Bjorn Ostby- The Problem with Autumn
The Problem With Autumn:
Every year sportsman look forward to the fall months with great anticipation. September and October represent the start of big game and waterfowl hunting in the Northwest. For anglers that have been badly bitten by the steelhead bug such as myself, these months represent the first good chance to swing a fly in front of promising numbers of fish that will attack a good presentation with reckless abandon. Fall also represents my favorite time to fish streamers to big, angry brown trout on the rivers of Montana. The problem with October and September though, and it’s a wonderful problem to have, is that there are too many great options for an angler to possibly do it all. With an early Clearwater fish under my belt this year, I resolved to do something I haven’t done for the last 5 years or so—take a few weekends off swinging for steelhead to pursue the quarry that I grew up fishing for, the beautiful cutthroat that inhabit equally beautiful north Idaho and northwest Montana freestones. The banks of these rivers will soon be blanketed by several feet of snow and I’ll have all winter to swing big Retruders for steelhead (although I can’t lie, I’ll be sneaking in more than a few steelhead trips this fall too). There’s something relaxing about fishing the rivers where you grew up and knowing exactly which fly to tie on. However, so far the fish that always used to rise to a meaty October caddis pattern seem to have evolved and become more discerning, more skeptical, even paranoid. Perhaps the rivers that used to be lonelier and lonelier the lower the mercury dropped at night are getting much more attention than they used to. Even so, when one is willing to drop their fly and tippit size the fish seem to be more than willing to play. This was the case on a recent outing. I spent a good portion of the prior night tying up a couple dozen October caddis variations in anticipation of the imminent hatch. When I got to the river, the caddis were out alright, but the usually uninhibited cutthroat were politely sipping on small mayflies in the film. I tried my luck with a favorite caddis I tie and had minimal success. After switching to Catch’s PMD Cripple#2 in a size 18, the party was officially on. Holes produced more fish than I imagined they could hold and broad shouldered cuttys tested one’s self-control by following the fly as it drifted, examining it from every side before giving into temptation and sipping it in. After figuring out what the trout were after, I started fishing a few emergers I’ve been tinkering with in my fly tying lab and found the results to be similar. Soon I was giggling like a little school girl as I remembered what fall cutthroat fishing was all about. My favorite fall haunt will probably still be the steelhead rivers of the Northwest where you’ll likely see me swinging a size 6 Happy Hour, but I might be on those rivers a few less days this fall because I’ll be up in the mountains on an intimate little cutthroat stream. Well, maybe I’ll be on the Jefferson or Beaverhead stripping big articulated streamer from a drift boat. Dang! I don’t know what I’ll be doing. There are too many good options…the problem with autumn.