Commonly known to as the “spring olive”, Baetis rhodani often treats us to a spectacular show during the closing weeks. Equally, late season black gnats might be smaller than their larger spring cousins but what they lack in size they more than make up for in numbers. Given a few warm, balmy days, which are rumoured to occur even in the north, flying ants are certain to feature too. Throw in all manner of beetles and aware that the hardships of spawning are just around the corner, trout now feed in earnest, providing us the prime opportunities with a carefully presented dry fly
With the first frost imminent and heavy overnight dew, sport usually reverts back to office hours. However, if blessed with an Indian summer, activity may well stretch to dusk. Late morning and the first fish can be found dimpling. Along with any newly hatched duns the cause may be the remnants of yesterday’s activity when spinners and terrestrials are washed into quieter parts of the river. Tight against the bank or in slack water, trout will feed greedily on this residue. Look for shady, undisturbed areas and gently slip into the water. I prefer some place where there’s depth close in. Here the trout feel quite safe and tend not to be so edgy. With patience and careful casting it’s possible to winkle out a couple of nice fish before the main event kicks off.
As the day wears on, hopefully any hatch will intensify. Head to open water now, riffles and shallow runs should be your first call. Trout and grayling know that nymphs thrive in such areas and will be on station, waiting to harvest both ascending and hatching flies. Following favourable conditions, come the afternoon the rise will be in full swing. As duns accumulate, fish often drop back to the smoother water, leisurely picking off stragglers. This is especially the case with grayling when a shoal may occupy you for some time.
Despite the masses of land borne flies, seldom do fish exhibit a preference for any specific insect. Now, they can’t afford to be too fussy, even when flying ants litter the surface. Black-headed gulls squabbling overhead usually means an ant fall is imminent. Whatever your view on these industrious creatures, one thing’s for certain, their presence excites trout beyond belief. Fortunately, many rural areas have flourishing ant colonies. Taking to the wing from August onwards, a fall of these can be notoriously hard to predict. Yet when they do take flight, fishing is nothing short of spectacular.
Obviously, an appropriate pattern should be knotted on without hesitation. However, one fly that produces consistently for ant feeders is a Griffith’s gnat. I learnt this through my own forgetfulness, leaving the terrestrial box in the car boot one day. A generic pattern the Griffith’s gnat fulfils other roles during these dying days. Not only is it a fair representation of other small beasties blown on to the surface, in smaller sizes you couldn’t ask for a better midge imitation. More apparent on our rivers now these diminutive flies are best imitated with size 20-26 dressings. If a Griffith’s gnat fails to turn the heads of feeding trout then a tiny ‘F’ fly should be your second choice.
A whole host of other creepy-crawlies inevitable find their way onto the water during autumn, either from losing a precious foot hold or hanging on to falling leafs for far too long! Quivering and kicking they are quickly filtered into feeding lanes. Such corridors are easily recognised by foam lines and the formation of other debris. Watch where the first of the autumn leafs fall and gather, this is where your fly should be drifting. In the absence of rising fish, targeting these areas can still pay dividends. Its’ surprising how many fish have an eye on the surface, watching for a tasty tit-bit.
Clearly, long leaders will give you a distinct advantage where spooky fish are concerned, though prevailing weather conditions will have some say in the matter. In a breeze, shorter leaders are clearly easier to manage. The same goes for pitching a fly under bank side obstructions or where accuracy is paramount. As a guide start with an overall leader length of some 14ft and take it from there. Where room permits, lengthen this to 16ft and try to introduce slack by means of a presentation cast. Coupled with a downstream approach even the wisest of fish are vulnerable to such tactics.
NB: Paul provides first class guiding, fly casting & fly fishing tuition to all levels and abilities. Paul also specialises in hosted trips to destinations Worldwide. Targeting species such as wild brown trout and grayling coupled with trips to exotic locations in search of bonefish, tarpon and permit, Paul has a diverse fishing repertoire. Carefully selecting venues that offer great accommodation, food and local guides, Paul takes into account prolific hatches and the optimum seasons. Such destinations include: Poland, Slovenia, Iceland, Bosnia, Mexico & New Zealand
All images within this article have been supplied by Paul Procter ©