Fall is in the air-cooler temperatures, shorter days, some color on the hillsides, harvest season, awesome fishing, and the last month of Wisconsin trout season. The last 2 points are the most important on the fly fishing front. The October 15 Trout Season closure is a sense of urgency to get those last outings in before the season closes-weather’s perfect and fish are happy. The fishing is a combination of all good things-streamer fishing, hot mid-day grasshopper fishing, nymphing, and late afternoon-evening blue wing olive hatches. This is one of my favorite times of the year to be on the Driftless Area trout streams.
Depending what you like, you don’t have to fish a full day. If you like savage strikes on big dry flies, concentrate on hoppers between 10:30 and 4:00, if you like the small dry fly technical game concentrate on blue wing olive hatches between 4:00 and dark. Streamer fishing can be a morning or late afternoon/evening affair. This allows you to sleep in, have breakfast, do some yard work, take that hike with your spouse, and still enjoy a quality fishing outing. If you like all the fishing options, start in the morning, fish all day, and enjoy a good variety of fishing techniques.
The grasshopper fishing will be a continuation of August-mid September except now we’re fishing bigger sizes 10-12 and lighter colors yellow and tan. You also don’t need to start til 10:30 due to later sunrise, cooler overnight low temperatures, and cooler stream temperatures. If you arrive a bit late, no big deal but someone might be in the spot you want to fish. Streamer fishing will be best early-mid morning, 4:00 PM-dark on warm days; all day on overcast and cooler days. The trout are putting on the feed bag and big fish are showing themselves so don’t be afraid to fish bigger flies and 0X-2X tippet. You may catch the biggest brown trout of the season now. I got a monster brown trout 2 weeks ago when I was out checking water after heavy rains. I decided to fish for an hour under overcast skies and stained water and Wham it happened. Of course I left my camera in the car because I was “just fishing for an hour”-still have the memory though.
The late afternoon-evening blue wing olive hatches demand slow careful stalking, good observation, patience, magnifiers to thread size 20-22 flies, 5X-6X tippet, and good eyes. When you get into position pick the rising fish you want to target, and cast your fly 2 feet above the fish so you don’t lose control or sight of your small fly. Don’t cast if fish aren’t rising. This is slow, methodical, and technical fishing but if you take your time it will pay off in good dividends.
Fall is a special time of the year to be on the Driftless Region trout streams because air and stream temperatures are cooling down making the trout more aggressive. Although most people don’t think of fishing our small streams with streamers, it’s a very effective way to cover lots of water quickly and find/catch fish in the process. September-October 15 is a great time of the year to fish streamers because trout are actively feeding to pack on calories for winter and becoming more territorial for the upcoming spawning season. This is active fast paced fishing where we cover lots of water and get visual aggressive strikes. Even the fish that miss our flies are an eventful memory.
Madison Fly Fishing Company is doing guide trips that are 100% dedicated to streamer fishing now thru October 15. I’ll cover effective flies, leader systems, fishing techniques, and where to look for fish on these trips. If you’ve wanted to learn how to fish streamers on our spring creeks, but don’t know where to start, book a guide trip between now and October 15 to get in on the excitement.
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Mornings start with good nymph and streamer fishing, and good trico spinner falls where that insect is present. This time of season really shines with the return to "banker's hours" fishing with trout eating terrestial insects (grasshoppers, crickets, ants and bettles) from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A grassy meadow section of stream on a warm, sunny and breezy day has these insects blowing into the stream - and the trout go crazy for them! Presentation doesn't have to be delicate - get wild because splatting your fly is going to get those hungry trouts' attention, letting them know food is nearby. It's a good idea to fish a hopper with a beadhead nymph below it to cover both your surface and subsurface bases.
Evenings and overcast afternoons can bring out late season bluewing olive mayfly and evening caddis hatches in addition to action-packed streamer fishing. Mayflies are smaller that in the spring so fishing can be challenging, but rewarding. Streaming fishing is a great way to cover lots of stream miles quickly and efficiently because you can fish every little and big spot in the stretch.