It's that time of year again. The water temperatures are starting to drop and the larger bugs are becoming less prevalent. Although we'd love to throw large hoppers year-round, it just isn't going to work much longer.
Time to go tailwater tiny. Perfect presentation, tiny flies and small tippet are about to be the key to success. The majority of strikes are going to come via Blue Wing Olive and Midge imitations. That's what the trout will key on the vast majority of the Fall. While there is some incredible dry fly action at select times, most success will come from nymphing (why number 9 & 10 on our list are dries).
Whenever there is an uptick in flows, you'll have success with larger attractor patterns that get dislodged. Stonefly imitations, Scuds, Cranefly and Midge Larva (often ignored) imitations are our favorites.
Keeping a thermometer on you is important. Blue Wing Olive's/ Baetis/ BWO hatches will start to subsidize once the water temperature drops below 38 degrees. At that point, Midges will be the only prevalent hatch.
Yes, every pattern below is a size 22-24. There isn't one size 20 fly in this deck. The reality is there aren't any size 20 bugs this time of year on our tailwater. If you are a complete wizard at presentation, you can get away with larger bugs... But most of us aren't. The BWO hatch in the Fall is 1-2X smaller than the Spring, 22-24.
Here are our top 10 patterns for the South Platte this Fall. Be sure to check out our Tailwater Fall Fly Box:
1) Chocolate Foam Wing Emerger: Size 24
What this patterns lacks in size, it makes up in effectiveness. Trout cannot refuse this realistic mayfly imitation. We like to use it as the third fly in a traditional three nymph rig.
This is our favorite pattern for Cheesman Canyon, year-round.
2) Stalcup's Baetis: 22
We love to trail the Foam Wing Emerger behind a Staclup's Baetis. Arguably the most realistic BWO profile ever created, it has been fooling the pickiest tailwater trout for decades.
Very rarely do we adjust a recipe, but we decide to make our Stalcup's Baetis even more slim with plastic bag strips instead of D-Rib.
Make sure any Stalcup's Baetis fly you purchase has an extremely slim profile. More often than not, they are tied too bulky and are completely ineffective.
3) Juju Baetis: 22
Arguably the most versatile Baetis pattern ever designed, this pattern can mimic Blue Wing Olive's in a variety of stages.
It is extremely slim and has no wasted bulk due to the Superhair body. Incredibly realistic profile with a small bit of flash to catch the attention of picky trout.
We love using this as an attractor (lead fly) or as a second fly in a traditional three nymph rig.
4) Mercury Midge, 22
This simple pattern consistently fools the pickiest trout. It is a great attractor, but will catch plenty of fish on its own. It's a dumb fly, but damn it works.
If you leave home without this fly during Fall or Winter... good luck.
5) Top Secret Midge, 24
The best midge hatches of the year take place during the Fall. Fish eat small midges voraciously. This is our favorite midge emerger for any section of the South Platte.
Trail it behind a JujuBee, Medalion Midge, Mercury Midge or Baetis imitation for best results.
While this pattern produces consistently across the South Platte, it is an absolute killer on the Dream Stream. Color doesn't seem to matter. We like brown in Cheesman/ Deckers and Black on the Dream/ Eleven Mile. Yes, it matters. Never buy one with wire.
6) JujuBee Midge, 22, Purple
This pattern is especially effective on the Dream Stream. We like to fish it as the second midge during the height of a midge hatch or as the third fly during the early stages of a hatch.
You can fish almost any color of this pattern and get results. We switch it up based on the section of the South Platte and weather.
7) Mercury Sparkle Wing RS2, 22, Olive
This classic pattern fools trout year-round, but is especially effective in the Fall and Spring. BWO's hatch 1-2 sizes smaller in the Fall vs. the Spring, which is why we like it in a size 22.
One of our favorite aspects of this fly is the versatility. It can be fished as a nymph or emerger and can be used as an attractor or second fly for best results.
While grey is arguably the most popular, we prefer olive.
8) Mercury Flashback Black Beauty, 24
We can't really explain why this pattern does so well... but it does. It isn't very realistic with the bulky bead. Have you ever seen a gas bubble? The answer is no. It is an exaggerated part of fly fishing.
When it comes to 'confidence flies' on the South Platte, this is one of the best. It catches fish. We love it with and without a bead.
9) Trico Spinner, 24
The Trico hatch can continue late into October. For our dry fly enthusiasts out there, you'll be able to trick trout with this small dry fly mid-morning.
We like to fish it as the second fly in a two-dry fly rig behind a Parachute Adams or CDC Biot Trico for visibility. Set on any rise near your fly!
10) Parachute Adams, 22
This classic pattern will fool fish searching for adult BWO's or Midges. Super versatile fly to have on hands at all times.
Other Notable Flies:
Egg Patterns, Mayer's Mini Leech, Mercury Baetis, Mathew's Sparkle Dun, Pheasant Tails, Flashback Barr's Emerger, Matt's Midge, Red Copper John's.
Meat Whistle, Slump Buster, Thin Mint, Baby Gonga, Wooly Bugger.