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Fall Transition - How to Fish It

Blog by: Matt Snider , Colorado 9/21/2018
As we inch into “fall fishing” we experience ups and downs of a transition period.  This can be frustrating, as one day your summer and late-summer techniques may be working, while the next they will not.  Perhaps you’re getting into some early winter techniques, and that’ll work, for a while, but then stop.  The air may feel like summer, but the sun is setting sooner, and the days are noticeably shorter. Heck, even the water temps are hanging on to the last bit of summer.

The leaves are falling in my yard, and football season is well underway. The Rockies are already thick into the nerve-wracking home stretch of their season.  My Browns won their first game in 635 days.  Yep!  Things are changing.

I discussed in my last blog about fall fishing the benefits of changing your approach, with tips from Lloyd and Dave.  Let that be the underlying theme to transition periods like this.  Get out often, change your techniques often, don’t get settled into one thing too long, find out what works and what doesn’t, and put the daily puzzle together.

A few folks sent me some of their fall tips. Mike, aka strangebow, wrote “When I'm out fishing with buddies, none of us are allowed to fish with the same lure/fly. We all have to use something different to help us nail down a pattern. When something works, we begin to experiment with colors/sizes. We almost always start large and work down in size. But it's all about communication. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Watch out fellas, I'm getting crazy here!" It's only crazy if it doesn't work!”

When I am muskie fishing in Canada, it seems like a transition season no matter what day it is.  We are always experimenting, and we call the kind of approach Mike describes as the “perfect partner”.  Until we trigger some muskies, each guy on the boat will be fishing different baits and with different pace and depth.  Once a pattern is developed we will migrate towards baits with similar traits.

Curtis, aka bron, wrote “July and August are tough months for us to catch fish.  The only slower months are right before ice-on and right after ice-off.  April-May and Sept-Oct are golden for us with the bulk of our catches coming then.  Almost all our trophy catches are in those months too. I like to hit the high country before ice on for larger trout-- all my big trout were caught those months.  I do quite a bit of carping in fall because it will end soon and I’ll miss it.  The smaller creeks fly fish really well now with low flows. We really never quit fishing year round but the next couple months are all about big fish. Nice thing about the next 3 months is tourism is down because school started, ski season has not started yet, the Broncos and Rockies take a bunch of guys off the water, and we are better geared for the cold than most folks so we fish on.”

So it can be a big fish time of year, and Curtis made it clear he has detailed notes of his previous falls.  Recording your successes and referring to them later will save you a lot of guessing down the road.  Go do the things you found success with previously.  And another important note Curtis brings up, go fish some rivers if you've having a tough time on lakes!

Hawaiian Punch, commented “One thing to remember is not all fish get hungry/feed at same time.With the water temp and vast amount of food, fish are feeding, but won't work very hard to chase down a meal.”  So reiterating what Lloyd said, the fish are going to be picky.  Perhaps try what Lloyd suggests in this month’s TX newsletter: “One fishing technique that works in many cases, and is always worth considering, is dragging the bottom. Most game fish are hyper-aware of anything that moves across the bottom of a body of water… All game fish are opportunity feeders and they all feed on the things that crawl on the bottom. ”

Another thought on fall fishing is this. Since many lakes are low, while you are out fishing research the contours and makeup of the exposed and now-dry shallows so that next year when they are full you’ll be armed with some pretty worthy data.  I use a handheld GPS to mark spots, and often will convert those to my fishfinder GPS so I have easy access while on the boat.  Walking the shores and marking spots may not catch you fish now, but it will in the spring. 

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with is my new castable sonar unit by Deeper.  It not only streams live sonar to your phone as you fish, but you can cast and retrieve it and it will generate contour maps of the lake.  I am currently using this to map a local pond so when it freezes I’ll be armed with the all-important contours and spots.  I’ll post more information on this soon.  

I just returned from a brief road trip to the northwest.  I didn’t make much time for fishing, as this was part of a wedding trip, but we did manage to find some coho in the rivers and in the saltwater.  I miss those big fish runs.  Seeing ocean-sized fish in rivers the size of ours is amazing.  So here’s another thought for you - if you want some really good fall experiences, go find some cheap airfare and hit some rivers with ocean- or lake-run steelhead or salmon.  Don’t count out the tributaries of the great lakes - while perhaps not considered “real fish” by ocean coastal folks, they are every bit as fun and often more concentrated.  And yes we have some of that fall-run kind of stuff here too, so you don’t have to travel all that far, but you may find more crowds. At this point of the blog, my wife would like me to mention, she is 1 for 1 steelhead fly fishing (22 years ago).

I’ll continue this dive into fall fishing tips and give you some more food for thought. Please email me some of your tips to share.  This is a tough time of year for many folks, and it is OK to want to just sit back and wait for ice or wait for spring.  But don’t - get out and fish, it is a beautiful and can be a bountiful time of year to be out.  

Blog content © Matt Snider
Blog Comments
nparker, CO   9/22/2018 1:17:18 PM
Good article. Fall is a great time for shore fly fishing. The wind is your friend. Fish with a indicator near weed beds for trout. Fish early and late if the water is still warmer. Watch for Caddis and Chironomid hatches. Try a foam beetle.
bron, CO   9/22/2018 8:22:55 PM
Great read Matt!
pikeNcolorado, CO   9/23/2018 9:46:20 AM
Matt, Check out my topwater Brown blog from a few years back. Browns at night on Swimbaits on the surface. Now that is a good time. Good write up from top to bottom. Thanks for sharing.
nevskunked, CO   10/3/2018 3:30:01 PM
I use my phone camera to document reservoirs when low, really helps find that rock pile or other structures in the spring.