Tips for Fly Fishing In Autumn

So autumn’s upon us and change is in the air. So it's time for you to consider a change in your approach. Your favourite February sight fishing water may now be awash with glare (- or given some New Zealand streams this summer just awash), or lighter on fish numbers as they migrate upstream and into the tributaries. Here are a few tips to keep you amongst them this autumn.

Consider the light: low angle light will create longer shadows which can spook fish from further off. Consider your approach, stay low and employ that longer cast I've been telling you to practise all year to help stay further back, and less detectable. Look also to longer leaders to keep the shadow of your fly line further from the fish (Trout Hunter 14' Harrop leaders in 4x and 5x are perfect for this incidentally), and consider Snake River Mud from Loon to remove shine, and keep your nylon in the surface.


Smaller flies. With optimal water temperatures over the past couple of months, invertebrate will mature quicker which means at a smaller size than the rest of the season. My autumn selection now comprises largely of #16's and 18's rather than the 12's and 14's I often fish in October.

 Pheasant tail flashback - available in #12-#18

Consider the fish: Browns are nearing spawning mode and will behave a lot more aggressively. This opens them up to a variety of methods which will often outperform the stock standard dead drift approach. Streamers, bright beads, hotspots and absurd, rubber legged patterns can all hit amazing results in the autumn and don't be afraid to move your nymphs... a strip here or a 'rod tip raise' there could be the difference between a so-so, and epic day out...

Fly Fishing Autumn

Think about water temperature: Forget early morning starts... chances are you will be flailing away blind for very few fish and be exhausted and casting crap by the time they come on the chew... Mid-morning - mid arvo are the prime times in autumn, when water temps rise enough to promote insect activity... As I often tell clients, if the food is there, the trout will be there. If not, then prepare to work hard...

Whereas only a month ago fish would become lethargic in the heat of the hot midday sun, it is now the morning and evening hours where the water is still at its coolest, but now too cool and stream life just isn't on the move. That midday peak is where you need to be. 

Para Dads Fishing Fly

Parachute Dad's Favourite 


Twitch it. When willow leaves litter the surface and trout have to work harder to identify their food, try something with a little eye catching movement. A Jake's Blackout Stone dry with rubber legs, twitched just once may stand out from all the movement and confusion of leaf debris on top, much better than your standard parachute pattern. Fishing a soft Hackle just beneath will add another dimension to your drift and twitching one of these in the vicinity of a roving trout is a recipe for a sore arm!


Fishing Fly - Jakes Blackout Stone

Jakes Blackout Stone - Skwala


So change up your mind set to the conditions ahead and enjoy what many consider the best of the seasons!



Chris Dore is a battle-tested fly fishing guide with nearly 20 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever-changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.

In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.

For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?