Bridge Over Little River

Fall is for Dry Flies by David Knapp

Fly fishermen spend the winter months anticipating the change of weather in spring.  The warmer water temperatures trigger the largest hatches of the year on most streams, at least in the southeastern United States.  By those in the know, the fall season produces the same level of anticipation as the spring.  Insects are hatching again in fairly good numbers, and the fish gorge themselves in preparation for the lean months of winter.   

Brown Trout 
Veteran anglers in the Smokies tend to prefer nymphs and wet flies since they don’t require constant drying and redressing with floatant.  However, during the fall, dry flies are often the way to go.  The increasing number of leaves in the water is a constant aggravation to the nymph fisherman.  Even with dry flies you will occasionally snag a leaf or two.  Thankfully these moments will be minimized be keeping your offering on the surface.

There are a few hatches that anglers should concern themselves with during the fall.  One of my favorites is the October caddis.  This is the general name that is used throughout the country for the large orange colored caddis that hatch this time of year.  While the exact species may be a little different from region to region, the large size of the related bugs makes them stand out on the water and the fish take notice. 
Much more reliable are the various species of small mayflies collectively referred to as blue-winged olives.  In early fall, a few little yellow stoneflies may still be hatching as well.  Local wisdom says to fish yellow patterns through the summer and change to orange during fall.  I’m not sure if the fish are Vols fans or not, but the advice is definitely good.  Of course, standard dry fly patterns will work fine as well and many fishermen still rely on patterns like the Parachute Adams.

In the fall, fish will generally be found in all types of water.  They don’t start moving into their winter holding water until the water temperature has dropped and stayed low consistently for at least a few days.  The pocket water fishes extremely well.  At this time of year I have noticed that fish tend to hold more towards the middle or back of a pocket, but this is not always true.  Large browns will move to the heads of the pools or larger pockets as they prepare to move upstream to spawn.  
Rainbow Trout 
Generally, fall means low water.  This year we have been blessed with plenty of water in the mountains, but if you encounter normal fall stream conditions, it is important to use light tippet.  By this time of year the fish are a bit wiser so a careful approach is needed.  I enjoy this time of year especially because I can get away with a lighter rod.  If I know I will just be fishing dry flies, then I leave the 5 weight at home and fish a slower 3 or 4 weight rod. Even the small 6 inch fish fight well on the lighter rods.  Fishing is simpler this time of year as compared to the spring.  Instead of being prepared to fish several different hatches, you can carry just a few patterns. I normally have a few orange caddis patterns, a few BWOs, and perhaps a couple Parachute Adams.  Also, don’t forget to bring a camera.  The browns are colored up in preparation for spawning and you will want a picture if you catch one…

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