Here are a few things that you can try this fall to make your fly fishing trips more enjoyable and hopefully get more fish on the end of your line.
Tie on a Terrestrial Fly. Winged ants, wasps, and other insects die off after migration in many parts of the Tennessee Valley this time of year. Dry-fly action can be very productive and exciting this time of year.
Streamers are great in the fall. Never underestimate the aggression that fish will show toward a streamer due to the fish spawn cycle approaching soon. Fish tend to hit streamers harder and with purpose in the cooling months.
Movement in the fly is key. With all of the fallen leaves and other debris in the water this time of year it can be difficult for the fish to pick out your fly among all the natural distractors. You can add an advantage by adding movement to your flies with articulation or by simply tying the fly on with a limited slip mono loop or similar knot. You can even add weight to the front of your fly to create a jigging motion to simulate a dying baitfish.
Limit your movement. With the waters becoming more clear in the cooler months, your massive size can spook fish more even with all the falling leaves and other debris. Take time to move with stealth and care to avoid spooking those feeding but weary fish.
Increase your leader length. Use longer leaders and lighter weight tippet to help deliver your fly as natural and delicate as possible. You do not need to go down to far in tippet size, think one or two sizes down. Try increasing your 9 ft. leader to 12 ft., or your 7.5 ft. leader to 9 ft.
Switch up your fishing time. With the water and air temps cooling in the overnight hours, the fishing is not as productive in the early morning hours. Wait a few hours and hit the water around lunch or shortly after for just a few hours. This will allow the water to warm up and the fish to become more energetic and willingness to feed.
Dress in layers. The fall days offer brisk cool mornings and evenings, but can get a bit warm in the sunlight heavy hours of mid-day. Take some time to dress in layers and always have a way to keep those layers you remove dry and at the ready.
Switch up your retrieve. We usually find ourselves casting downstream and using an upstream retrieve when streamer fishing in summer and spring. But in fall, try casting upstream with a downstream retrieve, as this more accurately imitates a distressed baitfish and causes fish to instinctively chase the fly. It also helps to increase the view of fly to fish and can help you see the fish targeting your fly.
Polarized lenses. Even though the sun may not be out as long nor as bright as summer months, the polarized lenses of today’s modern fishing glasses are advantageous when trying to find structure under the water where big browns, bass, Muskie, and other predators like to lie in ambush.
Don’t underestimate the shallows. Of course there are fish in the deeper holes and pools in the fall, but the shallows hold big fish as well. The fish find these skinny waters easier to hold in as well as locate, target, and corner baitfish.