Most of the leaves have now fallen and drifted downstream, and except on very windy days, the angler is no longer finding the surface coated with fly-grabbing foliage. Of course, this also annual shedding of dead leaves coincides with diving water temps, which put our warmwater fish (smallmouth and largemouth) into a bit of a funk.
The key to success is to work the deeper areas – especially those adjacent to structure – hard. I prefer dark flies, typically a black Woolly Bugger or similar pattern in a size 6, fished slowly along the bottom (I cast either straight across or slightly upstream, as opposed to a typical 45° degree swing).
I go longer on leaders and lighter on tippets, too; trading my 7-½’ 2 x for an 8’ to 9’ 3x or 4x.
If you are in a steelhead frame of mind, the fall run is getting into decent shape, with the lower Huron already sporting good numbers. Traditional hotspots like the Pere Marquette, Muskegon and Manistee also are getting into their full, fall swing, with the added bonus of some big browns.
Remember that even on these unseasonably warm days, the water is still cold. Dress appropriately! Capilene and fleece under the waders is the ticket!