs, had they targeted the turbulent head riffs where they could have gotten away with their clunky presentations.

A sanctuary needs to be nearby too, for browns and brookies, and the adequacy of these change with flow. Trout in streams that have variable flows tend to move a lot, as habitat (sanctuary, food availability) changes.

‘Bows tend to be more current oriented so they are less apt to look for food in the slack shallows, and much more apt to hole up in larger pools or runs and may really consolidate there. (This is true of stocked browns too). In waters with few sanctuary crevices, or undercuts left deep enough, wild brown and brooks will consolidate on pool bottoms, using depth rather than cover for sanctuary. This is more likely as temperatures drop as winter settles in too. Regardless of species, these consolidated pool fish can be micro-nymphed, with patience; Viscous water and/or trout lethargy requires precise drifts and detection. Likely sanctuary cover can be long or short-line nymphed, or “flipped” –short-range weighted and snag-guarded wooly buggering. For long range nymphing I like buggers, big leggy nymphs or wets, and I have a crayfish pattern I like a lot too. Size depends on water volume and fish size. Streamers and big wets can work by hanging and hand twisting in a sanctuary.

Temperature is important to trout’s overall activity; their willingness to feed or move at all. I’ve witnessed during severe droughts with high stream temps, trout (browns) holed up under rock crevices and just waiting it out –occasionally and inconsistently coming out for very short periods. I’ve also found them ram-jetting in riffles (this came up in an earlier post I think). In general though, it takes extreme conditions to put them off for long. Feeding is what fish do for a living. If temps are in a good range, then trout are usually at least willing to feed. If the stream is not super-rich in productivity like a tailwater, then you can expect some trout to be active all day (super-rich trout can get spoiled). The tricky part, IME (in my experience), is when nearing the upper temps, the 60s. It seems that fewer trout are goaded onto station on most streams (not super rich). It’s been said that 61 to 64F is “optimum”…well… “optimum” doesn’t stand alone, it’s in relation to available food to match it, so again IME, it’s the upper 50s that are “optimum”, when trout are willing to weather poor rations and still stay on station.

If temps are not breaking 45, then you may be looking at winter quarters already. That can vary with stream and individual fish but think slack water until the sun warms things. Early on, like now, it seems lotsa trout like to stay around summer turf as long as possible –kinda like we’re doing lol. Likely some of these are new fish moving around and just passing through too. The spawn is on too, moving lots of fish, or wrapping up and recuperating fish tend to be hungry. I use egg patterns a lot this time of year. Some of my earlier formative years (I’m still in em) were spent on Great Lakes tribs so egg patterns are a true “hatch matcher”. Brown eggs are yellow-ish to pale orange-ish, brookies orange-ish, and ‘bows pink-orange-ish, suckers pale yellow-ish or yellow-greenish.

Altered Feeding Behavior:
If there is little in the drift some fish may switch feeding strategies. If in pools they may begin to cruise like they would in a lake or pond. Unless there are a lot of say, cased caddis keeping them focused on the bottom, they may cruise keeping track of the entire water column top to bottom; gleaning a cased caddis here, intercepting a midge pupa, sipping an ant from the surface. This has always been tough fishing in my book because, first, trout (fish in general) are pretty near-sighted –or their attention is so–and they may not see our fly (looking appropriate) unless things are lined up just right. And since this type of behavior most often happens during low flow when water is usually clear and flat, it’s VERY easy to spook them. The one saving grace is that trout will often run a habitual circuit around the pool or section of it. You can observe the pattern, cast ahead and then twitch the fly as the fish approaches. This is sight fishing under low flow, and some pools are arranged better for this approach than others. Patience is as important as stealth here. Some people simply don’t want to work so hard for single fish. Teaches you a lot about just how ridiculous flies can look in still water, and will get you back on the vise rethinking things.

Prime Options:
-Crack of dawn behavioral drift is THE prime time –esp if you’ve got Baetis that should be emerging now. Interestingly, I’ve seen nearly entire autumns go by with precious few “good” Baetis emergence days. I’ve wondered, but never checked, to see if they emerge after dark, or just before light –like summer mayflies will.

-Midges are the most common winter fodder. Micro-nymphing midge pupae anytime of day is a virtual no-brainer bet.

-Egg flies simply work. And if they make your skin crawl, pump or kill and see for yourself –trout eat eggs that are abundant from fall, all winter, through spring (if bows or suckers are present).

-Hatch matching isn’t the only game in town. Cover/sanctuary probing using big buggy nymphs or big buggy … buggers. Hanging, or slow hand-twisting wets or streamers upcurrent works too.

