Published Sep 3rd 2011
My favorite time for coastal fishing has always been in the autumn. Only a few things will beat a nice September or October day on the coast.
Personally I'm much more of an autumn guy.
Right now, we're seeing the end of summer, and even though this particular one hasn't been like most people dream with endless hot days, blazing sun, warm evenings and nights, it has been warm, and closing in on September as we are we can feel the temperatures falling, and days getting cooler. This is a time of year where I get cabin fever and start longing for the coast.
I simply love those Indian summer days in September and October where the air is fresh and clean from a recent shower, the gentle sun is low, but still warm, the water is cooling down after a hot summer and the fish are in their best shape of any time during the year, ready to go on a spawning run or ready to live through the winter as bright, chrome bullets.
The coastal sea trout are less greedy and more picky in the autumn, which has led to the general opinion that they are difficult to catch. That's not my own personal experience. The fish may not go for anything that moves, and might sometimes be a little more shy and less aggressive than during the spring, but as a fly angler I find that fish are as easy to get to bite in the autumn as they are the rest of the year. As it's mostly the case with sea trout in the salt, the big problem is not to get the fish to bite, but to find them.
Fishing near streams and estuaries can increase your chances, but remember that there often is a protection zone where streams enter the ocean, which disallows fishing where the fresh water enters the salt. This is of course done to protect the spawning fish (which has always made me wonder why we allow fishing on the exact same fish in the streams and rivers! But that's a whole other story).
The autumn fish tend to move in pretty shallow water close to the shore and seem to prefer the water slightly rough. So fishing close to the beach in a bit of waves can often be worth a try.
If you fish late in the season you are bound to run into fish on their spawning run. These fish will be golden, sometimes deep brown, and will not have the silvery, loose scales of the summer fish, but be leathery and often quite slimy. The fish are generally very robust, being prepared for the hardships of the spawning run, which may include some pretty harrowing stretches of water, starting on the beach when the fish cross into the streams and oftentimes including rapids and even smaller waterfalls. The fish is prepared for this, and it's skin is much more durable this time of year than in the spring and the summer.
I urge you to release all fish that show sign of being on the way to spawn. Most of all because we need these spawners to complete their task and secure the future population, but also because they usually don't taste as well as the bright fish. They have started to loose weight and change their physiology to prepare for spawning, leading a lot of resources into egg and sperm rather than into muscles.
Let the colored fish go and keep the bright ones.