How to Catch Trout in Fall

Autumn is a transitional period. A time when the world slows from the frantic application of sunscreen, riverside barbecues, “don’t forget to bring your bathing suit” days of summer into the cold, crisp days that unleash the heavy blanket of winter. It’s time to light the first fire in the fireplace, wear comfortable sweaters, watch horror movies, spice everything up with pumpkin and, most importantly, catch big trout.

Fall fishing is the stuff of dreams if you are a trout fisherman. The water in the fall is low and clear so fish and potential fishing spots are found to the east. Brown and brown trout prepare to spawn and become extremely aggressive, while trout like rainbow and cutthroat are energized by the cold water and are less wary of approaching anglers. Best of all, almost all trout species in the water sense the approaching winter and start gorging on everything and everyone. This makes choosing baits, lures and flies a lot less of a hassle, but there are still certain techniques you can use to ensure you capitalize on the fall trout’s gold mine.

Dead floating baits

Dead drifting is the most common and probably the most effective trapping method for falling trout. It consists of throwing a baited line into the river and letting it float freely downstream with the current until it is inhaled by a trout. This works best with a center pin rig, a long rod with a light action and a large, zero drag reel similar to a fly reel. Because the reel has no resistance, it is free to spin with the current, allowing your bait to travel completely unhindered downstream along bank edges or even mid-river.

If you don’t have or don’t want to buy a centerpin rig, you can also do the drifting with your standard spinning reel or even a bait caster. With the spinning reel, simply cast the bait into the current and then open the bail to allow line to freely unwind from the reel. When a fish hits, drop the rod tip, snap the bail shut, then set the hook! With a baitcast reel, after the cast, set the reel to freewheel and let the line go with the current, turn off and hook when you get a bite.

Setting up your dead drift rig is a simple matter. First, attach a slip bobber to your main line by threading the line through the length of the bobber. Then tie on a running swivel that will prevent the bobber from slipping too far down the line when casting. Tie a light 6 to 10 pound test line to the other end of the running swivel. The actual length of this line will depend on the water depth you are fishing in, but it should be long enough for your bait to float about 3 to 6 inches above the bottom after you set it up. Next, attach a small split shot just below the barrel swivel so the bobber hangs vertically in the water, and add a few along the line to ensure the bait hangs off the bottom. Tie on a small octopus or size 10 to 8 baited hook and you are good to go.

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You can use a variety of things to bait a dead floating rig. From night owls, maggots and mealworms to small minnows, live or dead stints or bullheads, they all catch fish. In rivers with lots of spawning salmon or trout, fish eggs or egg sacs can also be a good option. On an unfamiliar river, it’s best to bring a variety of baits and use them until you find one that really starts to get hammered.

Fishing with jerkbaits

To date, the largest brown trout I have ever caught came to my net with a jerkbait. It was a cold October morning and I had only a few hours to fish when the monster crashed into my bait on the second cast. Since then I’ve been totally obsessed with fishing them in the fall.

Jerkbaits are great lures for big, baitfish hungry slack trout. They are easy to handle, can be fished with many different trout lure actions, cover a lot of water and mimic a variety of different prey that big fall trout love to eat. Well, there are many different types of jerkbaits out there, but your best bets for big fall trout are the Original Rapala, the Husky Jerk, and the X-Rap. All three lures can be cast and snapped along the shore, twitched and stopped by the current, or cast on a tight line and of course swung in the current and floated. Fish them up with a light to medium weight spinning rod strung with 6 to 10 pound test line so you can feel every little thump or massive arm jerk that aggressive knickers may throw your way.

The best places to fish jerkbaits are in transition areas. Sharp drop-offs, deeply undercut banks, the slow-moving water at the base of rapids and around large boulders and logs. Any place a big, hungry fall trout might be lying waiting for a passing baitfish or smaller trout to appear in their sights.

Watering streamers and nymphs

While not the most productive method of fishing, casting streamers in the fall is the best way to catch a really big trout on a fly rod. These fly rods should be heavier than your traditional 5 weights to both easily cast the larger and heavier flies as well as control and land the larger, more powerful trout that you will eventually hook. It is best to use at least a 6 or 7 weight rod strung with a full sink or at least sink tip line. Fish streamers on these lines with a heavy 2-3 foot section of 10-15 pound hooklink that you can put hard and fast in a trout’s mouth – or whatever rock or log you want for a trout hold – without losing your fly.

Streamer patterns for autumn fish should be large and colorful, which is more suitable for attracting large and colorful autumn trout. My favorites include the Drunk and Disorderly, the Sluggo and the Kill Whitey in bright and garish colors like yellow, orange, chartreuse and white. These big bright flies will set off a big fall trout and make them absolutely smash the streamer. You can also use smaller streamers in the fall that mimic baitfish such as dace, smelt and bullhead. Your best patterns for this are the Clouser Minnow, the Game Changer, the Conehead Muddler, and Lefty’s Deceiver.

Fish your streamers the same way you jerkbaits by targeting transition areas. Swiftly sweep them over the tops of deep pools, let them drift on undercut banks and twitch and smack and jip them in and around structures like logs and large sunken boulders: places where big predatory trout like to hide.

Fall nymphing is best performed with a longer 10 foot 5 or 6 weight rod that gives you more control over the long drifts required for the technique. Use at least a 9 foot 4X to 2X fluorocarbon hooklink and hooklink that won’t scare trout in the shallow, clear water of the falls. While you can fish your nymphs by simply sinking them and bouncing them across the bottom, I’ve found that it’s best to also use a strike indicator in the fall, which is better at spotting the often subtle strikes. Set the indicator so that your flies will again float halfway down the water you are fishing in (ie if you are fishing in 6 feet of water set your indicator at 9 feet). This keeps your flies in the hit zone longer. and although you may snag a time or two, it’s the perfect depth to place your nymphs in front of as many large trout as possible.

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There are many options when it comes to nymphs for trap fishing, but I’ve found that bigger is usually better. Large stonefly patterns like the belt bug and copperback can be particularly effective, along with decoy flies like the copper John and Frenchie. You can also combine these large nymphs with smaller, more realistic patterns like the pheasant tail and rabbit ear by attaching them to the shaft of the larger flies as a dropper, doubling your chances of a connection. In waters with spawning trout or salmon, egg patterns like the Nuke Egg and Glo Bug can also be good options.

The best places to fish for nymphs are at the heads and tails of long ponds, where large fall trout are likely to congregate to feed or prepare to spawn. It’s also a good bet to guide your nymphs down fast, deep descents behind flat gravel bars with a heavy split shot. This is a popular spot for large fall trout looking to pick up eggs from spawning fish or large nymphs that have become tangled in the current as they migrate to deeper water.

It’s the season

Whether it’s bringing in the harvest, stocking the freezer, or simply gathering around the table with friends and family, fall is a time for reflection. A time to look back on the past year and appreciate our efforts before we brace ourselves for a long winter. This is perhaps the best reason to go trout fishing in the fall.

Whether or not you employ these techniques, when you stand there in the river and cast loose, surrounded by the bright seasonal foliage reflected in the gently flowing water gliding past you, it’s almost impossible not to look around and appreciate it all They have. At the end of the day, really the best fall trout fishing technique is to just get out there and just enjoy the time on the water at the best time of year. Because while fall trout fishing can be fast and furious, you’ll quickly find that you don’t care if the fish bite or not.

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