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With the fall equinox easing past, the nights are now longer than the days, so we should transition rapidly into autumn fishing conditions. Predatory fish will be feeding more heavily in the cooling waters to put on body fat before winter conditions arrive.
With the mountain nights getting down near freezing this week, the transition should be more dramatic in the higher elevations. Plus, the chilly nights should lead to the aspen leaves starting to turn, especially on the higher colder elevations like the San Francisco Peaks, Escudilla Mountain in eastern Arizona, and the North Rim-Kaibab Plateau country.
Another high country thrill this time of the year is the bull elk bugling or clashing antlers during the rut. You might not visually witness these epic battles, but hearing them in the forest is always a thrill. Even the mere expectation adds anticipatory spice to an outing.
Keep your cameras handy – with the air temperatures dropping well below those for the water in the lakes at sunrise, there will possibly be some dramatic mists swirling across lake surfaces. The rising sun can also turn the mists a fiery orange or red. That can hold true for the lower elevation lakes as well at times if the climatic muses conspire.
It’s not always about catching fish, but experiencing autumn adventures.
Fishing the bottom with prepared trout baits or worms can usually work well, but when the fish are feeding actively at the surface, casting and retrieving lures might get you some pretty good action. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a larger holdover trout hitting your spinner during a retrieve. Or better yet, if you have a two-pole stamp, do both.
Try working small spinners such as Mepps, Rooster Tails and Blue Fox Vibrex. I really like using rainbow-colored Rapalas, especially the jointed ones. Also try casting and retrieving spoons, such as KastMasters and Z-rays. If you have a boat, trolling can sometimes load up the creel. Try any of the previously mentioned lures, plus Super Dupers and cowbells.
Another good tactic this time of year is using flies on a spinning outfit. Get some wooly buggers and casting bubbles. I like using about 2 to 3 feet of tapered fly line leading to the casting bubble. On lakes, this should give you lots of range to explore for trout. It’s not a bad way to troll, either.
This past weekend, my family fished the Williams area lakes. All the anglers I talked to had the best catches at Dogtown, which to me is also the prettiest. But Kaibab was recently stocked and should be producing. Other lakes to try include Ashurst, Knoll, Bear Canyon, Woods Canyon, Willow Springs, Big Lake and Crescent Lake.
Be sure to mark Oct. 1 on your calendar for the opening of the catch-and-release only section of Silver Creek for rainbow trout and native Apache trout, and Oct. 3 for the historic opening of the first-ever catch-and-release roundtail chub fishery at Fossil Creek. Take the General Crook Trail off I-17 and watch for the signs just before the steep incline going up the Mogollon Rim.
Get out and enjoy these milder autumn fishing days. Maybe I’ll see you out there.