We're officially in the great transition.... days are still hot and dry but the nights are longer and cooling down. Longer/cooler nights equals longer time for the water to cool as well.
No longer are we in the midst of the great and prolific summer hatches. We also don't have to fight as much traffic either! If summer is a time of frenzy... of bugs, of travel, of go-go-go, fall is a time of deliberate introspection.
Most seasoned fisher-folks will agree, the fall is magical...perhaps the favorite among those in-the-know. Hatches are maybe a bit more sparse but we've got a few of the most underrated still to come!
I highly suggest stocking up on the following bugs, as they've been great to me over the years especially in the "time of transition." Head to your favorite local shop or click the provided links to shop online!
My Late Summer/Early Fall Fly Box
The Mahogany is an underrated, even little known mayfly that usually hatches late August into September. This particular pattern has a perfect red/brown coloration and great body segmentation. The parachute wing is a great color match for most Mahoganies you'll find, helps the fly land softly in subtle/soft water areas, and floats well in the riffle too. The white wing post makes it easy to spot for most anglers. I tend to carry a few in sizes 14-16 but an 18 or two may be handy as well.
I know what you're thinking.... Aside from lingering Nocturnals, there isn't much stonefly action to be had...
But check this out....
Grab the Pteronarcys or any tan/orange version of the BABY Chubby and get to twitchin'! Starting in mid September and running through October, you will hopefully see some... October Caddis! Yes, these large caddis have a deep tan with orange coloration and man do trout love them! Even if you don't see them hatching, tossing one of these babies in a size 10, 12 or 14 and adding some motion will bring the trout smashing from afar! The foam body makes it hard to sink and works great for dropping heavy nymph droppers!
I can't tell you what it's supposed to look like. It doesn't look like much. Admittedly, I was less than impressed when I first saw this fly popping up in fly bins. I have to say, IT FREAKING WORKS... and well!
Jig nymphs have become some of my favorite go-to patterns. The over-weighted bead head and slender body are a deadly combo. The barbless design saves fish-faces. The circle hook keeps em buttoned up if you can keep tension on the line.
Tie this with an open loop knot under a dropper and it'll dance its little heart out under the water. When the day is hot and sunny and it doesn't seem like there's a hope in the world, this fly will bring you some afternoon delight! Sizes 16-18 are essential.
Much like the above Spanish Bullet, this little Perdigon is a jig nymph with a big heart. You can fish it as a dropper below your dry and give it some good action. You can fish it on a nymph rig and get it deep. The black body with pearl wrap has a great segmented look and the fluorescent orange wrap gets it noticed. It fishes well during a Trico hatch, a BWO hatch, and especially a Midge hatch. Size 18 is my go to. 16s should be kept on hand. Grab some 20s if you can find them!
The no-bead version of the Electric Caddis has been a late summer/early fall go to for years! For me, it fishes well in that hot, sunny, no-man's-land time when not much else seems to work. Why? Well, if no bugs are hatching, let alone moving sub-surface, trout will often resort to scraping caddis condos right off of the structure! Rocks, boulders, and sticks on the bottom of the river are often covered in caddis condos! This fly darkens as it's wet and, with help from the flashback, gives the sheen look of a caddis condo! For this reason, I'll fish it heavily weighted or behind a heavier nymph or streamer so it literally slow-drags itself across the bottom. Another day saver! And it works well other times of year when caddis are actually hatching.
My streamer of choice this time of year is the Mini Loop Sculpin. Hot, sunny weather can be tricky for streamers. Aside from the Madison River, you may struggle for consistency this time of year. However, if a low pressure system comes in...or even just simple cloud cover, this may get it done for you. As the season cools, this will become even more effective.
On the Madison and other various freestone rivers, I've had lots of luck in the warm sun too, especially if there's little hatching. Instead of stripping, I will use a sink line or pinch some split shot a couple inches in front and dead drift the fly. If you're in a boat, cast directly to the side or slightly behind and let the boat drag the fly across the bottom of the river. Olive and natural both work great. This fly has awesome movement!
Now it's your turn!
Grab yourself some of the above flies now! Again, check your local fly shop or click the names/photos above to shop online.
***One last thing... the browns and brook trout will begin spawning soon...generally later in October or early November.
It's not sporty to target fish on their redds! Don't fish them and don't walk across the beds. There are plenty of other fish to target in the slightly deeper areas well below a spawn bed. I recommend crossing slightly deeper, slower water with a sandy or silty bottom as well. Crossing shallow gravelly riffle is easier but that's where trout go to spawn. You could kill hundreds or thousands of eggs with your wader boots!
Before the spawn, browns and brookies will get aggressive as they calorie load and hormone-up. Catching them then is a hoot, just leave them alone when they group up in the shallows later this fall.
Cheers and tight lines!