Freshwater: Autumn Trout Tactics - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Autumn Trout Tactics

The blaze of fall foliage is only amplified by the brilliant hues of an autumn rainbow.

By bait, lure or fly, we’re in prime time for trout action.

No doubt the most glorious time on the calendar coincides with prime trout fishing opportunities as many states in the Northeast have autumn stocking programs that take place in October, some of which extend through November and into December. These include streams and rivers, lakes and ponds, and not only provide excellent angling from the get go, but, as per those fish that aren’t caught, also serve as a holdover base for shots at trout when the snow flies and safe ice shrouds the still waters.

The trout, and their respective sizes, being stocked vary from state to state. Rainbows dominate, but there are also browns and goldens (palamino rainbows) in the mix.  Predicated on the moving or still water, the autumn stocking numbers are bolstered by those trout which survived the springtime onslaught, the low flows and warmer water temperatures of summer, and are still around, bigger and wiser.

Not to be forgotten are the wild ones – and the natives. In the Northeast, the former are browns and rainbows, albeit from hatchery antecedents, that have been spawned and reached maturity in a river, stream or brook. “Native” in northeastern states fisheries parlance, means brook trout which are especially aggressive during their October/November spawning period and offer a break from the sometimes crowded weekend stream scenarios of late summer.

This is a fun time for the bait, hardware and the fly enthusiast, rivaling the month of May when it comes to ideal water temperatures and hungry trout.  Sure, there will be the time when the salmonids could prove finicky, but overall, it will likely prove, on a short term basis, the most productive trout fishing time of the entire calendar year.


The adage “They don’t hesitate when you show ‘em the bait,” certainly holds true.  However, as with the other two pursuits, there are times when the fish will prefer one offering over another. In streams and rivers, salmon eggs, and their variants, such as Berkley Gulp! Eggs and PowerBait Eggs, are limit makers, plain and simple. Rainbows and browns have genetic affinity for spawn and will key on them during the fall season. Natural, garlic, shrimp, corn or cheese scented, they’ll get inhaled. Ditto the Berkley egg duo. Garden worms, mealworms, particularly the giant variety, and waxworms are greedily ingested. Should there be holdover trout, browns in particular, opt for a live, meaty fathead minnow; a guaranteed crush.

In lower flows – as is looks like this year – keep the main line or leader, to 4-pound test at the top end, with 2-pound even better. In still waters, the Berkley PowerBait and Gulp! Dough and Nugget baits are limit makers. The M&M, a meal worm and mini marshmallow combo, on a slip sinker rig as with the Berkley doughs, is a trout catching godzilla. A garden worm, salmon egg, fathead or a couple of kernels of corn under a bobber will also be nailed by still water cruisers.


Spinners, spoons, downsized plugs, or the jigs such as the Trout Magnet, and Mr. Twister Nymph and Micro Craw on a 1/32 or 1/16 ounce jig head, are staples when it comes to bending rods. The one problem with the spinners, plugs and spoons, especially when the leaf drop is underway, is the inevitable snagging on the retrieve. This can be remedied to a significant degree by cutting off one, if not to, of the hooks on the treble(s), and mashing the barb on the remaining metal.

The Mepps Black Fury and Aglia, the Rooster Tail, CP Swing, Rooster Tail and Panther Martin are the spinner standards. The Phoebe and Mepps Little Wolf rule when it comes to spoons. The Rapala Minnow, Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnow and Aile Goby plugs will draw as many strikes from aggressive fall trout. These are all most effective on a quartering across and retrieve on the down play. Spoons are the choice in lakes and ponds.


Oh, this is fun time with cricket, beetle, ant, bee and grasshopper patterns. Some wild surface stuff happening with the terrestrial intrusions. Dries such as the Humpy and Elk Hair Caddis will also draw topside takes. Wets and nymphs work wonders after an autumn rain, with the Black Gnat, White Miller, and Leadwing Coachman wets and the Pheasant Tail and Prince nymphs the basics for success.

Opt for streamers when hunting the bigger fish; the black, olive and purple Woolly Buggers are brown and bow blasters.


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