Indian summer has to come to an end at some point this fall.
In the near future, winter will, hopefully, rear its ugly head and leave fishing to the hardiest, while limiting angling opportunities to rivers whose flows are released below dams or to areas you can by drill holes in the ice for piscatorial pursuit and pleasures.
In the meantime, pleasant weather is destined to remain for the near future at least. Despite the recent snow and disappointing accumulated amounts this recently, rivers and streams have maintained good water temperatures as well as clear water quality.
That has kept our trout active and anglers will be chasing them into November this year. To add to that pleasure, flows below Buffalo Bill Dam were cut back last week, finally providing clear water in the lower Shoshone River for the first time since early June.
The reduction in flow has provided easier access to the lower Shoshone as well as to the tailwater to the south that flows below Boysen Reservoir. The lower flows generally bring an increase in aquatic insect life for the trout to binge on without fighting heavy flows while geothermal influence from hot springs keeps water temps in the low to mid 50 degree range. Both these factors are good news to anglers.
Fly fishers have taken immediate advantage of the reduced discharges below the two dams. The chance to match a hatch in the lower Shoshone and Bighorn rivers can be accomplished now that anglers can wade out a bit farther and stand in water a bit deeper. The hatches are fall caddis, aka October caddis, blue wing olives and midges. The hatches have been covered many times in this column over the years so I will not go into great detail about how easy it is to imitate these hatches with parachute Adams, parachute purple haze, olive sparkle or compara duns, Griffith’s gnats and orange elk hair caddis fly patterns.
Late October and early November also motivate brown trout to begin to actively spawn in rivers and streams throughout the Big Horn Basin and the Rocky Mountain range. While it isn’t ethical to fish over spawning trout of any species, anglers can still take advantage of the spawn as the male trout become aggressive as females become more apparent in good spawning areas of rivers.
Males are the gnarly looking, brightly colored brown trout with gaping maws that look more like they belong on alligator than a trout. Males of all species tend to become a bit testy when another male threatens their female of choice. This behavior is why large brown trout are more commonly caught using streamers than dry flies or nymphs this time of year.
As the weather becomes nastier, so does the attitude of male brown trout. Streamers that work well are those that imitate other brown trout, or egg-stealing fish like whitefish, rainbows, suckers and rainbow trout. Kelly Galloup’s Dungeon series of streamers work well, along with his Peanut Envy streamer patterns. Best color choices are black, purple, brown, brown/yellow, tan or white. These flies are articulated and average 4-7 inches in length. Flies, or streamers rather, this size are not well suited for casting with 4 or 5 weight fly rods, but more so for fly rods in the 6,7 or 8 weight range that are designed to cast large flies for distance, and to keep the anglers’ arm and shoulder from becoming worn out or strained from casting all day.
While local anglers will be focusing on the last good fishing found on freestone rivers and streams or tail waters where the brown trout action is heating up, I will be on my annual fall journey to pursue the large Lahontan cutthroat found in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, and, hopefully, finding some steelhead running the coastal rivers in northern California and Oregon. Due to my absence, there will not be another Streamside column to read until Nov. 14.
I apologize in advance should anyone express disappointment, but I have rationalized my disappearance for a few weeks this way: One cannot write about angling unless one has experienced it to the utmost.
In the meantime, my last advice, until we meet again, is to get out and enjoy the miles and miles of rivers.
If you are still water-motivated, we have plenty of lakes, ponds and reservoirs that also fish well late fall. Enjoy your time on the water and keep the tip up if you want to put one of those alligator jawed brown trout in your net!