Tips and Tactics for Fall Trout

By Robert Fravel

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Once the mild weather of September passes, many Keystone anglers will exchange their fly rod for a bow or shotgun, and stash the fly rod in the basement where it will collect dust until next year’s trout opener.  But just because the weather has cooled off, and the hatches have died down does not mean that the trout fishing has slowed.  In fact, quite the opposite is true. Fall is my favorite time of year to pursue trout.  It is the time of year where you have the opportunity to land some big fish, and most of the time you will have the stream to yourself!  However, fly fishing for trout in the fall is much different than the spring/summer and anglers must adjust accordingly if they want to have success in the cooler fall months.

  1. Use streamers – In the fall, hatches will substantially decline (with the exception of midges – they will come off all year long).  Additionally, after the first solid frost of the season, most of the terrestrial fishing will taper off.  As a result you will not see a lot of fish actively rising to take bugs off the surface.  That means if you do not spot a fish, you will have to fish blind – and the best way to effectively cover a lot of water is with a streamer.  The most popular way to fish a streamer is to cast across stream, let the line swing downstream like a wet fly and strip it back upstream, periodically jigging the tip of your fly rod to give the streamer some action.  A lesser utilized, but effective method of streamer fishing is to dead drift a streamer with a midge pattern (or other small nymph) dropped underneath.  With streamers, there is no need to repeatedly cast to one specific area.  If a trout does not take the streamer on the first or second retrieve, work a different area.  Once you’ve covered the surrounding area, take a couple steps downstream and repeat.
  2. Use big streamers – Remember, streamers are designed to imitate bait fish, other trout, crayfish, leeches, etc.  All of which are large meals for trout.  So if you tie your own flies, use big hooks.  Don’t be afraid to create an ugly monstrosity on the vice.  Big streamers = big trout.  Popular streamer patterns include the clouser minnow, muddler minnow and wooly bugger, but there are literally thousands of proven patterns to choose from.  I always carry wooly buggers in black, olive and white. I use the olive and black when the water is high and stained, and I use the white when the water is low and clear.
  3. Wear camouflage – I know this sounds a bit over the top, but it works.  Fall streams are usually low and clear, making it easier for the trout to spot an approaching angler.  Wearing camouflage or drab/natural colored clothing could mean the difference between spooking a 20 incher from 50 feet away or getting in position to make a good cast and hooking a hog. 0620160712c
  4. Wear polarized sunglasses – A good pair of polarized sunglasses are an important tool in any serious angler’s toolbox.  In fall fly fishing, being able to spot a trout that isn’t actively feeding is crucial.  Polarized sunglasses, are essential for this.
  5. Stay out of the water when possible – Just because you are wearing waders does not mean that you have to get in the water.  Trout detect movement and vibration in the water through their lateral line, and if you are stomping through the water like a drunk hippo you will spook every fish within casting range.  You want the fish to use their lateral line to detect your streamers, not your feet.
  6. Dress in layers – Fall temperatures in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the northeast for that matter, can fluctuate.  It might be 30 degrees in the morning, but 65 degrees by mid-afternoon.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than being cold on the stream.  Wear multiple layers, including a base layer that keeps the sweat off, and layers of fleece.  Wear a couple pairs of socks under the waders (I prefer wool), a hat or hood and fingerless gloves.
  7. Pick your fishing time wisely – Remember, fall is different than summer.  Trout will not be active during the same time frame as they were during the summer months.  If you arrive at the crack of dawn you might be in for a disappointing morning.  I find the best time to fish for trout in the fall is between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  If you can hit the stream between those times, you should give yourself the best opportunity to hook into some fish.  As an added safeguard, be sure to check your local stream report before heading out.
  8. Stay off the redds – If you are not sure what a redd is or what one looks like, google it.  Wild trout are a valuable resource here in Pennsylvania, and as anglers we need to make sure we protect that resource.  If you see a pair of spawning trout, leave them alone.  And if you see a redd, do not walk through it and trample the eggs.

