The states in the northeast consistently have the best trout streams in the country. Many of the best trout fishing locations in states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are hammered during the spring. Major hatches fill these streams from late March until May and anglers know it. The fall, however, often gets forgotten.
Fall trout fishing on these same limestone and freestone streams can still be legendary even during the fall months. What changes between the seasons? Fishing pressure decreases in the fall due to fewer hatches and hunting season beginning. Fly fishing for trout now can spotlight how great trout fishing is in the northeast and how advanced your angler skills are.
How Summer Makes for Better Fall Trout Fishing
Summer trout fishing is usually limited. Warm, low waters in freestone creeks make it hard for trout to survive, let alone bite a fly. Natural spring-fed creeks are about the only places that will sustain trout during the summer. Even these places become unfishable during extreme heat waves and drought conditions. The bottom line, trout shut down and just try to survive during the summer.
How does this relate to fall trout fishing? Fall months bring with it cooler nights and increased precipitation. The streams start to fill back up and more importantly cool down starting in September. Trout are reinvigorated during this transition and immediately begin to eat. Trout are less choosy and will opt to swallow your fly more times than not.
Unpacking Fall Trout Fishing Locations in the Northeast
Fly fishing anglers in the northeast have two choices; spring or freestone streams. Each has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to fly fishing for trout this time of year.
- Spring Creeks – Spring-fed creeks maintain consistent water temperatures throughout the year. They also typically have a more robust and healthier forage base.
- Advantages – Trout tend to be larger and fall fly hatches are dependable.
- Disadvantages – Trout have been actively feeding most of the summer making them more finicky to catch.
- Freestone Creeks – These creeks rely on rain and snowmelt to sustain flows during the year. Summer in these waters forces trout into pure survival mode until fall rains and cooler temperatures make conditions more suitable for them.
- Advantages – Trout move to predictable areas like riffles and near feeder streams in early fall and then move to deeper pools towards October. Also, trout will be feeding more vigorously because of the summer shutdown.
- Disadvantages – Fall hatches are sparse in freestone streams.
Fly Fishing Techniques for Fall Trout
Not unlike fly fishing in the spring, your presentation and fly selection are two important techniques in the fall. Trout are smart, as we all know. Light tippet and stealthy casts are the only way to trick a fall trout into biting. Bowed lines or improper drifts will reduce hook up ratios even with hungry trout.
Fly fishing anglers can get away with three main flies. There may be times in spring creeks where you run into some heavy fall fly hatches and additional trout fly fishing flies are required. But for the most part, you can fly fish for northeast trout with these three.
- Terrestrials – Trout have lived on terrestrials throughout the summer, so they are used to feeding on ants and beetles. Fish these in spring creeks along undercut banks and down riffles in larger freestone streams.
- Blue-winged Olives (BWO) – BWOs are a fall staple and one of the few hatches you can rely on. Typically, warmer parts of cooler days produce the best hatches and trout will key in on these from large, slow-moving pools.
- Streamers – Wooly buggers, Clouser minnows, and sculpins can be fished all day long in the fall. These minnow imitators will usually bring large trout out to bite when fished in the current or along banks.
Don’t forget about fall when it comes to fly fishing for trout in the northeast. These cooler months after a hot summer can produce some of the best action of the year. Take advantage of the reduced fishing pressure and hungry trout and hit the water for some fall trout fishing in the northeast.