The onset of Autumn is a noticeably spectacular time especially in Otago, as the trees provide a symphony of colour and there is a tinge of winter in the air, changes are beginning beneath our beloved trout waters.
Sadly we have to say goodbye to those giant cicada flies for another year but there is still plenty to be excited about. As we prepare for those cold nights, trout have one thing on their mind, heading upstream and finding a mate. During April and May the lake dwelling browns will pack their bags and start the journey into the upstream tributaries, hunting down their spawning grounds, destined for stable waters that provide fine gravels to lay their eggs. The Rainbows are generally not far behind too so these waters provide great opportunities to target fish as they make their way through waters that can usually be devoid of fish.
Even though the majority of the our South island season finishes on April 30th, Otago still provides multiple backcountry waters to explore, most of which feed into lakes Wanaka, Hawea and Wakatipu. It generally takes some time and effort to access these waters but it can be worth making the most of as they can provide some magnificent late season action. If you are not to keen on clocking up the miles, the same waters can provide great fishing in their lower reaches where they enter the lake. Here fish will sit in waiting for a decent fresh to raise river levels and aid their arduous trip upstream. Targeting these fish with low profile galaxis or smelt patterns can be effective as these bait fish will also gather around deltas and can be a great food source for fish packing on condition for spawning.
Autumn is also a perfect time to dust of those deadly egg patterns and whether you love them or hate them, there is no denying they work! Importantly you need to make sure your getting down deep, these fish on spawning missions sometimes need a bit of persuasion to take your fly and may only do so out of aggression or by having their space invaded. When double indicator nymphing deeper runs, I will go large with my top fly usually a #10-#12 and trail a small, natural 16 size orange or pale peach egg pattern around 1 foot off the back of the hook. If I need to get down further I also use a small split shot placed about 6inches above the top fly. This gets you in the strike zone quicker and hopefully results in more hookups.
For those really tricky fish that just won’t eat, out comes the dirty ol streamer, generally a large wollybugger in black or green. Standing slightly upstream I will cast across on a particular angle that will allow the swing to occur right onto the nose of the fish. Mending line upstream allows you to delay the swing and then as it comes around to where the fish is holding I will give a couple of short, sharp strips to catch its attention or hopefully just piss it off enough so that it attacks!
So don’t let the colder mornings prevent you from getting out this Autumn, no matter where you live there are always interesting options for targeting migratory fish and this can also be a great time to get into those big boys that are usually holding much larger waters. Just don’t forget to fix the holes in your waders before you go!
Lastly, some Autumn dryfly action from last season on fresh run rainbows!