3 Ways to get the Most from Fall Fly Fishing

Sure, the leaves look pretty this time of year, but I’d say the most gorgeous jewels of autumn reside in the rivers and streams where brown and brook trout live. Not only is this the time of year when the two species spawn and color up, but fall is my favorite time of year to fish. The trout bite fast and furious, and the bigger ones come out to play more easily than in the dog days of summer.

I’ve just returned from a 10-day fly fishing extravaganza, traveling all over the state of Utah and fishing some of the lesser-known waters in my home state. This past week and a half taught me a ton about fly fishing in the fall, and I wanted to share some of the things I learned with you. So read on, take the advice, and go create some fishing memories worth telling all winter long.

Find the Redds

This tip is twofold. For one, it’s important to find any redds wherever you might be fishing so you don’t kill next year’s fingerling brook and brown trout. Second, once you do find these redds, you’re going to find a ton of big, fat fish.

Fishing to spawning trout isn’t something you should ever do. If they’re on their redd, let them be. They’re busy ensuring we have more fish to catch in the years to come, so as anglers it’s our duty to respect them. However, the best thing about finding some redds is that there’s likely a half-dozen or so big fish parked right behind them.

The fish that aren’t spawning yet, or don’t spawn in the fall (like rainbow or cutthroat trout, although some strains of rainbows do spawn in the fall) set up shop right behind brown trout redds. They’re fed a steady diet of trout roe and all you need is a solid glo-bug pattern and you’ll be into big fish all day long. This big brown was caught using the exact technique explained above.

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Don’t Forget the Dries

Most of my buddies bust out their 6-weights in the fall, throwing big streamers and pounding banks in the hopes of luring the real lunker trout from hiding. Fall is, after all, the last bit of time fish have to fatten up before winter which is why it’s such a great time for streamer fishing.

But you can’t forget that the dry fly fishing is incredible as well. Last year while in Oregon at the end of October, my buddy Mike and I found ourselves in the midst of a blanket blue-winged olive hatch. We caught plenty of big trout on dries – some of them bigger than the ones caught on egg patterns.

Embrace the Bad Weather

It’s cold. You’ll probably get snowed on, and there will be days when you can’t feel your hands.

Frostbite aside, it’s usually worth it to fish in terrible weather. We all know drizzly overcast days are better for fishing than bright, sunny ones but it’s hard to motivate yourself to fish when it’s 15 degrees outside.

Just bundle up, find some gloves, and get out there in that nasty weather. Last fall, in November, I spent a solid month on Utah’s Green River. The best weather day – a balmy 38 degrees with south winds of 10-15 miles per hour – was also the worst fishing day. But days when the snow and rain fell thick? I caught fish like this.

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Photo by Ryan Kelly.

What are you favorite techniques and tips to get the most from this great time of year? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to Tweet us pictures of your big catches!


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Spencer is an outdoors writer and novelist from Utah. His debut novel, Learning to Fly, was No. 22 on the Amazon Hot New Releases Bestseller List. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @Spencer_Durrant or on Facebook @spencerdurrantauthor. 

Posted in:Tips

2 comments on “3 Ways to get the Most from Fall Fly Fishing

  1. I’ll second the recommendation on dry flies in the Fall. In my part of the woods, Fall dry fly fishing can be pretty stellar. I’m always surprised at the theory that Fall automatically means nymphs and streamers are the only bugs you need.

  2. I know, right? I’ve fished dries a lot lately, and some of the ski resorts in Utah got 35 inches of snow in the last two days!

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