Tips for Fall Fishing

When summer is all but over, we all eagerly wait for the first of the fall’s fish to exit the lake and enter many of the rivers. If the rivers are not already holding fish they soon will be. However, every fall is different, each season has its own challenge. I shall describe a few tips that I use for each one of the three different fish that will be running the rivers this fall. I hope that you will find something that can be helpful to you.

The first to show up is both the Coho and Chinook salmon. These salmon will start their run about the last of August to mid September as soon as the water temperature cools down.

Coho and Chinook


Fish a.m and p.m for salmon during late summer and early fall.

Early in the salmon run the water temperature will be as important as water flow. Early mornings the water will be as cool as it will get, and a few salmon will still be on the move. With these two elements combined you will get your best chance of getting a bite. Once the water temperature starts to rise, the salmon will slide into a deep pool and go to sleep. Late afternoon or evening, the water temperature will now be cooling down and once again the salmon will be starting to move.


Often the salmon like a fly that has some movement to it.

It is hard to beat a wooly bugger for a salmon fly when you dead drift it. The fly seems to walk on the river’s bottom. There is no wrong way to fish these flies. The salmon just seem to like to bite these flies. I have found that salmon will respond well when I use files with a lot of movement. You want your flies to come alive when they are fished.


If the salmon are in the pools and do not want to bite, try fishing the pocket water.

More times than not the salmon that are in the pools will shut down, and stop biting. There can be many reasons for this, such as fishing pressure and bright sunlight. The salmon that are holding in the pocket water seem to be immune to all of this and stay in a biting mood.


Do not quit too early. Take a mid day break and fish the evening.

We do not get to fish as much as we like. When we do, we have a tendency to start early and fish hard as long as we can, only to run out of steam by late afternoon. Often the salmon will be active from morning to mid-day. And then start up again towards evening. Fish on the salmon’s schedule, you will catch just as many fish.


Do not fish with too much weight. Try some sinking leaders and sink tip lines.

One of the biggest mistakes I see fishermen doing is to fish with too much weight. When you’re fishing too much weight, the files will be drag across the river bottom unnaturally. There is a tendency to foul hook salmon in the belly. Not to mention, constantly hanging on the river bottom. You want to use just enough weight to tick the bottom occasionally. In the right runs and pools, sinking leaders and sink tip lines will work just fine and are a lot more fun to cast.

Brown Trout

Some rivers have good brown trout runs, and some rivers do not. Why? Good question! I have heard many theories, but that’s all they are. By late October to November these brown trout will start to show up in their rivers. Despite the common myth, these browns are not following the salmon up river to eat the salmon’s eggs. The brown trout are on a spawning run of their own.


Brown trout love to eat eggs. Use egg files like the nuclear roe bug.

When the brown trout start there runs, the salmon will have been spawning for at least two weeks. The river bottom will be saturated with salmon eggs. It does not take long for the browns to key in on the eggs, and from then on the browns will seem to eat their way up river.


At times brown trout will seem to get tired of eating eggs, and the egg flies will not seem to work as well. When this happens, try fishing nymphs.

As much as trout seem to love to eat eggs, every once in awhile they will become a little picky. A quick fix for these picky brown trout is a well-presented nymph. I like to use a chunky nymph, such as a stonefly or a big fat hair’s ear.


Remember - these brown trout are on a spawning run of their own. The active browns will be in the rifts, not in the pools.

The browns that are located in the pools will for the most part be inactive. These browns may be exhausted from spawning or running up river or spooked. Move up into the rifts and the few browns here will be in a biting mood. These fish are very active.


Fall brown trout fishing can provide great sight fishing. Do not leave your glasses behind.

Of the three lake run fish, the brown trout provide the best sight fishing. Most of the time the brown’s rivers are running a little low and clear. Plus, most of the time the active brown’s are in the shallow fast moving water, which is excellent sight fishing conditions.


When fishing for brown trout mid to late November watch the water temperature.

Brown trout are very sensitive to changes in water temperature. Three-degree change will have a significant affect on the behavior of browns. Once late fall rolls around the water temperature will starts to fluctuate several degrees daily. Falling temperatures will shut the river down. Just the opposite, rising water temperature will wake up a river. Pay attention to the water temperature, and plan the day accordingly.


Every one who fishes the tributaries gets excited when the steelhead start to show up in the rivers. These fish are the stars of the fall runs.


Early steelhead fishing is probably best done with a swinging fly.

There are two really good reasons for fishing a swinging fly. First, there is not all that many steelhead in the river early in the fall. Fishing a swinging fly will allow you to cover a lot of river fast to find the few steelhead that are in the river at this time. The second is with the warmer water temperature; the steelhead will move a long way for a fly.


In rivers where there is salmon spawning, fish egg flies.

It is amazing how fast a steelhead will lose interest in a swinging fly. One day you are catching them on a swinging fly, the next day, the salmon have started to spawn and all that the steelhead will want is eggs.


Fish the heads of the pools and the runs.

Fall steelhead will often be found holding in the head of pools and runs. The fast moving water will give these fish a little overhead cover. But, the main reason for the steelhead to be holding in these spots is the stray eggs from spawning salmon that will be funneled through these spots. The few steelhead that may be sitting in the slow deep pools are normally inactive. For the time it would take to fish out these spots it is not worth the time to try to get a sleepy fish to bite.


When the steelhead are keying in on eggs try high sticking or fishing with an indicator.

A well drifted egg fly will quickly get an egg eating steelheads attention. The best way to drift egg patterns is to dead drift, and this is where these two styles of presentation are effective.


Fall steelhead are explosive when hooked. Fish with a light drag.

Once hooked, fall steelhead have a tendency to explode. I like to say, if you can stay hooked up for the fist two minutes, you stand a good chance of landing that fish. steelhead move so fast that a tight drag will only help that fish to tear the hook out. Keep that drag set light for the early part of the fight.

I hope you find a tip or two helpful, as I have said many times. It all comes down to one thing, presentation.