-Trout species
-Where are they?
-What foraging behaviors are they using?
-What presentations fit those water types and behaviors?
-Apply stealth, especially patience, and adjust your expectations. You are probably going to have to earn your fish.

OK –enough –I’ve actually got clouds so I’m going to see if I can get an hour or so in on a nearby stream myself. …
Well…didn’t get this out until now, and I’m back from fishing. Clouds melted and sun reappeared. Water was very clear and cold: 37F (11am) and 39F (4pm). It’s winter here, despite the sunny days and 2 months of droughtish weather. Hit two streams, a tiny brookie near-headwater for an hour and sight-fished and blind-fished a weightless midge larva or #20 Baetid nymph to brookies in very shallow holds. They held on station like it was summer, but would not rise up through that foot of water to take a dry Baetis –and I tried. Still wonder if they might have taken a dry midge (kinda doubt it though as they needed to have the larva and nymph at near eye level). One was 9inches. Then on to a larger stream for browns, using only a #14 yellow egg fly.

OldredbarnNovember 8th, 2010, 8:47 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
I use egg patterns a lot this time of year. Some of my earlier formative years (I’m still in em) were spent on Great Lakes tribs so egg patterns are a true “hatch matcher”. Brown eggs are yellow-ish to pale orange-ish, brookies orange-ish, and ‘bows pink-orange-ish, suckers pale yellow-ish or yellow-greenish.


As you know, here in Michigan, some anglers fish actual spawn and the fly fishing anglers use the egg patterns you mentioned. These folks are usually stalking the steelies that follow the salmon etc upstream and hang just downstream from their redds for a meal.

I don't think, however, that much attention is paid to them outside of these big fish...You bring up a very interesting point...They all will eat eggs when present.

In that stocked pond I've mentioned here before I have watched some of the fish (a rainbow strain)hanging around each other and basically ignoring my dry fly. My friend said they are probably trying to spawn and I think they were hanging around a female who had to drop her eggs eventually...There isn't much other food available in late March until the midges start to show. These are all hatchery fish. Don't think that these poor souls haven't eating their fair share of spawn in those nursury ponds.

We have had some luck there in the spring with egg patterns. This pond is supposed to be artificals only until the last Saturday in April and catch-and-release up to this time as well. I have had conversations with some of the local guys who are basically ignoring the rules and fish corn...I have always thought that the fish may take the corn as a fat grub, but more than likely they are thinking egg...

Nice post there mister!


I have a question though...A friend of mine ties his egg patterns with a blue to purple material and swears by it...What do you think of this?

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsNovember 8th, 2010, 1:51 pm

Posts: 1776
Eggs are present more than many realize. Maybe because most people don't fish during winter. From October on I expect to find eggs in stream trout stomachs, and this continues all winter and into spring as eggs get rolled up during spates.

Blue, purple, cerise, chartreuse, black -yes I've caught them on black egg flies! Lotsa people have tried to explain away blue eggs as the color they turn when they get old, as if it's somehow "natural". And this is true -sorta -they have a pale blue cast. I think it has more to do with the imperfect world both we, and the fish, live in.

My thoughts are that trout (inc steelies and others) sample the drift with their mouths and it's amazing what they'll stuff down. I have a list I've collected (somewhere) from myself and other anglers that include frogs, mice, acorns, elm seeds, pine needles, elodea (lots of it), rocks, pop tabs, plastic toys, .... I wouldn't put it past them to try almost anything -especially when they are aggressive. But I wouldn't bank on such things. Black yarn balls are poor sellers in fly shops and probably for good reason. They do not work as well as more natural, or especially often -enhanced ones. The shape, movement, efficiency of the drift (presentation) matters most. Color does weigh in though.

But, I have had enough experiences with selectivity that I'm sold. Not unwilling to experiment, even in wacky ways, but I do go with the best presentation and visual bet (realize a chartreuse egg can outfish a natural pale yellow one at times). I've had times when mimicry matters BIG. We all have.

There's more too...trout (and other fish) have color sensitivities and wear enhanced colors. Even their eye pigment sensitivities change when they spawn. When I wrote before about that restless brown striking an apple core -I strongly suspect that was an aggressive pre-spawn male and the bright red side on that apple core was a motivator. Along this line, blue flies have a following here in the West, for rainbows specifically, but I do not remember the line of reasoning. It sounded a bit like over rationalization to me, but I read about it in a book by Pat Dorsey -a well known expert around these parts. So I haven't written it off. I don't have any blue flies in my boxes though.

Imperfect, inelegant, alas. That's life.

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