 

Now go head out to your local trout stream and catch that 25 inch slab!

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @parodandreel or click here.

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A Life Lesson Learned On Penns Creek

A Life Lesson Learned on Penns Creek

By Robert Fravel

There are few streams east of the Mississippi that compare to Penns Creek in central Pennsylvania.  Penns Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River is a large limestone stream with many free stone characteristics…and an insane amount of wild trout per mile.  Recent studies have indicated that parts of Penns Creek hold upwards of 2,500 stream bred trout per mile!  In addition to the physical characteristics, “the Penns” is also a stream steeped in mystery, tradition and local lore.  Penns Creek runs through the “seven mountains” region of the keystone state, a remote and rugged mountainous area teeming with local legends of old Indian burial sites and hidden treasures stashed in secret caves by outlaws from the early 1800’s.  If that isn’t enough to draw you to the banks of Penns Creek, then rumors of monster 28 inch wild brown trout should do the trick.  It certainly did for me, however Penns Creek made sure to put me in my place during my time there.

This past weekend, a good friend and I decided to head out to the mountains of Centre County for three days of October fly fishing on Penns Creek.  We camped at Poe Paddy State Park, which is a small state park located on the banks of Penns Creek and surrounded by 193,000 acres of uninhabited wilderness known as Bald Eagle State Forest.

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We arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon and were staying until Monday afternoon.  The plan was to fish as much as we could, and every once in a while try to squeeze in some food and a little shut-eye.  After arriving, we quickly set up camp, hoped into our waders and hit the stream.  We had about 2 hours of light left.  After pulling up a few suckers from a pool near the camp, we worked our way around to a pool about a ¼ mile below our campsite where some fish were rising.  Both of us tied on a #16 green caddis pattern and that seemed to be the right choice.  We each had a number of hits and brief hook-ups and eventually we netted a couple trout – one small brown and a decent brook.

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Once the last bits of light began fading from the evening sky we made our way back to camp, reliving the exciting night of fishing we just experienced and dreaming about all the trout we will surely catch tomorrow with a full day’s worth of fishing…..we could not have been more wrong.

By 5:45 a.m. the next morning, breakfast was on and coffee was brewing over the fire.  Following a few cups of coffee, hot dogs and tippet changes, we headed upstream at first light.  There were plenty of fish rising in the first pool, but nothing taking our flies.  After each fly change, our spirits once again filled with hope – but that hope was shortly squandered by the fickle nature of Penns Creek.  We fished upstream for miles with nothing to show for it.  We switched from dry flies to nymphs to streamers and back to dry flies with no luck.

24150           Finally, around 1:00 p.m. my fishing partner Tim, landed a small brown trout on a caddis larvae nymph.  That brown would be the only trout caught that day…and the remainder of the trip.

On the final day I desperately fished terrestrials hoping that ants and beetles were still hanging on to the final shreds of warm weather.  The terrestrial patterns certainly interested the trout, as I had numerous last second refusals, but the story was still the same – no trout.

As we packed up camp Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help feeling rather disappointed.  After three days of fishing what many anglers consider to be the best trout stream in the eastern United States, we only managed 3 trout?!  How is that possible!?  But as we made the drive back home, both of us exhausted from long days on the water, I began to reflect on the past few days and realized that there was really nothing to be disappointed about.  I just spent the last three days camping and fishing with a life-long friend in one of the most scenic parts of the state.  I didn’t have to worry about work, money, deadlines or bills – the only thing that I had to worry about was choosing my next fly.  I lived the dream for those 3 days.  Did we catch as many trout as we would have liked?  Certainly not.  But that simply means we will have to come back and try to unlock the secrets of Penns Creek another time.  While the mighty Penns Creek did not provide us with large quantities of trout, she did provide us with something else – a life experience that neither one of us will soon forget.  And that is more valuable than any fish.

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 “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

 

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @parodandreel or click here.