Fall is fly fishing season. To be fair, living in Central New York, we are blessed with good fly fishing all year. However, fall is the best. Fall means fly fishing opportunities for everything I can think of. The time to gear up and prepare is now.
Fall means runs of salmon and steelhead, giant fish and battle in our Great Lakes tributaries. It means walleye, bass, pike, and musky move into the shallows as the water cools and gorge on the extreme abundance of bait. It means trout that have been deep in the lakes during the hot summer months move higher into the water column. Popping for panfish is still an option around weeds and lily pads. In the streams, cooler water and increased flows urge big brown trout out of hiding and into feast mode, especially as we draw closer to the spawn in late fall.
Then, there are the saltwater species along the coasts. The fall striper run is something I look forward to each year, but that’s not all. Fall means blitzing bluefish and false albacore as well. Much of this action can be had from shore as these aggressive predatory species ambush and pin baitfish against the beaches and rocky points.
Now is the time to do the prep work. It is still summer and summer conditions are still present, but in the last couple weeks, we have seen some significant drops in temperature. The salmon are already moving in the Salmon River, leaves have started to change up north and fall will be in full bloom within just a couple short weeks. Take advantage of time now to tie flies and gear up before you have to scramble at the end of the month or in October and November.
Change or tie new leaders. Scuffs, chafing, kinks, and just aged leader means lost fish. Clean your fly line. Check it for scuffs, breaks, and chafing as well. Spin casters, do the same for leaders, mono, and braid. Check backing knots because you really may see it. Store the wimpy 2, 3 and 4 weights away. Put the dry fly box away, unless you’re fishing a hopper rig. Dry flies are for small fish. Big fish like big meals. Streamer season is starting. Dust off the big guns, 5-7 weights for the trout, 7 weights for bass and walleye, 9-12 weights for salmon, steelhead, musky, pike, stripers, bluefish, and albies. 12 weights? Those are extenuating circumstances… A 9 or 10 weight will do the job for 99.9999% of big game situations here in the northeast.
Tie flies. Tie lots of flies. Tie buggers and baitfish. Brown trout are even onto the baitfish patterns in the fall. Bugger, dace and sculpin patterns are classics. Baby trout patterns are worth a shot as well. Don’t think a big brown trout won’t eat a little brown trout? Think again. Big brown trout are notoriously cannibalistic carnivores. Try shad, goby, perch and shiner patterns for walleye, bass, pike, and musky. Go with big 6”-10” flies for the muskies. Some saltwater patterns to start with are mackerel, peanut bunker, sand eels, silversides, or larger menhaden for larger stripers. Don’t forget the big poppers. A popper chugging along is hard for a striper to refuse.
Sharpen those hooks. Many species mentioned above had hard, bony, toothy mouths. You’d be surprised at how quickly hooks lose their point after a few hookups. Make sure your hooks are sharp and ready to stick and drive home in those bony mouths.
I’ll be covering my trips and fishing for these species more extensively here in my blog more in the coming weeks, along with sharing tips and fly patterns. If you’re interested in learning more, or interested in joining in on the action, please feel free shoot me an email or drop me a line. Follow along on the website, Facebook, and Instagram as well.
Thanks for reading and until next time, get ready for a fall season of fly fishing mayhem.