Fall is a special season for all, especially for fly fishers. The multi-colored riparian foliage is like a brilliant tapestry, strung along the  streams’ edges. Its sheer beauty is sometimes distracting when fly fishing fall. But the trout, brook and brown, are in peak condition, ready to spawn, and fiercely defend their reds. Thus it is the season that offers the best chance to land a trophy trout.

The Streams

In the Rocky Mountains of Montana, the cottonwoods, willows and aspens turn bright yellow, while the red-twig dogwoods lend a red hue. Both contrast with the ever-present dark green conifers.

The upper section of the Ruby River courses through the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National forest. It is home to native cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, cutbow (a cross of the former two), an occasional brown trout, mountain whitefish, and a rare grayling. A modest stream, it is visited by few anglers, and offers a wilderness-like experience.

fly fishing fall

Ruby River, Montana

fly fishing fall

Ruby River, Montana

fly fishing the fall season

Ruby River, Montana

The Gallatin River begins in Yellowstone National Park. It runs north, joining the Madison and Jefferson Rivers at the town of Three Rivers, to form the Missouri River.

fly fishing fall

Gallatin River, Montana

fly fishing the fall season

Gallatin River, Montana

The Madison River also begins in Yellowstone National Park. The section above Hebgen Lake is famous for its fall-run brown trout. As they move upstream to spawn, they are followed by rainbow trout, hoping to feast on the brown trout eggs. The fall-run trout are large and feisty!

fly fishing fall

Madison River, Montana

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, a colorful mix of hardwoods and conifers crowd the streams’ edges. The Piney River is one of many streams that run off the eastern slope of these mountains.

fly fishing fall

Piney River in the fall

fly fishing fall

Piney River in the fall

A bit farther to the west lie the Allegheny Mountains, which offer larger waters, like Back Creek, the Bullpasture and Jackson Rivers.

fly fishing fall

Back Creek, Virginia

fly fishing fall

Back Creek, Virginia

fly fishing fall

Back Creek, Virginia

The Fish

In the fall, most streams will experience their lowest water levels of the year. Runs become slow, clear and shallow. A fly fisher’s watchful eye can often see trout finning in their waters.

fly fishing fall

Ruby River shallows

fly fishing the fall season

Ruby River, Montana

fly fishing fall

cutthroat trout

fly fishing

a brown trout, finning in the shallows

trout

a brook trout

The Fishing

The summer mayfly and caddis hatches have nearly come to an end. Other than a few gray drakes and mahoganies, only the tiniest of flies are present. Most nymphs are small as well, having hatched but a few weeks earlier.

But in the fall, trout are trying to fatten up for the upcoming winter, and for brook and brown trout, the spawn. Faced with a diminished supply of aquatic insects, they turn to baitfish and trout-fry for a high protein meal. Thus fall is synonymous with streamer fishing. While streamers may be fished year ’round, they are especially effective at this time of the year. I like to fish a tandem rig, with a streamer and a small, trailing soft hackle. Browns seem to prefer the streamer, while rainbows usually go for the soft hackle.

fly fishing fall

streamer & trailing soft hackle

fall fishing fall

yes, there was a big trout under the flotsam

As the sun sets on summer, don’t despair. The bountiful summer hatches may have come to an end for the year, but fly fishing the fall season is indeed a special experience. There are fewer fly fishers on the streams, and the fish are hungry and strong. So try giving them a big meal, and enjoy the beautiful panorama the fall season provides!

fly fishing fall

Madison River at sunset

Related articles-

Fall Fly Fishing- Strategies for Trout

by Al Simpson, November, 2016.