Autumn is probably my favorite time to fish. The rivers are typically low. The crowds have thinned. The trout are active. And the brightly colored leaves create a stunningly beautiful backdrop. The only problem is, a stiff breeze can blow all those pretty leaves into the river. And that’s exactly what I encountered a few days ago. I thought the South Platte River would be in perfect shape, but when I got to my fishing spot, I soon realized that the currents were thick with leaves and twigs.
With a kaleidoscope of colors–greens, browns, oranges, reds, and mostly bright yellow (aspen leaves)–washing downstream, how can you make a fly stand out so that a trout will not only notice it, but also eat it?
There are a few tricks that will work in this situation.
First of all, I like to look for eddies near where fast water meets slow water. Trout like those hard seams, where leaves collect in a line, because that’s where the bugs are also collecting. So if you find that comma-shaped line of leaves, and cast into the clear water right next to it, there’s a good chance you will coax a trout to chase your fly, even a dry fly. In this case, the leaves actually help you pinpoint the cast.
Second, I like to use flies with colors that don’t match those leaves. The tans, yellows, and browns obviously blend into the mix. On this day, I used a Royal Stimulator with a peacock herl body with a band of red floss, and as a dropper nymph, I tied on a blue Psycho Prince. The trout were all over the blue nymph all day long. I don’t know if they noticed it better, if the blue shade reacted well in the light, or what. I do know that the fly looked different than anything else floating in the river that day.
Third, we all know that fall is a great time for streamer fishing, and I think that’s partly because, with so many leaves floating downstream, if you work a fly upstream, it’s going to get noticed. Think about it. A trout sees flecks and globs of plant matter washing by all day, but suddenly out of its peripheral vision, it notices something darting in the other direction. That’s just a hunch, but I’m sticking to it.
After all, the trick when there’s so many things in the water to distract trout is to get your flies noticed. Cast them into places where you know trout will be looking. Choose colors that make them look like something everything else is not. And move them against the flow. Do those things, and you’ll still catch trout, even when the leaves fall off the trees and into your favorite trout runs.