The alarm clock went off a few hours later this morning than my previous Sunday fishing trip. It was nice to have some coffee and put away the clean dishes before hitting the road. Peak colors are likely several days away, but some bright yellows and reds were emerging from the hillside forests. It was a beautiful drive, except for the speeding ticket!
As I arrive at the stream, the bright colors of the leaves first distract my attention from the stream. Japanese knotweed is a scourge within riparian areas, but the bright yellow colors are eye-catching. Recent rains only bumped up flows for a few days before they have rescinded to the low baseflows of summer. Boulders frame the paths of dark green water, with bright white foam at each plunging and constricting feature. This is my favorite time of the year to be on the water. Fewer anglers, amazing colors, and aggressive fish make fishing in the fall incredibly enjoyable.
Steeper boulder strewn streams are often described as pocket water, where small “pockets” of water are formed in front, besides, and downstream of large boulders that disrupt the flow. I was fishing a well-known tailwater stream in western Maryland that is predominantly pocket water. For several years, I was intimidated by fishing these streams as they are hard to wade and there are tight windows to cast within. Flow paths are narrow, and they rapidly change directions both laterally and longitudinally. As I was learning to fish for trout, I started by fishing indicator rigs with nymphs and dry flies. Presenting indicator rigs and dry flies as a dead drift with rapidly changing currents is very difficult, and as a beginner, I really struggled to catch trout in pocket water.
I’ve learned to contact nymph within tight windows and to better control casting for dry flies and streamers, which has enabled me to have more success. With more success and confidence, I have spent more time fishing this type of stream. Today I was struck by the beauty of these stream systems. The leaves were falling from the trees and gathering against the boulders, spreading the color from the treetops to the water. Rushing water creates soothing sounds that perpetually wash away any thoughts that get caught ruminating in my mind.
Other than frequently catching leaves on your flies, fishing on a fall day is a fantastic experience. There are fewer hatches, but Isonychia, October Caddis, and Blue Winged Olives can bring fish to rise, and some fish will still react to terrestrials for the next few weeks. It is important to avoid any redds until the spring and to avoid trying to catch fish near redds, but otherwise fall fly fishing is splendid. Get outside and enjoy the outdoors before the winter comes!