It’s been four years since I started regularly fly fishing for trout. The handful of times I picked up my dad’s fly rod and caught panfish as a kid don’t count. Every time I fish, I learn something new. Sometimes I learn many new things. And sometimes I learn them the hard way.
On a recent trip, a few lessons were learned. Here they are.
1. Fall is and always will be the best time to fish. Activity picks up as the weather cools down and with it, river temperature. Browns and brookies become more colorful. Water is usually low, but crystal clear. Many, many different hatches happen–olives, PMDs, caddis, midges, etc. And as frost hits, mosquitos die. I like when mosquitos die.
2. Brook trout will always be my favorite trout to catch. They’re just so pretty this time of year and they’ve always got a fight in them. Unlike brown trout in the US that were actually stocked from Europe, brook trout are native fish. When you can catch a native fish in it’s home waters, it’s a blissful reminder of nature before the involvement of man.
3. Clear water is good for spotting fish, (and fish spotting you.) The aforementioned fall river condition makes for a few challenges and advantages. On one hand, clear water allows fish to see your fly, but on the other side, if you’re not fishing exactly what the fish are feeding on, those pea-brained trout can tell and snub your bugs. It’s also nice to see the big browns rolling around and feeding in deep pools. Not like it’s easy to catch them, but still good to know they’re around.
4. Beer stays cooler for longer. Cold beer just tastes better. No further explanation required.
5. Make sure your headlamp is charged before you head to the river. (I don’t have a picture because it was dark and I had to use my phone for survival.) ‘Round these parts, days get shorter real quick and with the steep valley walls that easily hide the sun, you can find yourself in darkness before you know it. And then when you have to walk back to the car on a wooded, nettle-lined trail, you need to use your cell phone light and lose the trail repeatedly while you have to alternate hands that hold your reel because you need a free hand to itch those fucking nettles in the fucking dark while you just lost the fucking trail again.
The longer you fly fish, the better you get, but it never gets easier. Lessons learned along the way help you see both sides of that coin.