As temperatures drop and winter looms, trout retreat to deeper pools and indulge in a feeding frenzy in preparation for the cold months ahead. This means more trout, a nd bigger trout, are up for grabs. If you’re a fly fishing enthusiast, there’s no better time to be on the water than the fall season.
During fall, trout’s diet consists of a wide variety, from dry flies hatching to nymphs and streamers. So, whether you’re a fan of nymphing or prefer dry fly fishing, fall presents an opportunity to catch some fantastic fish using your favorite techniques. However, to boost your chances of success, it’s essential to have the best trout flies for fall in your fly box. So, let’s dive into the top trout flies for fall fly fishing.
Best Fall Trout Flies
The Zebra Midge is a must-have for your fall fly box, and it’s a pattern that remains relevant even during winter. It’s an excellent imitation of a midge pupa, which forms nearly 50% of most trout’s diet during the cold spells. Midges hatch all year round in most rivers, making the Zebra Midge an irresistible meal for trout.
Experienced fly fishers often use this fly as a nymph on a double rig throughout late fall and into winter. Once you adopt this technique, you’ll likely see your catch rate increase almost instantly. Be sure to stock up on Zebra Midges in sizes 18-22, with red and darker colors being the most effective. Also, consider different heads, such as brass beads and tungsten heads, for additional weight.
Hare’s Ear nymphs are classic fly fishing staples and are effective in spring, summer, and fall. During the fall season, they work wonders because they imitate almost every insect that hatches, including isonychia mayflies, October caddis, black stonefly, and stonefly larvae.
It’s beneficial to have a diverse assortment of these flies in different sizes and weights. Pack your box with Hare’s Ear nymphs in sizes 12 to 20, and with various heads, ranging from none to tungsten. For fall fishing, stick to the smaller sizes of 16-20.
You can fish the weighted versions of this fly as nymphs and try fishing the unweighted versions under a dry fly to imitate emerging insects.
Pheasant Tail Nymphs
Pheasant Tail Nymphs are incredibly effective, much like Hare’s Ears, they can mimic just about anything that’s hatching, making them ideal for fall fishing. You should fish these flies on all trout streams and any river during the fall. Try using the smallest sizes possible (16-22) as they can be mistaken by trout for anything from a caddis to a mayfly and a midge.
It’s best to stick to natural and brown colors and consider heavily weighted versions of these patterns as the trout, especially the bigger ones, will be lurking deep.
Despite its year-round importance, the Sow Bug is a pattern that many anglers often overlook. Sowbugs are always present in the river, but trout don’t rely on them in summer. They gorge on larger insects then and save the sow bug for fall through to early spring. If your favorite flies aren’t working, try using a Sow Bug, and you might see your catch rate double or even triple.
The patterns that best represent these bugs are a Ray Charles and a Hot Head Sowbugs. Get them in every size from 12-18 and in a variety of colors, including greys, pinks, oranges, olives, blues, and whites. You should fish these like you would nymphs, so consider getting them in different weights too for the fall.
Fall is spawning season for all trout, from rainbow to brown trout and even brook trout. Spawning trout lay fish eggs in the bottom of the river, and any loose eggs that get washed downstream are quickly gobbled up by rainbow and brown trout.
So, some of the best flies for trout fishing during the fall are egg patterns as they can subdue both big and small trout. They are such an easy meal, and no fish will let them pass when preparing for winter. Get a few egg patterns in sizes 12 -16 and in various colors like orange, red, pink, and chartreuse. These are best fished as the point fly on a double nymph rig as the heavier nymph will help the egg sink, and it acts as an attractor fly for your more natural-looking nymph too.
San Juan or Squirmy Worms
The San Juan Worm fly or Squirmy Worm fly fishing flies can be used for trout fishing all year round. They mimic aquatic worms, an easy meal for trout that’s high in protein and helps them gain weight for the winter.
You’ll want your San Juan or Squirmy Worms in sizes 8-16, in a few colors, including red, pink, and purple, and in various weights so you can fish them deep in the fall. The best time to fish this fly is when the water has risen or is off-color as this usually results in many worms being washed into the system.
One of the exciting aspects of trout fishing in the fall is the fish’s aggressive nature. They start eating fry to gain the extra weight they need for winter, and this calls for streamers. If you’re targeting the biggest trout in the river, using a huge streamer is one way to do it, but you’ll land more fish (and big ones too) with medium-sized patterns between sizes 2 and 14.
Ensure you have a variety of Woolly Buggers in different colors, including black, olive, white, red, and even yellow. Trout can often mistake a Woolly Bugger for a large stonefly nymph, so don’t hesitate to fish your buggers with a nymph on a dead drift. It will either look like a nymph or an injured baitfish.
The Muddler Minnow is another streamer fly you should have in your arsenal during fall. Its effectiveness lies in its clipped deer hair head, which gives it buoyancy. This allows you to fish this fly across the surface, creating ripples that attract the already aggressive trout.
