Fishing a New River in Late Autumn

Rich, a reader, recently posted a question on one of our prior blog posts (here). He is hitting a river that is new to him and wanted some advice.

FWIW, my response is below. Everyone has a different approach, and I’d love to hear what you do when you’re targeting a new freestone river this time of year? I really enjoy hearing what other people do, as it’s a great opportunity to learn from others.

Hi Rich, unfortunately, I personally don’t know that river. Some things I would do if I hit a new river that is stocked:

  • Look at Google Maps and look for bridges. Those are usual stocking points. Look also for signs of parking along those areas. That’s a tell-tale sign that people are parking near spots that hold fish. They’re usually dirt patches near the roads. 
  • Take the water temp. or check USGS gauges for nearby rivers. I’m guessing the water will be around 45 °F, meaning that the water is warm enough for actively feeding fish. Once the water gets really cold, the trout will shut down and move to very deep and slow water to conserve energy. 
  • Given that water temp. assumption, target first the riffles: areas around big rocks, bubble lines, etc. These areas are best done via tightline nymphing but you can use an indicator, too. 
  • Really work that water thoroughly. Use the tried and true flies for this time of year: small eggs, PTs, HEs, SJWs. For the PTs and HEs, buy/tie them as small as you can, size 20 would be ideal, but size 18 could be fine. Midge larvae can also be good. In faster water, the fish will need to react quickly, and that’s in your favor. 
  • If nothing, I may then wonder if there’s not enough biomass in the water and fish then really are deep. Could be the tail out areas of pools. Then, I’d look for dark water that shows deep areas. Put on an indicator, ideally something sensitive like a NZ yarn one, and drift something very deep.

Good luck!


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