Fly fishers are used to being weather outcasts. We desire the exact opposite weather others enjoy. It’s October. I want 50 degrees and drizzle. So when people make small talk around town about the nice weather, I have to be honest: I’m sick of it. It’s fun to solve sunny day mysteries, but the ants are pretty much done and what is left of the season – the afternoon blue wing olive hatches, the streamers – are at their best when the weather is at its worst. Summer is for sun. Fall is for crap weather. Without it, fall seems somewhat hollow, like gumbo without the spice.
Curse these beautiful days
The rivers are low and clear and the fishing has been at times difficult because of this. There have been some good days with little streamers, soft hackles, and nymphs. At Parmalee, the water temperature has been over four degrees warmer than normal. It has been a warm, dry October so far…after a very hot September. The most consistent fishing has been with small nymphs, soft hackles and wet flies fished either on the swing or on a dead drift. The brook trout are very aggressive this time of year and they feed in pods. On a good cloudy afternoon this feeding can be to the blue wing olives. On a sunny day, these same trout can be taken on a little tandem rig with a nymph and a soft hackle, or with a small streamer. Look for trout grouped around gravel drop-offs and on the soft edges of bubble lines and current seams. I prefer to swing flies on the South Branch. On the main, a dry and a dropper. Both techniques seem equally effective on the North Branch.
For those that want to fish streamers – and in the fall I’m one of them – small bright streamers have moved a lot of small to medium fish. I don’t think of this type of fishing as a numbers game. Rare is the fall day that every fish that chases actually eats the fly — that is more of a post-spawn thing. But in October you can move a lot of trout on a good day. Boredom is rare this time of year. The river is like an aquarium. There are trout on the move in October; not just to our flies, but also up and down the river, staging for spawning, jostling and being displaced, and swimming around for another spot.
When nothing is rising, there’s little in the way of clues. The river has a damn good poker face. If you’re floating – and many choose to do so – the answer can be as simple as casting a variety of streamers all day until you either find the right fly, or the fish start chasing due to the handful of variables, or both. That’s why it’s fun to float the river. You’re solving one large puzzle.
But the wading angler though must break down the river more thoroughly. A pool with a sharp drop-off at the head of it is made for swinging a soft hackle or fishing a nymph rig. The tail out is much the same. The long riffle downstream with wood on both banks can be streamer fished. A good flat is dry and dropper water. This time of year especially if the river bottom is sand you can sight fish to some pretty nice trout with a long leader and a nymph.
These two paradigms seem to meet in the fly shop. Yesterday I had two reports – one angler floated below Mio dam, and one wade fished on the Holy Waters – that both shared a fifteen-inch brown taken on a streamer at around 3 pm. The tally was remarkably similar, but the angling to achieve the success, the mindset, the strategy, the type of water, was much different.
This weekend looks wet. And frankly I hope so. A good downpour and some stain to the water will liven up the river, and get the fish out in the mid-flow and willing to chase. A long solitary wade on a beautiful rainy fall day does good things to a person. Those few trout – rich in fall colors – fought in the fall mist and held for a second seem extra special.
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