Go Small for Fall

Are we talking about fall fly fishing already? Yep. It may be the dog days of August, but that school calendar looms large in the future for the tweens, college bros, and all the other school type people who’ve been living in bliss for the last few months and it’s time to talk fall before the school clothes get dirtied. We’ll ease into fall with one solid tip that can be used right now, what with the tricos coming off on the lower Clark Fork and the rest of the mayfly hatches trending toward the tiny: Go Small for Fall. Size down your flies. Get the longer leaders out, and the tiny tippet.

Teensy, weensy, tricos gon’ get them fish you don’t. So size it down, dummy. 

Why Go Small for Fall?
Why? Well, lets get nerdy for a minute and bust out the kick net and collect some benthic macroinvertebrates like the cool fly anglers we are. This might be the part where you say, “Buh buh… But I don’t know what a benthic macro invertebrate is, and the only net I got is for hella big fish I catch on streamers bro!”
Well, that’s just great. Fear not. We’ll get you there.
A benthic macroinvertebrate is a bottom dwelling (benthic) wide-range (macro) animal without a backbone (invertebrate). Things like snails, aquatic larvae, amphipods like scuds and sowbugs, crayfish, they’re all invertebrates. Now for the kick net thingy:  A kick net is a simple mesh net that you can use to collect them in a river.

A biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game uses a kick net to monitor stream health
in this photo from Fishbio.com, an online journal of fisheries research, monitoring, and conservation. 

I know it’s the last thing most fly anglers do these days, but taking a streamside sampling with a kick net is still bar none one of the most beneficial things you can do when you hit the river. For those true legends of fly tying and river etymology – guys like Gary Lafontaine and Rick Hafele, taking samples with a kick net every time they went fishing was standard procedure. That kind of dedication to learning what was hatching and happening on the river has gone by the wayside, but it shouldn’t have.   Using a kick net is a relatively impact-free way to check out the diverse world of fish food at any given moment. Don’t want to carry a huge kick net in your sling pack? Get yourself a cheap aquarium net and you’re in business. Stick it in the water, kick up some rocks and debris upstream, and see what you come out with. If it’s fall, you’ll see an abundance of small bugs, and a handful of larger offerings such as immature stonefly nymphs and larger caddis larvae. Lucky you, you’ve got an idea of what is on the menu for the fish that day. See? Easy, informative, and flat out it will make you a better angler to know your bugs. And to know your bugs, you gotta catch bugs, not just fish.
Lecture over.

My Advice
Go small for fall. Do it. It’s easy advice that will stick in your head, but often when the size 12s and 14s won’t work, the size 16s and 18s will. Simply because as the fall wanes on, the size of the bugs hatching tapers off. Why am I telling you this now? Because it’s time to tie the tiny stuff you neglected to tie all winter, that’s why. It may seem like gangbusters on the foam bugs right now, and yes, you’ve still got plenty of hoppertunites left, a beetle or ant pattern will still stick fish real good like, but very soon if you want that selective sipper in the back eddy with a grudge on his shoulders from that one time he ate the chubby back in June and a belly full of tricos and baetidae, you’re gonna need a smaller fly. And a bigger net. And a kick net. (That last sentence really took the wind out of that paragraph, didn’t it? Shoot. But no one ever said subtlety was my strong suit.)

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