September fly fishing: a time of plenty

Posted 9/13/17

This autumn is shaping up to offer us fly fishermen some great opportunity. Our recent weather has been cooler, with daytime highs in the 60s. This is a great time to be outdoors and for us fly …

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September fly fishing: a time of plenty


This autumn is shaping up to offer us fly fishermen some great opportunity. Our recent weather has been cooler, with daytime highs in the 60s. This is a great time to be outdoors and for us fly fishermen, this is a time of plenty. I am usually pretty specific about where to fish, but currently there are no poor choices: all of our rivers are the right place to fish. Summer is over and the trout are feeding.

All of our local rivers are offering good action, but each has its own feel. Recently I have been taking my guests to either the Main Stem Delaware or the East Branch on most outings. It is hard to choose as each is fishing well. I have also been getting first-hand reports from other guides on my staff who have been having similar results on the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and West Branch.

I have been out almost every day lately. The sunny days have been offering great nymphing. The rainy days have seen little action with nymphs, but surface action has been steady. There has also been a day here and there where both methods have been producing.

There have been some pretty good flurries of Isonychia activity during the afternoon hours. I had several days last week where the trout have been blowing up riffles while these big bugs are on the water. Just before dark there have been some isolated but very heavy flights of giant Isonychia spinners. Big spinners have been my go-to fly from about 6 p.m. until after dark. We have been taking some pretty impressive rainbow trout during this spinner fall action.

 Other than the Iso’s, there is a mix of other insects. Mayflies, caddisflies and midges are on the water at random times. There have also been some areas that have seen the fall-swarms of flying ants. With that said, the most important fly to have from this day on are blue wing olives. This is now the staple in the trout’s diet and they are looking for them every day. This is also the most abundant insect in most sections of the river system.

At this time I am rigging several rods on all of my float trips. My standard setup for subsurface is three flies under a float. All of the nymphs we are currently fishing are small. I have been running a #16, #18 and a #20. The bottom two flies are pheasant tails or pheasant-tail variations designed to imitate the abundant olives.

I am also rigging a second nymph rod with a 14- to 16-foot leader tapered to 6X tippet. This has two tiny nymphs. This rig gets a tiny stick-on indicator (midgeacator) about six inches from the first nymph. This rig is for fussy trout in crystal-clear pools that cruise and feed from a suspended position.

It is also worth giving some larger nymphs a try in areas when Isonychia are present. The trout are sure to jump at the chance for a larger nymph, especially if they have been seeing them in the drift.

For surface activity I have two rods rigged. First is a 12-foot leader to 4X with my Isonychia Cripple. This is pretty much our searching pattern for the next month or so. The second rod is set with about 16 to 18 feet of leader to 6X. This is the olive rod. I mix it up between CDC knock-down duns, cripples and traditional Catskill-style flies. These setups will be standard on my boat for the next two months.

From now until the weather shuts us down is a special time in the Upper Delaware; preparing for winter, fish do not waste time. If there are insects on the water, trout will be eating. If you have not yet fished these great waters at olive time, check out the show we did last year right around this time at


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