Adjusting on the fly: Cooler temperatures bring different strategies for anglers

By: 
Neil Patrick Healy
With the seasons changing, the fish in the rivers are making the necessary changes to adjust to fall and winter weather as are anglers going after those fish. 
 
But what adjustments are those exactly? 
 
For anglers looking for the big catches, such as brown trout, the changing weather is seen as a positive sign. 
 
“I would expect fishing to improve to a degree,” said Livingston area Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Scott Opitz. “One thing that will change this time of year is the catchability with some of our brown trout. They’re getting close to heading to their spawning period, which typically starts in mid-October. There can be some aggressive feeding with those fish as a defensive mode to a degree, but then it can also wane because they’re focused on spawning as well. 
 
“With some of our other species, like our cutthroats and rainbows, the catchability will increase in this cooler weather.”
 
Because of the sudden shift in weather, now until the middle of October is a prime time for fall fishing, but Opitz says some patterns and habits fishermen use in the spring and summer won’t work in the fall — specifically the kind of bait the fish may go for. 
 
“One thing this weather is doing right now in the fall we’re still in the window where we’re fishing with grasshoppers, which is a pretty popular pattern in the end of summer early fall,” Opitz said. “Cooler weather like this is going to turn that off. The grasshoppers just aren’t going to be as abundant. The fish will be looking for some other food base besides grasshoppers this time of year. 
 
“The weather can shift their diet a little bit, but generally not dramatically because they’re feeding on similar things all the time. But the grasshopper should be done for the year unless we really get back into some warmer temperatures.” 
 
To replace grasshoppers and other flies that work well in the summer, Dandi Reiner of Hatch Finders Fly Shop recommends using flies such as fall betas, October caddis, attractor patterns and trudes.
 
The cooler weather’s positive effects of more aggressive fish can be met with some negatives as well. Livingston resident Taylor Thomas said water clarity and the water’s cooler temperatures could effect fishing as well. 
 
“When you get runoff from the rain or a little snow up high, of course that filters into the small streams and goes into the river,” local fisherman Thomas said. “The river gets dirty and that affects the quality of the fishing. Temperature (can affect it) because fishing and the fish can be susceptible to the temperature variation in the water, so (the fishing) tends to slow down a bit. The water clarity and temperature tends to make things a little hit or miss. 
 
“Traditionally, fall is a good time to fish. The water slows down, it starts to get cool and the fish start to get active, but when you have these kind of transition days like these, it tends to make it a little hit or miss.”  
 
With rain and snow in the forecast from Tuesday until Friday, the weather is signaling cooler temperatures for the future with the end of summer, which will anglers to reevaluate how they approach their quarry. 
 
“Later in the week it looks like there’s more rain and snow in the forecast, so that means the river will continue to be dirty,” Thomas said. “It changes the trajectory of how you think about how you get into winter and fall mode a little earlier than you might normally.”

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