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Tyler Legg
Charlotte, NC, United States
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Welcome to THFF.com! Kick your wading boots off and stick around for a while. You'll find content ranging from NC fishing reports, videos, pictures, fly fishing news from around the state/country/world, humor, and even some irrelevant, yet interesting posts.
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Friday, September 10, 2010
The hot, humid, Carolina summer is about to give way to gradually cooler weather and shorter days. Meteorologically it's dubbed the name fall. Amongst fly fisherman though, it's known as the beginning of some of the best trout fishing of the year. There is nothing quite like arriving streamside greeted by the cool, crisp, and refreshing autumn air that has eluded us for the past 5 months. Fall brings with it scenic vistas of bronze, orange, and red colored leaves that only add to the whole experience.

What makes fall such a fantastic season for fly fishing? 

When you combine comfortable temperatures, little to no crowds (especially during weekdays), and the opportunity to hook into true monsters, it's fairly self-evident. That 14 inch skinny brown trout you caught back in May that only required one hand to hold, is most likely a hooked jawed, red-spotted, 26" fish that takes two hands and a a pair of strong arms to hold up.

The behemoths show themselves...

Western NC guide Forrest Marshall holds up a huge fall brown.
Brown trout are the main target in the fall. They are widely known for their light-sensitive demeanor and nocturnal feeding habits. In the summer they are almost always found hiding beneath undercut banks, fallen trees, and the deepest pools of the river until the sun sets. Those are the darkest places on the river when the sun's rays are too much for them to bear. If you cast your fly close enough to his position, he might just lazily turn and eat your offering. He might just continue to be lazy and refuse everything you put in front of him. It all changes when the leaves start falling and the days get shorter. The once lethargic and secretive fish are now filling up on baitfish and other large food items in anticipation of the upcoming spawning season. Up until late November when spawning occurs, fish continuously search for food in order to stock up for the winter. They move from the deepest of pools to the shallow runs. Just like a mammal preparing for hibernation, they search for as much food as they can consume. Large food items, such as baitfish, are much more nutritious than tiny midges and provide fish with an excellent dose of protein. Minnows and baitfish are harder to catch than small mayflies, but the rewards are great for a large brown.

 What's all of this streamer talk?

An October stillwater rainbow.
Fall is one of the best times to fish for stillwater trout.
Most seasoned fly rodders think of streamers when fall rolls around. Streamers imitate a wide variety of baitfish that large browns are chasing. Anything from Zonkers to Clousers and Slumpbusters to Woolly Buggers will likely entice the wiliest of browns. To a lot of fly anglers, streamers, along with dries, are the most enjoyable way of catching trout. For one, large streamers are visible. Usually you can watch that fish pursue it and then watch the fly disappear as the fish engulfs it. Secondly, streamers can be bounced off of the bottom, stripped in, twitched, and the list goes on and on. You have the ability to be creative. Twitch, let it sink, twitch, twitch, let it sink, big twitch, 3 short twitches. It seems as if the more life you put into the streamer, the more enticing it is to hungry fish. On the other hand, dead drifting a streamer can be just as deadly. Streamers seem to always catch fish this time of the year. I think I came to the realization that fall trout really do go mad over baitfish when I had the opportunity to chase large, robust stillwater rainbows in October of 2006. Generally rainbows don't spawn in the fall, but rather in the spring. There are accounts of rainbows spawning in the fall, but it's not in their nature to do so. However, they do respond to the temperature changes and the transition from summer to fall. The rainbows I targeted that cool October afternoon were by far some of the most streamer hardy bows I've ever thrown my fly too. I was using Bunny Leaches that undulate and dance with any faint movement. It reminded me of flats fishing: the fish would cruise around in the shallows, intently watching for any potential meals and any slap of the fly or any wrong movement would send them fleeing for their lives. The low water of the summer carried over into the fall, so the water was relatively low and extremely gin clear. These baitfish hungry trout were stocking up for the upcoming winter and you could tell. They relentlessly chased anything that remotely looked like a baitfish. Numbers and size were both present in these fish. It's this kind of experience that leaves you craving for more. Fall fishing is addictive!

Tips to further improve your fall angling skills...

1.) Fish streamers if you can. Large trout are looking for baitfish and minnows. In most situations, large streamers work better than small streamers. Fish are looking for as much protein and nutrients as they can possible consume. Larger baitfish are targeted by large trout because they have more protein and nutrients than smaller fish. Remember, a trout can easily eat a fish that's half it's size. A #6 Zonker likely won't let you down.

2.) Fall trout tend to be much more aggressive. Flies that incorporate a fair amount of action will most likely catch the attention of many fish.

3.) Terrestrials continue to catch fish until the first frost hits. Until then, ants, beetles, inchworms, and hoppers fished from roughly mid morning until evening will produce fish. Avoid fishing dries/terrestrials in the morning, given the cooler temperatures. Wait until the sun's rays warm the water a little.

4.) While some anglers have shunned egg and worm patterns from fly fishing, calling them nontraditional and not true flies, you should highly consider using them. Especially eggs. Fish that are not spawning will congregate just downstream of the spawning fish. They will gorge on misplaced eggs until spawning season is over. A simple yellow egg pattern will work extremely well. Fish them close to the bottom.

5.) You'll need a camera, a net capable of landing brown trout that could swallow a child, and a persistent attitude. The latter is important. As long as you keep at it, you'll likely head home with a grin from ear to ear.

So it's time to dust off your long forgotten pair of waders, check your streamer box, and plan your next trip. Fall is just around the corner. I don't know about you, but I'm ready!

One of many Delayed Harvest streams in the state.

A pool full of eager fish waiting anxiously for passing insects.

The brook trout and brown trout display their most vibrant colors of the year in the Fall.


AYearOnTheFly said...

Now you are speeking my language. Streamers are IT. If you ever want to meet up for a chattooga river trip, shoot me a line.

Bill Trussell said...

Hi Tyler
This is my favorite time of year. Cooler water temps always brings the hit out in the trout and not to mention the bass on our local lake. Thanks for the post.

Brk Trt said...

Just the other day while fishing the Farmington, I tied on a streamer, an Edson Tiger, and proceded to have a banner day with both brookies and browns.

Fishing Fly said...

Wow so nice! I like this site. Keep it working every day.

Tar Heel Fly Fishing said...

@Joel- I've yet to fish the Chattooga. Heard so much about it, but haven't really thought about trying it. Might have to take you up on the offer!

@Bill- Yeah, trout and warmwater species alike seem to go crazy this time of year. This is the time to catch a monster bass or bluegill as well!

@BT- You simply cannot beat a day of excellent fishing while using a traditional streamers. Bill Edson invented a fantastic fly.

@FF- I appreciate the kind words!

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