by Jason Brooks, October 06, 2017
Fall is often a time when anglers are busy concentrating on our various salmon species in local rivers and salt water but for those that don’t care to fight the crowds or don’t have a way to access the salmon waters then look to some great trout fishing instead. With the lowland lakes general season closing at the end of the month it will be your last opportunity to target some of the most productive lakes the state has to offer. The planter rainbows from last Spring will have put on length and girth as well as figured out the food base for the lake. This means you will need to change up your fishing techniques a bit.
Since the fish are no longer hanging out near the surface or the stocking area you might find it a bit harder to catch them. In reality it is still easy to get them to bite, you just need to find where they are so you can offer them something they want to eat or attack. Trolling is your best bet but it doesn’t have to involve downriggers, sonar units, GPS plotters or other “high tech” accessories like those that are used out salmon fishing in the ocean. The key to finding the fish is to remember that trout are affected by the water temperature and our warm Fall days followed by cool nights varies the water temperature more so than in the Summer. It is much like the Spring when the same conditions are occurring. In the early morning and evening hours the fish will still be up towards the surface, both for bug activity as well as warmer water temperature. As the bright sunlight of the mid-day sun hits the surface the fish will go a little bit deeper, to get away from predators as well as stay in a moderate temperature. If you do have a sonar unit that can show you the thermocline, then use this for the mid-day fishing and concentrate on that depth.
Trolling is one of the most productive ways to find fish in a lake. A basic tolling set-up is a 3 or 4 blade “Flash Lite’s” gang troll by Mack’s Lure trailed by a Double Whammy Smile Blade Wedding Ring Spinner tipped with a piece of worm will help you find fish. Put a ½ ounce or a 1-ounce banana weight sinker in front and slowly troll along until you get bit. Another set-up is to use the free slider by Yakima Bait Company but modify it a bit by adding a small pinch release to the front of the slider. Then attach a one-ounce cannonball weight to the slider. From the mainline tie a leader trailing behind a swivel.
A black, brown, or olive green Rooster Tail spinner, or even a whooly bugger fly is great for this set-up. Then let the line out about twenty feet while holding onto the slider. Use the pinch release to secure the slider on the mainline and then drop it to your desired depth. This allows you to fish a small lure or fly with a weight to get it down to your desired depth but the weight won’t affect or scare off the fish. When a fish gets hooked a small yank on the mainline will cause it to come free of the pinch release and now you are fighting the fish with the slider back in its original free-sliding condition. Buzz Ramsey taught me this trick while out Spring Chinook fishing last year and it works great for trout and kokanee anglers who don’t have downriggers.
Now that you found a fish it is important to concentrate on that part of the lake. Circle back around and keep trolling in the same area. Making a figure eight pattern also keeps you in the fish. Watch the clock though, as once the bite “turns off” it could be something as simple as the fish moved depths due to the sun or water temperature.
Bait anglers also do well, but unlike in the opening week of the Spring season, the fish are not all congregated around the stocking area. Since they are spread out a little bit don’t expect a “hot bite” to occur. One of the best things you can do if you prefer to use bait is to increase your leader length to at least 48 inches. This is because the weeds have had all summer to grow and you need that bait to get above them. Another option is to use a slip-bobber. This allows you to adjust the depth of your bait. Make sure to put a weight below the hooks if you are using a floating bait such as Powerbait.
Using scents is probably the most under-utilized techniques for trout anglers. Those that fish for steelhead use scents all the time but we tend to forget that a steelhead and a rainbow trout are the same fish. By using scent you can attract the fish to you as well as cover up unwanted scents that you transferred to your bait or lures that are undesirable to fish. Just like in Winter steelhead fishing some of the same popular scents work for Fall trout fishing. When fishing lures it is best to use “sauces” or gels as they tend to stick on the metal or plastic much better and you don’t need to reapply as often. Bait oils are a good “all-around” and can be used on baits, lures, and some fly’s. If you are using a delicate fly, such as a whooly bugger that has a marabou tail or a hackle then make sure to use the water soluble oils so they don’t ruin the fly or it’s action. Popular scents that are extremely productive are Pro-Cure’s Bloody Tuna, Trophy Trout, Sweet Corn, and Nightcrawler.
Fly anglers know that the Fall is a prime time to head to a lake. Trout are used to eating aquatic insects and have adjusted their feeding from the hatchery pellets rained down from heaven to the various insects in the lake as well as those flying above. For early mornings try a moderate to slow sinking line and fish wet flies. Small streamers, leaches, and whooly buggers are fun to strip in but the choronimids, pheasant tail nymphs, and hare’s ears can be more productive. Mid-day the air temperature warms up and a daily dry fly hatch occurs. Most of the bugs are small so try a mosquito, Adams, and duns but be on the look-out for a few damselflies and be ready to switch out to them for an exciting fishery when the hatch occurs. Work the cover near any edge or cattails with a grasshopper or madam-x for larger trout.
One of the greatest things about Fall trout fishing is the lack of other anglers on the water. Our days can be very pleasant with mild temperatures. There is no need to rush to the boat ramp and even the summertime jet-skiers and pleasure boats are gone. The trout are still there and since they have had several months in the lake to change their diet you will notice they taste much better. The fish are bigger and tend to bite better when it comes to fly-fishing. So if you prefer to use a fly rod then grab your float tube or small car-topper boat and head to a local lake. We only have until the end of the month for some of the best local lakes fishing.