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October Fly Fishing

October Fly Fishing
Posted in: Fishing Articles

The end of October signals the end of the season for much of the stream fishing here in Alberta. Like most places there are a few places that you can fish all winter long, depending on the weather. These are however few and far between in Alberta and so the avid fly fisher is faced with the reality that the end of the season is near. Soon it will be time to start preparing for a long winter of ice fishing, fly tying or perhaps an escape trip to some warm saltwater fishing destination. So making the best of the end of the season is important. Cooler temperatures will have cooled off the rivers and streams after a long hot summer and the trout will become much more active, feeding heavily in preparation for the winter ahead.

The crowds disappear in the fall

Fly fishing in October has a few advantages over the rest of the year. The scenery can be spectacular with the trees being in their fall colors. Angling pressure is way less as with the kids back in school and summer holidays ended the crowds of summer will have changed to the devoted angler. Many fly fishermen will have put down their rods and taken up the bow, rifle or shotgun in pursuit of meat for the freezer, leaving more room on the stream for you. On the same note campsites and other accommodations will also be easier to come by. Water levels are usually low & clear and water temps will have cooled off with the shorter days and cooler night time temperatures. No need to wake up early and rush out to the stream, the water will warm slower and the fish will be sluggish early in the day so you can get on the stream at the crack of noon and not have missed much.

Brown Trout get aggressive come October

Fly selection can be tricky at this time of the year, “in the fall, go small” is a good rule of thumb except if you are fishing for fall spawning fish like Brown Trout or Bull Trout then “bigger is better” is the rule of thumb. While many hatches are done for the year it doesn’t mean the trout have forgotten them. If it’s been a good grasshopper year the fish will still remember them and how good they tasted. If your area gets a fall hatch of Blue Winged Olives then there might still be some around or at very least the tout will remember them. Fall caddis, sometimes called October Caddis, because of their orange color, will also be fresh in the trout’s memory. Give them lots of action, skating them through pools and runs and along the edges of riffles will often draw strikes. October caddis patterns also make for a good dry fly for a dry/dropper rig. Hang a small Zebra Midge or other small nymph underneath it on a piece of fluorocarbon tippet. Midges are almost always hatching but can be difficult to match, small yet abundant, it is difficult to get your imitation to stand out in the crowd. This is good time to un-match the hatch with a pattern that is totally unlike the midges that are hatching. One of my favourite flies for this is an ant pattern, ants are terrestrials, land insects, which quite often end up in the water, especially when the leaves start to fall off of the trees. Fish are used to seeing them year round and they are a little bigger bite than the midges they are rising to. Even if trout aren’t rising an ant is a good pattern to search with due to their season long availability.

Low clear water makes for spooky fish

Nymphing can be a little tougher in October as water levels are at their lowest and clearest point of the season. Small nymphs such as Zebra Midges, Lightning Bugs and Flashback Pheasant Tails are all good choices especially if the stream has a Blue Wing Olive population. Longer leaders and fluorocarbon tippets will help with the lower, clearer water. If small nymphs aren’t your thing if the stream or river you’re fishing has a Stonefly population you are in luck. Stoneflies have a long underwater life cycle and are therefore abundant at all times of the year and make a great searching pattern. Rubber legged stone patterns work well at this time of the year. Remember to pay attention to your shadow because the sun is much lower in the sky in October and therefore you cast a longer shadow and low clear water means spooky fish.

For the fall spawning trout such as Browns and Bulls big meaty streamers can be the ticket, these trout will be getting aggressive as it gets closer to their spawning time. Zonkers, Wooly Buggers and Sculpin patterns fished in deeper water will often draw aggressive strikes. 

Cutthroat are a great late season fish

While fishing in the late fall can be super rewarding with fewer crowds and hungry fish there also comes a few reasons to stay alert to your surroundings. Most years bears will not have gone into hibernation yet and will still be busy trying to put on critical pounds to get them through the winter. Carrying bear spray while stream fishing is always a good idea so don’t put it away just yet. In addition both moose and elk may still be in rut and very aggressive, getting stomped by a frisky moose should NOT be on your bucket list. Also remember that while there are less people fishing at this time of year there are more people hunting. Your October fishing wardrobe should have some bright colors involved, an orange hat or a bright colored shirt or even a piece of orange surveyors tape tied on to your vest or pack. Dressed in drab clothing standing at the edge of a stream hunched over concentrating on your fly could make you look like an animal, not what you want at this time of the year.

Wading safely should also should also be a priority at this time of year, with both the weather and the water temperature being colder a dunking could turn into a serious situation in a hurry. Use a wading staff and wade with caution. Having a fishing companion along is good at all times but is highly recommended for fall fishing excursions.

So get out and enjoy the last of the season because as sure as Halloween is on October 31st snow will be here soon and you’ll be kicking yourself on missing some of the best fishing of the year.


Wildlife are active in the fall

8 months ago
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