Early fall fishing can cause some excitement

August 29, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

September is a transitional month in many ways.

You can call it late summer or early fall, but either way, it is moving into autumn with shorter days and the first cool nights of the season.

From an outdoor sports point of view, the arrival of September means that the early birds seasons - doves and resident geese - are here, and it also means that some fishing opportunities unique to this time period are about to arrive.

The late summer fishing is different from the rest of the year. If you are a bass fisherman, you'll find the fish respond by moving to more shallow areas, where they are easier to catch.


When the school season begins, the reduction in recreational boat traffic helps keep the game fish in more shallow areas.

River fishing for smallmouth bass usually picks up in September.

The cooling water temperatures seem to trigger increased feeding interest in the fish. Things vary year to year, but typical September conditions mean some of the lowest - and clearest - water levels of the year. The fish can be spooky and hard to approach under such conditions.

One of the best aspects of September smallmouth fishing is that the fish show an increased interest in topwater lures and fly rod poppers. I haven't met a fisherman yet that would not prefer to catch fish on topwater when the fishing is good.

Trout fishermen can also get into the act in the fall. Most of the interest will be in the annual fall stocking of trout, but a lot of streams offer plenty of "holdover" fish from the spring stockings. The special regulation streams have good populations of fish throughout the year.

There are two specific trout fishing opportunities that are unique to the late summer or early fall in this area. Probably the most exciting is fishing meadow streams with grasshopper flies. It's the closest thing to bass bugging that you will find in dry fly fishing for trout.

Hopper fishing is a big deal on the western trout rivers, but we also have some very good local fishing using hopper patterns.

Mike Lawson showed the right way to fish hoppers many years ago on the Madison River in Montana.

Nothing delicate about this approach. You want to "splat" the fly down very near the shore, and then give the fly a little twitch with the line hand. You then let it dead drift, just like a real hopper.

Trout - even selective trout - really respond to a big ol' hopper hitting the water, and the strikes are explosive. Try it, you will be hooked.

The other fall trout fishing opportunity that is common to most of our streams is the hatch of certain mayflies in September and October.

Most of the flies are from the baetis family, if you are into the entomology. But for fishing purposes, they are blue-winged olives or olives. The sizes range from Nos. 16-22.

The hatches are often very heavy and consistent well into cold weather. Some of the streams I fish have the hatches occur in mid-morning, while others occur in the afternoon. The fish really respond to the flies when they are present, and on most streams you will have very little company as compared to the spring season.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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