Home » Fly Fishing Fall Foliage: 3 Tips

Fly Fishing Fall Foliage: 3 Tips

Let’s talk about leaves.

“Why? What to leaves have to do with fly fishing?” you might ask.

First, you need to read Trout Are Made of Trees to your child, grandchild, or self. So, there is that. More than the scientific benefits of understanding the relationship between foliage and fish in general, there are some matters to discuss pertaining to fall specifically.

Leaves change the way that you approach the river. Yes, that is correct: in the fall, leaves can impact your fishing in a way that requires you to adapt. Here are three things that you might not have necessarily thought of that may be worth contemplating as you head out for some of the best trout fishing on the calendar.

Leaves on the water

I fished a Pennsylvania freestone stream one fall that was so totally covered in leaves that it made fishing practically impossible. The water was low so there wasn’t a lot of flow, there was a windstorm that shook most the leaves off the trees, and I literally could not fish. Casts were catching leaves in the air. Flies, even heavy streamers, were landing on leaves and fouling immediately. Fly line would sit on leaves, and cause all sorts of drag. It was miserable.

Now, that was an anomaly. It was, quite literally, a perfect storm. However, facets of a day like that can occur frequently and cause frustration. If you only have a few days, check out the river and see if the conditions are amiable. Would waiting a day help? Is there somewhere to fish away from trees, or in a more deciduous environment?

Leaves on the ground

Falling down can be funny. I’m not sure British humour would be half as entertaining without people wiping out. At the same time, falling down on sharp rocks on the river loses some of its comedic appeal once injuries and gear damage enter the picture.

Leaves can be slippery. Leaves on trails, leaves on the stream bottom, leaves on ice. I’d be willing to wager that wet leaves on a slimy rock can be the most deceptive surface you can encounter while wading.  “I’m young and spry!” Well, everyone starts that way. Just slow down, wear studded boots, and look before you step.

Leaves bring the crowds

“I was stuck in ma cah fa’ an ‘our from the wicked numbah of leaf peepahs!”

That is the complaint of a New Englander driving near the mountains in the fall. Truth be told, the same sentiment can be expressed (with other, interesting dialects) up and down Appalachia come October. The haunts of trout and fly fishermen can become inundated with those not usually predisposed to outdoor pursuits. Consequently, there is more traffic, less parking, more hikers, less vacancy, etc.

If possible, plan ahead to go during the week. Bob while everyone else is weaving. And – here is the best advice I’ll give today – “encourage” your spouse to go and “see the leaves” by staying at this “cute B&B” you just “happened to find.” Mmmhmm.


Leaves are big business, but they don’t have to be a big deal if you are willing to deviate slightly if and when they are in peak season. Trout, after all, are made of trees.


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