By: Reed Ryan
Sometimes I wish that Punxsutawney Phil would consider his shadow's effect on the enduring nature of fall. In his absence though, we can rely on science and the Climate Prediction Center, which is calling for an extended fall season with above average temperatures and below average precipitation forecasted. A slow-roll into winter means consistent morning midges, midday blue-winged olives, and extended red quills. The Copper Haze has been the dry fly of the season and we have been throwing it consistently from the PMD hatches of June all the way through the red quills this fall. Allen's Thunder Bug and the Double Down Pheasant Tail have been the best red quill nymphs as of late.
A few "minor" hatches to be on the lookout for are the Pale Evening Dun, Flav, and the October Caddis. The Pale Evening Dun looks like a super-sized PMD--extremely yellow and a size 10. In my experience, they are more important to the nymph angler because of how inconsistent they are, but I have found that on rainy days these guys can hatch in abundance in the fall and fish will look for them on top. Charlie Schmidt's TDJ golden is a great nymph pattern for these guys and a golden Parachute Hopper can do double duty for you on the surface. The Flav looks like a mottled drake and hatches with a little more abundance than the Pale Evening Dun. We generally run a pheasant tail to imitate this and various #12-14 parachutes like aforementioned Copper Haze for surface eats. October Caddis is pretty rare for us but can be something to try on the surface, especially in the early mornings. A size 10 Elk hair in orange is the way to go here. It is a great way to fish a light dry dropper with a beadhead midge or baetis in the morning like a zebra midge or even a tungsten RS2.
Now on to the main entomological event of the fall. Baetis. Olives. Blue-Winged Olives. BWOs. Whatever you call them, they are important and the fish feed voraciously on them as they are the swan song of the bug season.
We all look forward to the fall streamer bite and obviously conventional wisdom of crappy weather begets great streamer fishing is in play. However, with the turbidity on the upper Colorado in question at times due to CPW river work in the Breeze Unit, don't discount having an awesome streamer day in the sun, especially when turbidity readings are cringy (see I can talk like the kids!) White blondies and White/Olive Barely Legals are some shop favorites.
As October rolls on, the brown trout spawn will gain traction and it is important to remember to stear clear of brown trout redds and not specifically target spawning fish. Some of our higher elevation streams are already showing signs of the brown trout spawn and so this is the time of year we start to move lower in elevation to chase hatch intensity but also keep on browns that are pre-spawn. Another good tactic is to fish watersheds with a higher concentration of rainbow trout, like the Eagle, lower Colorado Rivers, Blue, or Roaring Fork rivers. Have a great fall remember that now is the time to get your new waders so you head into winter without pinhole leaks!