Fly fishing in the fall poses challenges | SierraSun.com

Fly fishing in the fall poses challenges

Bruce Ajari
Gone Fishin'

Fall fishing can be extremely good for anglers, but it can also present some great challenges. As a fly fisher, the fall surprisingly presents some great opportunities for catching fish on dry flies.

With the general trout season nearing an end on Nov. 15, you still have some time to get out and fish. The streams and Martis Reservoir will be closing for the season, but the other local roadside lakes are open year-round.

On a recent series of trips to the Little Truckee River between Boca and Stampede reservoirs, I had the opportunity to have many chances to cast to rising fish.

Success can be difficult on these very selective fish, however. Finding the right fly can be a real challenge. Because there are a number of insects available to the fish, knowing exactly which insect and stage that they are eating become the angler’s greatest difficulty.

Are the fish eating the smaller, more abundant insects or the more obvious, large bugs fluttering around? There are also other mid-size bugs of great interest.

As I found over the course of several days, each day can bring a different set of weather conditions and feeding habits for the fish. We fished during a sunny day, a rainy day and a foggy and overcast day.

The fish were active each of these days, feeding very freely on an abundance of hatching insects. The best day turned out to be the one with the worst weather. This is not surprising because the cloud cover and the raindrops on the water give the fish and sense of safety from the usual overhead predators.

During the fall, the abundance of small mayflies such as the tiny blue wing olive or trico (Tricorythodes), which occurs in about a hook size No. 20 to No. 24, can drive an angler crazy. With such an abundance of these insects on the water at times, it is very difficult for the angler to have the fish successfully eat your imitation.

First and foremost, the angler must observe what insect the fish are actually feeding upon. Are they taking the adults that are drying their wings on top of the water or are they taking the insects while they are emerging?

Watching the duns (the floating adult insects drying their wings) will give you an indication. If only a few duns are being eaten off the surface, the majority of fish are probably eating the emerging insect just below the surface.

How important the stage of the insect is was reinforced during one of these outings. I had been fishing the emerging stage of the insect for quite some time when one of my friends suddenly began having success with the adult form. His fly was representing the adult wing-drying insect.

On our recent trips, one day the primary insect of interest was an olive stone imitated by about a hook size No. 16 to 18. On another PMD (Pale Morning Dun), mayflies in about a hook size No. 18 were of most interest, and the last day a blue wing olive in about a hook size No. 20 worked best.

After many years of experience, I thought that I had the fly for every occasion, only to find out that the usual flies that I had success with in years past did not work. This happens and is probably why most anglers carry enough fly boxes to bulk out their vests. Even so, many times they will not have the right pattern.

Even with all of the flies and changing patterns to try and match the size, shape and color of, as well as the stage of the hatching insect the fish were feeding upon, I was only able to land one fish. I did have other opportunities but could only land the one fish, even with seeing as many as 50 fish actively feeding in one run.

While it was frustrating, that’s often what keeps anglers, such as me, going back. It is a challenge, but one that is fun to undertake. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to have the right pattern and fool the fish! Do not get discouraged.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.