Autumn always brings us visions of hungry trout leisurely rising to the water's surface for offerings of caddis, mayflies, beetles, ants and hoppers, The nose of that trout creates ripples and a split second sense of anticipation just before the fly disappears into a gaping set of jaws. But, this is not always the reality that we are faced with. When that fish does not leisurely rise to your fly...cast after cast...are you good enough to break away from traditional autumn tendencies in exchange for catching more fish?
This is a conversation we had recently with a small group of anglers fishing the driftless region of Minnesota. A spring fed trout stream in very rural coulee country was the destination. What awaited anglers was clear and skinny water, spooky fish, and an abundance of insect life offering temptations for topwater presentations. A few fish fell to the dry (driftless caddis) dropper (tungteaser) in pockets and seams. Slow stretches were not nearly as approachable. Fish would dart under curly leaf pondweed and under cut banks when the most delicate of presentations were perfectly put in place. Hole hopping became the goal, and fish became harder to come by as the mid morning sun advanced. Deep holes, seams and pockets held who knows how many fish...only attainable by a fast sinking presentation afforded by a nymph rig and bobber setup. We want to believe that terrestrials and dries will rule these beautiful days in the driftless, but that does not always become reality. Do you have what it takes to fish deep? Or do you stick to your guns and find fish willing to take your bug? On this day, we were willing to change things up. As soon as we did, the fish were caught with consistency. A deep diving tungteaser immitated the numerous caddis pupae present in this fertile system. Ravenous takes jolted the glorified bobber, and ferocious brown trout dove for underwater logs, rocks, and unattainable safety. It was a great day of fishing for all, and would have likely been a great day anyway we fished it. One of the anglers in our group had a revelation after catching his first few fish of the day, "I was really having a good time without catching fish...but it's way more fun this way!"
Next time fish aren't reacting the way you anticipate, don't snub methods that just catch fish. If the dry is not producing, don't be a bobber snob. Fish them deep and have more fun on your next adventure.