As water temperatures drop below 70 degrees this coming week, trout and landlock fishing picks up for fly rodders and spin casters. The closer the thermometer gets to 60 to 63, the faster the action gets, and often in central Maine that golden time begins during the third week of September. And surely waters have cooled up north.
This week, micro-hatches of mayflies such as blue-winged olives in sizes 20 to 24 and light Cahills in the same sizes dominate in many rivers and large streams. The subimago (dun) stage of these tiny aquatic insects are small all right, and a size 24 matches the dimensions of a mosquito.
Blue-winged olive mayflies hatch at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., depending on genera and species, and the emergence each day lasts for as little as 15 minutes to over two hours. Classic Catskill dry flies, Compara-duns, Variants and thorax-patterns in a Blue-winged Olive (BWO) dry-fly work during the hatch, and I like any of these dries to float on the surface in a dead drift at exactly the same speed as the current.
For BWO hatches, I lean toward Compara-duns and match this design in three criteria: 1) Exact same size as natural; 2) perfect color scheme for body, wings, legs and tail; and 3) right silhouette. On top of that, Compara-duns float like corks and are durable. A fly that matches the natural and drifts naturally on the meniscus will catch salmonids.
Micro Light Cahills emerge for much longer each day than BWOs, and these little cream mayflies hatch for six or more hours. In Maine, we have lots of cream mayflies in different genera and species.
When caddis are hatching, I often key on the color of the body and match that part of the anatomy perfectly. This month, species with the following body colors are emerging — olive, tan, golden, black or gray.
Elk Hair Caddis rank as my favorite pattern in caddis hatches, and don’t be afraid to cast these dry flies downstream and quartering across, submerge them and strip the fly back beneath the surface to resemble a hatching caddis swimming to the top. Also, fish Elk Hair Caddis dead-drift on the surface, depending on what the natural bug is doing — swimming underwater or drifting on top.
During caddis hatches, I also like Lafontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa (LDSP). When salmonids key on LDSPs deep beneath the surface, matching the bulbous body color of the natural can fool picky trout. The veil on the bottom and back of the LDSP — tied with trilobal Antron yarn — traps air bubbles in the fiber to resemble a natural bug that also has air bubbles.
When mayflies (or caddisflies) aren’t hatching in a river or large stream that holds brook trout and landlocked salmon, I often fish a Slaymaker’s Little Brook Trout tied on a size 4, 6x-long hook to match juvenile brookies in the drainage — a large, attractive offering.
In a water with brown trout, a Slaymaker’s Little Brown Trout tied on a size 4, 6x-long hook works for me, and in rainbow-trout places, a Slaymaker’s Little Rainbow Trout on the same size hook fools the big boys. But don’t be afraid to try these bucktails on smaller hooks.
Huge dark nymphs tied on size 4, 6x- or even 8x-long hooks work in fall, too. These are simple patterns to tie. Two biots black or dark brown biots form the tail, and the body starts off at the hook’s bend in a small diameter. It gets fatter as the thorax nears the hook eye.
The body has palmering, a collar and gold, silver or copper wire. Black or dark-brown dubbing works with the palmering matching the body color.
Peacock herl makes an appealing body, particularly with grizzly palmering over the herl. Grizzly over any color appeals big time to trout, though.
Weighted lead or nontoxic wire beneath the body material gets this fly near bottom, when salmonids glue their chins to bottom. I like weighted flies for bottom-dredging, because deep presentations often catch trout.
For fall fishing, I often have two rods in my vehicle — a 4- to 5-weight to cast micro flies and an 8-weight to cast huge, weighted nymphs tied on No. 4, 6x or 8x long hooks.
Fast fishing at times, brilliant fall foliage, no biting bugs and cool temperatures make this a delightful time for salmonid fishing, a great way to end the season before a long winter.
For fall outings, I love to include a picnic — baked chicken, Brie, crusty French bread, fresh cherries, Perrier water and real French Chablis. That’s paradise — particularly if salmonids have strapped on the feedbag. Good fishing, superb meal and companionship add up to a good life.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at: