Fly fishing in Ontario in the fall means different things to different people. After the inland trout season closes, the main quarry in the great lakes region at this time of year are Steelhead rainbow trout and Brown trout. Some species of pacific salmon can also be targeted, but make up a much smaller portion of what folks are targeting in the fall. Rainbow trout follow the salmon species into the rivers each fall to gorge on eggs lost adrift in the current. Brown trout make their way into the river to spawn alongside the salmon species. Both species of trout will actively feed while in the rivers while the salmon species tend to attack certain flies out of anger and aggression. Different rivers will hold different species of salmonids. Some hold all species.
The typical method of fly fishing for all of these migratory species is nymphing. Using various insect patterns that are present in the rivers as well as various egg patterns that the fish are dropping can be a deadly effective technique of targeting these fish. Here I’ve compiled a list of my top fall/autumn flies for Steelhead and Brown trout in the great lakes region.
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Egg flies, Globugs, Yarn Flies – Eggflies are one my my go-to flies for the fall and winter season. When I’m nymphing, or fishing an indicator setup, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you’ll find a globug pattern attached to my rig somewhere. Make sure you keep a good supply of different colours and sizes of these yarn flies as water colour will dictate the colour of fly you should be using.
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Caddis Larva – Caddis larva are always in the river. It doesn’t matter what time of year, they are around and they’re abundant. Furthermore, when salmon and brown trout species are kicking up rocks while build redds to drop their eggs into, the disturbance unleashes various nymphs that otherwise remain clinging to the underside of rocks. I keep a good supply of these larva for one simple reason….they are always in the water. These migratory fish spent many months in their natal streams gobbling up countless caddis nymphs. Tie these up in green, white, brown and orange to imitate the various species out there. Hook sizes can range from size 6 all the way down to size 16, or smaller if you choose to do so. Use the larger sizes in high, dirty flows, and the smaller sizes in gin clear water.
Stonefly Nymphs – Stoneflies are another species of insect that are abundant, and active for most of the year. They’ll continue hatching throughout the fall and winter months provided water temperature meets their needs. You’ll find hatches of stoneflies occurring on days when the sun is shining, causing the water temperature to warm up just a couple of degrees. These are another staple in the diet of migratory salmonid species. Both juvenille and mature fish will actively feed on them. It’s tough for an adult rainbow or brown to turn down a juicy morsel like a fat stonefly nymph.
Wooly Buggers – The first steelhead I ever caught on the fly was on a simple black wooly bugger swung under a downed tree on the Beaver River. This fly is probably one of the most versatile flies ever created. These flies imitate anything from large nymphs, such as stoneflies and salmon flies, to leeches and even small baitfish. These flies are hard for any species to resist, and thus its probably a good idea to keep a good supply of these flies in different colours, sizes and styles.
Wigglers – Wiggler style patterns are designed to imitate a number of different insects such as mayflies and stoneflies in their nymphal stage. Tie these up in a variety of sizes and colours to suit your needs. Use larger patterns in high, dirty water and smaller, sparse patterns in clear water in early fall.