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Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2009/5/8 22:48
From NW PA
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Due to the PA budget situation, I've found myself with about 2 months less work than I would normally have through the State. The upside of this is that I have all October and November to spend fishing. I live in Warren Pennsylvania (Northwest Corner of the state), and while I'm excited about the steelhead fishing, I want to start exploring some other options. Within 5 minutes of me are the Conewango and Allegheny rivers, both these rivers have good smallmouth bass fishing. I have never really tried fishing smallmouth in the fall, but I would really like to. Does anyone have any tips to share about fall smallmouth fishing in rivers? Thanks!

Posted on: 2009/9/28 14:17


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing
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Sono,
By all means fish for smallies this fall! Let the rest of the mob stumble over each other on the Erie tribs while you have beautiful rivers all to yourself.
Anyway, autumn FFing for bass can be challenging. Many FFers don't fish smallies in the fall as they become accustomed to the easy fishing of summer and, when they have a couple slower days in Sept, they decide it's a waste. Most river smallie guys seem to agree that the fall is the best time to catch large fish but the numbers game typical of summer is usually long gone by mid Sept. As you would imagine, water temps have a lot to do with this and - I suspect - we will have an early fall this year. Water temps on the smallie creeks I fished today were only in the low 60s and leaf litter seemed heavy today and I live in the SC part of the state. I usually don't have such trouble with leaves until October. Anyway, in my experience, once water temps drop into the low 60s fishing can still be good but bass are starting to move deeper and are less aggressive. Fish won't be as common in riffles and generally lay lower in the water column. I'm usually happy with a catch rate of a fish or two per hour in fall (a good day would be several per hour) - don't expect a 50 fish day. I prefer warm sunny days in the fall with clear water. Do keep an eye out on shallow riffles however - esp late in the day when the sun is high and warm. Bass will move into riffles to chase minnows and if you see minnows scattering out of the water and swirls in the shallows get a fly there as you will probably hook up. During summer, river bass feed largely on insects and crayfish but in the fall they key more on minnows and small fishes. In the summer with water temps in the upper 70s/80s river smallies are crazy easy to catch on poppers but this time of year I usually fish subsurface. Large nymphs and Clouser type streamers get most of my cool weather bass. In smaller waterways I stop targeting bass by about first frost as this is when they seem to disappear from most of the creeks I fish. Bigger rivers will hold bass all year but FFing for them once water temps drop into the 40s is - although possible - not something I usually bother with. In your neck of the woods there is excellent walleye and muskie fishing with the cooler temps and these fish will surprise you once and awhile, esp if you use streamers that resemble minnows. If there is once piece of advice I could give you, it would be to join someone on one of your rivers who regularly fishes them in the fall. So what if they bait or spin fish. Learning a new bass river during a new time of the year is generally much easier with spin gear. Once you've found and caught bass with spin gear they'll be much easier to target with fly gear. Good luck.

Posted on: 2009/9/28 23:07


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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I went to the north branch susqy with Afish and he made a similar point as fishidiot, regarding the bass switching to minnows in the fall.

If those two guys are saying it, I need no further convincing.

This was two weeks ago, and we were semi successful. The air was crisp, the water was lukewarm to cool, and was pretty clear. Most bass were caught on smaller flies dead drifted and swung. When the sun warmed the water, a few fish started to chase a stripped fly.

I stubbornly stuck with my monster bugger and managed a few. Tried crayfish and all kinds of leeches and finally got a few more on regular old small trout buggers. It was as close to "finesse" fishing that the bassmasters guys talk about as I've ever had with smallies.

The other guys had luck on small buggers and small slumpbusters.

Anyway, all this to say that it was tough, and numbers were pretty low. The other guys got a few decent ones, and I got a few average and smaller fish. I would recommend it for a crisp fall day any time.

Posted on: 2009/9/28 23:37


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2008/1/21 19:15
From Pittsburgh
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Great advice above!
I have had success fishing where feeder streams enter larger water...esp. towards dusk. The bass will ball up the baitfish and blitz in to the shallows to attack. A very fast retrieve has been the most successful for me in this situation. Not only is it fun and fast if you hit it right, but it is a blast just watching the bass blitz up into the shallows with minnows flying out of the water everywhere. It reminds me of striper fishing in the salt.

Posted on: 2009/9/29 13:07


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2008/10/8 0:36
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Good postings everyone In my 1st year of Fly-Fishing, I too have become quite the fan of the Smallmouth. So, I'll follow along, with a few related questions of my own.

Fishidiot, JayL, and David: How does the change in seasons (now that we are heading into fall), change the way you fish with poppers? Is there a point in the season where smallies will refuse poppers(until next year)?

ZonofZ3; I hope you don't me mind butting in

Posted on: 2009/9/30 0:34
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Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2008/8/2 14:42
From Hershey, PA
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As the water temps start to drop and the photoperiod shortens the smallies will start to transition into into their wintering stage. They will start to migrate towards their wintering grounds which will be deeper slower water holes. They will however, still be feeding aggressively so they need to be very close to low-mid depth flats areas where crayfish and minnows will be present in large numbers.

The key is to find these medium depth flats with slower current that are adjacent to deeper water areas. If you can find these transition areas you will clean-up.

Clouser minnows worked with a strip. strip, drift, ...repeat pattern works along with big meaty helgrimites drifted under an indicator.

