The month of October is a transition for me, as dry fly fishing comes to a close. Sure, you’ll find BWO hatches throughout the winter months, but I spend less time on the water. It’s when seasons change and I transition to fly tying, filling the provider box for next season and participating in Zoom fly tying classes, teaching some and watching others tie.

19 Inch Metolius Rainbow Trout |

This is a beautiful 19 inch Metolius redside my fishing partner landed recently.

But change is on the horizon.

It’s a little earlier than previous years. I’ve written how someone throws a switch on November 1st as the dry fly fishing ends. (You can read them by using the “archives” section on the right side of every post to select a different month of blogs. Check out any older October or November month and you’ll find one.)

Which is why I enjoy fishing in the month of October, because the fish know winter is coming and they are eating all the bugs floating down the river.

While I accept this forecast, fishing hasn’t been normal.

Sure, we’ve caught a fish now and then. I even missed hooking two the other day, so I’ve had my chances.

We’ve caught some beautiful fish in October. Here are a couple.

Metolius Rainbow |

And this one…

Metolius Rainbow - October |

We have seen sporadic hatches, which is normal. However, the fish aren’t rising. I saw this riser recently eating naturals floating downstream.

Rainbow Rising |

It’s the activity I expect in October. I put a fly over this fish and didn’t hook up. Remember I mentioned missing a couple the other day? This is the first one!

But this year is different. We’ve spent more time watching for rising fish than fishing and changing flies to blind cast areas we know hold fish.

Changing Flies |

And casting to an occasional riser…

Casting Practice |

We frequently talk about the difference as we drive home from the river. Others we know who fish the river have remarked about how slow the fishing is as well.

Why? Who knows. Here are a few thoughts…

Climate change? Maybe.

Long hot summer without much rain? Perhaps, but the Met receives most of its cool water from springs. No worry about “hoot owl” on this river!

An occasional front passes through and drops the barometric pressure. It might put the fishing off for a day or two, but normally fish adjust.

I’ve discounted all these excuses and came up with this answer…

There is one spot on the river we fish a couple times each week. We’re able to coax up a fish most days. We’ll watch the run to see if fish are rising and cast to them. We have a better than 50/50 chance of the fish rising to our flly. Even when fish aren’t rising, we’ll blind cast because we know fish live there.

It’s a tricky spot to fish because of the underwater log you can’t see. On more than one occasion, our leader sinks because of the odd current and when attempting to pick up the fly for another cast, it sinks and gets caught on the log. We’ve each lost a fly on this log last week.

Which leads me to this “aha”…

We’ve lost enough flies on this log the fish swim by each day to remember which flies are imitations and which are real. They can get close and inspect my beautiful flies, study them, and talk with each other to reinforce what not to eat.

That explanation must be the answer.

What else could it be?

One of the benefits of slow fishing is to capture images from the river. Here’s one of the dippers we see regularly.

Dipper on Metolius |

I’ll head back to the river today and give it another try.

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. Hi John,
    I really appreciate your newsletter!
    It’s too bad that you are so hung up on dry fly fishing.
    When you are strictly fishing dry flies, you are guaranteed to catch a lot of small fish. The fingerlings, fry, and other juveniles readily come to dry flies as often as they can! They are a real pain too.
    You should enclose flicks of all of these little fish that you catch.

    Wishing you all the best with your learning of “subsurface fly fishing.”

  2. It is a strange year here. I had a tough day on the Met yesterday. I’ve fished there and other rivers quite a bit this year, and yesterday was the first skunk I’ve had since Feb! Not even a whitey. I euro’s, dry-droppered, indicatored, and dry only. Lost a number of flies and got a lot of knot tying practice in. But, it was still a great day to be on that river! We’re blessed.

  3. Hi John,
    I think you are on to something with the “educated fish” theory. Last week, Gretchen and I enjoyed our last “remote trip” of the season fishing the Salmon River in the Frank Church Wilderness Area in central Idaho. I just checked my fishing ball cap to make sure this next statement is accurate but continuing with the story … We were fishing the great run that had to hold fish and we has no luck. After an unsuccessful hour, we pulled back from the water and sat on a log to enjoy a cup of coffee. After a few sips of coffee, I just had to go back to try the water again, so I left my ball cap, vest, and pack with Gretchen and went to make a few casts and caught a couple of fish. The reason I checked my ball cap just now is I wanted to check the flies I had stuck in it. Yes, there was a John Kreft Green Drake stuck in it where I had put it when we last fished together. The fish in your part of the world must be using satellite system to communicate from one water shed to another. Yes, I agree, you are on to something, I’m convinced. Take care & …
    Tight Lines – Al Beatty

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