October marks one of the year's greatest transitions. It starts with plenty of decent weather, and the leaves are still on, though starting to change color fast. By the time it's over, the trees will be stark and bare, and most years here in Trout Country we'll have seen our first bit of snow before it's over. Nothing permanent, but definitely a shot across our bow. The deer get more and more restless, the beechnuts drop, the last of the apples ripen and fall, the grass slowly fades to that whiter shade of tan.
|moldering October king|
|fall streamer brown|
October is fall color season. The colors that started in September very quickly build, until every hillside is ablaze in yellow and orange, bright scarlet, even purple. They start at the high and low elevations and meet in the middle, like a match lit at both ends. The first leaves to drop are here on the river and around the lakes. In a single week, the maples turn scarlet, then drop their leaves suddenly. I've never understood this. At higher elevations (and here in Michigan 400 feet can make a big difference) the leaves change just as fast, but seem to hang on longer. As soon as it peaks, in just a matter of days, the wind inevitably comes and strips the trees. This leaf fall can be very problematic for the fly angler, as mats of fallen leaves drifting downstream can make fishing almost impossible, sometimes for more than a week. I constantly hook-set into perceived weight, only to find that I've snagged more leaves. It also loads the river with floating objects, and I believe it makes the fish more reluctant to bite- they seem to tire of inspecting every colorful object. Once this onslaught of color and debris clears, the fishing improves markedly.
Author's note: since I started this post we've had three severe gale's in a week. According to data recorded by NOAA buoys wave heights topped out near 20 feet. And yes, the trees are bare.