I’ve been enjoying some post-trout season pond fishing for rainbows the past few weekends. The weather has been cooperative, with some warmer than normal weekends for this time of year, although it doesn’t look like that will be continuing for much longer (I think I saw flurries in the forecast)!
Stillwater fly fishing is still relatively new to me, as is fall fly fishing for trout since I’ve usually packed up my trout gear by now. Consequently, I’ve been doing a lot of learning and experimenting lately. Most days have been productive, albeit tough at times while trying to adapt to stillwater techniques and break my normal river fishing habits. It’s certainly been a relaxing time of year to be out on the water, with the fall colours and quiet cool days.
One of the more interesting discoveries for me has been the change in feeding habits of the trout at this time of year. Most of my success in the spring and summer was had via sinking lines and bead head streamers, with the odd fish taken near the surface (usually in the evenings). Nymphs and chironomids were also successful, but fished at similar depths. I’d see the odd fish rising, but fish were definitely deeper and spotting cruising fish was a fairly rare occurrence.
In contrast, most of my success this fall has been in much shallower water – usually 2-4 feet deep and often on the surface itself. When the water is clear (i.e. when it hasn’t rained for a couple days), it’s been a lot of sight fishing, which is always fun. A bushy dry fly such as a Stimulator, cast ahead of cruising fish has been one of my more successful approaches.
Even more reliable has been unweighted, beadless Woolly Buggers. These most basic of flies have finally found their forte for me, as they’re something I’d all but given up on many years ago. I still fish the weighted bead head versions with some frequency in rivers, as they can get down to the larger fish faster and have a much more life-like action to them. However, when it comes to fishing super slow in the top couple feet of the water column, I’ve found the classic beadless versions are perfect. As an added bonus, they can be fished as dry flies with a few false casts and/or stripped in the surface film. Smaller sizes, in the range of 6-12 seem to work best in the fall.
The above fish was one of many fish taken on a dry fly. It wasn’t the biggest fish of the day though: I caught a much larger rainbow (also on a dry fly) that wouldn’t fit in my net. A fellow angler watched in laughter as I unsuccessfully tried to net it 4 times, before giving up and quickly unhooking and releasing it in the water. Apparently a larger net is going to be on the Christmas list this year.