You can also fish these flies deep, while the floaty head keeps them off the bottom and creates action that the aggressive fall trout can’t help but investigate. You should have these flies in sizes 2-8 and in a few different colors, typically tan and orange or tan and yellow.
Elk Hair Caddis
As mentioned earlier, fall also presents some dry fly fishing opportunities as caddis and small olive mayflies (blue-winged olives) begin to hatch. When you see rising trout in the fall, it’s time to whip out an imitation, and a great bet is the Elk Hair Caddis pattern.
During the day, the trout will most likely be feeding on emerging caddis below the surface. This is when swinging a wet fly version of this fly will get you hooked up. But in the evening, the caddis flies return to the water to lay eggs, and this is when the trout go wild. Make sure you have this fly in sizes 14-20 and fish them on a dead slow natural drift with zero drag from your fly line. Be patient and wait for the trout to sip it off the surface – they will!
Parachute Blue-Winged Olive (BWO)
Another fantastic dry fly to have in your fall arsenal is a Parachute Blue-Winged Olive. This fly works extremely well when the fish are eating tiny flies that you can barely see, such as midges or tiny mayflies.
During a fall evening, you might see trout rising everywhere but can’t see what they’re eating. This means they are eating something very small, and it’s time to whip out your Parachute Blue-Winged Olives in sizes 16-22. The fly will sit on the surface, and while it has a parachute for visibility, it’s still going to be hard to see. It’s recommended to fish it below a large dry fly like a hopper or a big Elk Hair Caddis so that you can see where your tiny Blue-Winged Olive is and set the hook when a trout rises near it. Chances are, it’s eaten your fly.
The Smokejumper Midge is another excellent fall fly that imitates both midges and a blue-winged olive pattern. The Smokejumper Midge is highly effective because it sits just below the surface while its CDC (Cul de Canard) head holds the surface film, making it look just like a midge or blue-winged olive fly that is opening its wing case and trying to take flight.
Trout can’t resist this kind of insect action, and you should fish this fly during the fall when fish are sipping at things you can’t see on the surface. Be sure to have this fly in an olive color to match the midges and mayflies of fall and in sizes 16-22. Again, fish it behind a larger fly so you can see where it is when a fish rises near to it.
The Goddard Caddis is a fantastic searching dry fly in fall and does an excellent job imitating the last caddis hatch of the season, which happens in October. These flies work best as a searching pattern close to the bank or in fast water. Even if you’re not seeing much surface action from the fish, they are still looking up, hoping for the odd bit of protein to come their way.
You’ll need to have the Goddard Caddis in a large range of sizes, from 10 to 18. When imitating the caddis hatch, a size 14 is your best bet, but size 10-14 can work well. When you’re using it as a searching pattern, smaller sizes work best, and that’s when sizes 16-18 come into play.
How to choose the best trout flies for fall?
1. Research the local trout population. Understanding the types of trout native to the area and their typical food sources will help you determine the best flies to use.
2. Consider the water temperature. As water temperature drops in the fall, trout become less active and feed less. Therefore, you should use heavier, larger flies that are more visible.
3. Take note of the water clarity. If the water is murky, opt for brighter colors and more visible patterns. If it’s clear, choose darker colors and subtler patterns.
4. Consider the type of water. If you’re fishing in a fast-moving stream, use smaller, lighter flies. If you’re fishing in a lake, use larger, heavier flies.
5. Choose the right type of fly. Streamers are typically the best for fall fishing as they imitate the natural baitfish and aquatic insects that trout feed on. Nymphs and dry flies can also be effective, depending on the situation.
6. Experiment with different patterns. Trout may respond differently to different patterns, so try various ones to see which ones work best.
Do dry flies work in the fall?
Yes, dry flies can be effective in the fall. However, they may be less effective than streamers or nymphs, as trout may not be as active and feeding as they are in warmer months.
Is fly fishing good in the fall?
Absolutely, fly fishing can be very productive in the fall. The cooler water temperatures can actually make the trout more active, and the changing insects and baitfish provide a great opportunity to catch some larger and more active fish.
What colors do trout like in the fall?
In fall, trout tend to be attracted to brighter colors, such as chartreuse, orange, and yellow. These colors are easier for them to see in murky water. Darker colors, such as black, brown, and olive, can also be effective in clear water.
What do trout eat in the fall?
Trout eat just about anything they can get their fins on in the fall. They’re not fussy as they try to pack on pounds to survive the winter. However, trout are still selective eaters based on what’s in the river system.
Their diet will consist of nymphs such as midges, mayflies, stoneflies, and sowbugs, eggs, hatching insects, worms, and small baitfish. This is part of what makes fall fishing so exciting – the range of food the fish are willing to eat and how aggressive they are when feeding. This allows you to fish with nymph rigs, swing wet flies, use double dries, and swing hefty streamers for those larger fish you spotted in the summertime and are now looking to fool when they turn on their feed bag.