Fall is a time of transition, and with those transitions come a variety of options for outdoor enthusiasts. Hunting becomes foremost for many folks as the early seasons for doves and Canada geese are already underway, and the popular archery deer season is now less than a week away.
As tempting as all those hunting prospects can be, however, many of us aren't ready to put away our fishing tackle just yet either because the cooler days of autumn bring with them some great fishing opportunities as well.
Bass tend to go on feeding sprees during the early weeks of fall, probably to put on some extra weight before winter sets in, and that situation applies to both river smallmouths as well as lake-dwelling largemouths. But trout fishing generally gets the biggest boost with the approach of autumn. Trout, of course, are cold-water fish and therefore respond favorably to the cooler water temperatures that occur during the fall.
In the fall, the best trout fishing will be found on streams that harbor ample populations of wild trout or stocked streams that maintain good numbers of holdover fish. Here in our region, we are blessed with many such trout waters. In addition to those resources, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will also stock selected streams and lakes to provide additional fall fishing opportunities.
In our area, the Delayed Harvest sections of the Little Juniata River near Bellwood, Chest Creek near Patton and Black Moshannon Creek in Centre County along with Canoe Creek Lake are scheduled to be stocked on Oct. 1. Duman Lake and Lake Rowena in Cambria County will be stocked on Oct. 3, and Poe Lake in Centre County will be stocked on Oct. 5. Check the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, www.fishandboat.com, for a complete listing of fall stockings scheduled throughout the state.
As good as fall trout fishing can be, it also presents a special set of challenges. Right now, most of the streams in our area are low and clear, and unless we receive a major rain event in the next couple of weeks, those conditions are likely to persist, making the trout extra spooky in general.
Also keep in mind that all those fish have spent the spring and summer becoming educated at evading anglers and their offerings, so treat them with an extra measure of respect and stealth.
On smaller streams, stay out of the water as much as possible. On larger streams, wade carefully and slowly to create minimal disturbance. Scaring away your quarry before you have the chance to make your first cast will guarantee failure.
Fly-fishermen enjoy a variety of insect hatches that can produce excellent dry-fly fishing during the fall. Many streams will see several species of caddisflies emerging over the next couple of months.
Look for this activity primarily in mid-morning or late afternoon, but unlike during the spring, hatching times can vary widely during the fall.
To be prepared for fall caddis, I like to carry a range of caddis patterns in cream, tan and brown in sizes 12 through 16. And even when no bugs are hatching, a high-floating caddis imitation will often work well just by fishing the water.
Slate drakes are another great fall hatch on streams that harbor these large gray mayflies, such as the Little Juniata River.
Unlike many species of mayflies that emerge on the water's surface in midstream, slate drake nymphs migrate to shallow water and crawl out onto rocks, logs or other stream side objects to hatch.
Therefore, a hatch of slate drakes often doesn't produce great numbers of rising fish compared to other mayflies. Trout will key on the large dark-colored slate drake nymphs, however, as they swim to the shallows to hatch.
When faced with this situation, fishing a slate drake nymph imitation downstream and allowing it to swing toward shore can draw some vicious strikes.
Remember that the extended trout season in now in effect, so the daily limit of trout is reduced from five to three.
The extended season applies only to Approved Trout Waters and some special regulation areas, so no trout may be killed on wild trout streams. For complete information about specific regulations on various waterways, consult the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary booklet.