Use heavier gear as smallmouth are fat and feisty this time of year as they put on weight for the winter.

matt

Posted on: 2009/9/30 5:51


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing
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Goodfortune,
With regards to popper fishing in the fall - you'll get different views on this but mine (for what it's worth) is that popper fishing diminishes in effectiveness once water temps drop into the upper 50s/low 60s (which is close to where we are now on the big rivers). Don't give up on 'em completely as they will catch fish - I'll keep throwing 'em thru Oct but I don't seem to get as much action. Oddly enough, "diver" type flies account for some big bass for me in the fall but I don't seem to do as well on poppers. I don't change the action much. I fish poppers fairly quick with frequent "pops" often essentially chugging them back steadily. There is a common view among fly fishermen that smallies are basically a cool water fish unlike their uncouth largemouth cousins. I disagree. My experience has been that river smallmouths much prefer warm water and I usually have my best days when water temps are very warm (80+). Nevertheless, smallies, esp the big ones, can be quite aggressive in the fall. There's a theory that the bigger fish, usually being females, need more calories in the autumn/winter period for egg development. I've had large river smallies attack and crush huge, rapidly fished muskie plugs with water temps in the 30s - go figure. I guess the old rule of thumb about experimenting with different flies applies here. So try some poppers in the fall esp if the water is clear -fish 'em like you would in summer, or maybe slower....although if it were me and I don't get any hits I'd change to a streamer pretty quick.

Posted on: 2009/9/30 9:31


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing
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Quote:

Fishidiot wrote:
There is a common view among fly fishermen that smallies are basically a cool water fish unlike their uncouth largemouth cousins. I disagree. My experience has been that river smallmouths much prefer warm water and I usually have my best days when water temps are very warm (80+).



Interesting, me too. Some of my best days fishing for river SMB have been blistering days with low water in August where 40 or 50+ fish slam poppers on top and send me home with a sore arm.

Posted on: 2009/9/30 10:08


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2009/5/8 22:48
From NW PA
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Thanks for the advice everyone! I've been out for the last two days trying to catch a few, and no luck as of yet. I've been fishing my 4/5 weight Beulah switch with clousers and buggers to try and get some practice with the double handed rods. I'll keep at them! Normally I fish smallmouth mid May through August, when I can do well on poppers or large, unweighted Zonkers fished eratically just under the surface. Thanks again guys, and go luck in your fall smallmouth fishing!

Posted on: 2009/9/30 10:27


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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Hi: I'm a river smallie flyfisher too. I live in Warren now, but my home is near Oil City. After 3 years of fishing around the Warren area, I can say that the smallmouth fishing is generally much better down below President where the big bends cause a greater variety of habitat. The river is back up and this is worse for flyfishing. Plus, the fish are in deeper (not DEEP) and slower water which is just harder to cover with a flyrod. I'd stick with spinning tackle now. On Saturday, I caught the biggest smallie in YEARS above Oil City. It was a true monster in the 22-23 inch range. The higher water pushes the fish closer to the bank where the cover is good, and if you can find room to back cast here, you can do well fall fly fishing for smallmouth, but often times, in such places the trees and bank are tight to the water's edge.

Syl

Posted on: 2009/10/4 21:36


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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Quote:

goodfortune wrote:
How does the change in seasons (now that we are heading into fall), change the way you fish with poppers? Is there a point in the season where smallies will refuse poppers(until next year)?


A better smallie fisherman than I'll ever be only EVER fished a white chug bug. It was his specialty. And he said that any temp over 52 will get fish to take on top. Now, how good and patient and exactly how you do it is the question. AND how many fish you take this way will be an issue. But that was his take on the subject.

Syl

Posted on: 2009/10/4 21:41


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2006/9/18 8:28
From Attitudinally, one mile south of Lake LeBoeuf
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>>I can say that the smallmouth fishing is generally much better down below President where the big bends cause a greater variety of habitat. >>

I think that's right, but I also think the different habitat thing is only a portion of what is going on. When he was AFM out of Tionesta, Ron Lee always told me that he firmly believed that the dam caused the big downstream shift in the best parts of the river for bass. He felt a lot of it had to do with the release schedule that allowed the reservoir to attain summer pool level. He thought it dropped the river levels just as the bass were coming off the beds and left the beds high and dry in a lot of cases in the Buckaloons to about Tionesta stretch. For a long time in the 70's and through part of the 80's, there were very few bass in this section and the best water centered on about Kennerdell, because more normal flow regimes resumed with the 1-2-3 punch of the addition of the flows from the Tionesta, Oil and especially, French Creek drainages.

In the interim, I think they've made some adjustments to the summer pool schedule and the bass pops. in the upper river have rebounded some, but I don't think they ever came back to what they were.

Posted on: 2009/10/4 22:40


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2008/8/24 20:26
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There was an EXCELLENT article by Bob Clouser in the September issue of Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. The article is titled, "The late summer/fall smallmouth topwater bite" and gives a great rundown of fall smallie fishing. If you get a chance to find a copy, check it out...

Posted on: 2009/10/6 17:54


Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2009/8/12 11:55
From chester county
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Will smallmouths still be active this week in SE PA after the cold rain we've had? Are they still fattening up for winter or are they shutting down by now?

Posted on: 2009/10/18 16:06
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Re: Fall Smallmouth Fishing

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2008/1/21 19:15
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They are still active on the west side of the state!

Posted on: 2009/10/18 18:13



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