Full Days of Early Fall

by | Oct 2, 2019 | 6 comments

“Near side or far?” I thought. Pausing in a young patch of goldenrod, I considered my options. The dawn light sat low enough that it hadn’t yet burned the overnight dew from the surrounding greens and yellows. Reds were mixed in too, with plenty of browns. Fall happens all at once, and even if you’re on the water every day it still sneaks up quickly. Yesterday I noted the patches of colored leaves pushed up and gathered against rocks in the shallow riffles for the first time this season. “Was that there yesterday?” I wondered. And now, to suddenly be standing among the goldenrod . . . “Where’d this come from?” I thought out loud. “But more importantly, which side of the river will I walk down this morning?”

The far bank holds nothing but scattered deer trails and no clear path. Even the deer haven’t seemed to come to any collective agreement on the best course through the floodplain. This river washes out and floods easily, so every big rain knocks down a few overgrown trees that are forced to give up their dominance in the soft ground. Dense brush then takes root around the fallen timber, and saplings compete to fill in the sunny gap left by an old fallen tree. Years later, one of the growing saplings wins and the others die off. The strongest tree grows large enough to cast the shade that eventually becomes its own demise. The dark ground turns soggy again, and another adult falls quietly into the muddy riverbank.



Walking the near side is easier. It could be a pleasant hike, but the nagging awareness that you’re trespassing mostly kills the mood. I don’t trespass much. In fact, when I know the landowner is serious about it, I never walk through. But if the signs are old and tattered, if there’s no sign of activity on the property and there’s enough cover to keep my activity low-key . . . well I might forget to see those signs some morning. Most are probably hung to keep hunters away and not fishermen anyway. This river has a few miles of these old signs on the road side. The other bank is a state forest, providing access to anyone with a little ambition.

After a minute more for thinking among the wet goldenrod, I decided to cross to the other side for the walk downstream. The peace of mind is worth the extra steps.

What’s another twenty minutes of motion anyway? I already missed dawn — I left the house too late and stopped for gas. But that’s alright. Because I know I’ll be out here all day. And when you’re in for a full day trip, the river feels different. Give me twelve guaranteed hours on the water, and I can sink into these moments. From the beginning I’m more patient, more aware of the woods, more willing to pause and gaze at the eagle above, more interested in the mystery of the side channel, more apt to explore low-prospect water just for the hell of it.

There is no feeling like the newness of fall and the unanswered questions of a full day ahead.


Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. As I love making trips to PA to fish this time of year (or any time of year for that matter!), I hesitate to even bother this fish right now as stream gage levels appear to be pretty low and air temps still pushing 90. Hopefully we get enough rain soon to improve things and I can get to enjoy some fall fishing!

    • Dave, the fishing has been pretty good, and the rivers are within the seasonal average, almost across the state.


      There’s no drought. And the temps have been cooler than usual this summer, especially the overnight lows, which is what matters the most.

      I think everyone got used to watching sky-high gauges for about a full year of extra rain, and now what is normal seems like it must be very low. It’s not. And the fishing is quite good all around PA where you find cold water. Brookie fishing has been fantastic. And the usual cold water influenced streams that I fish are better than average.

      All I’m saying is, go fishing if you like early fall fishing. Things are normal for the season. Don’t let gauges hold you back.



      • Well that’s encouraging thanks Dom! I guess it helps to actually be there and see the conditions, being two and a half hours away sucks! We got an inch and a half of rain here overnight, looks like some out your way today as well. Will try to line up a day off on Friday and take a ride! Thanks Dom.

  2. Dom do you have a period of fall where you don’t fish browns as they get on the redds? In Ontario our season closes sept 30 so we don’t get to fish residents into the fall. Would love to hear your thoughts on fishing fall browns. Cheers.

    • Hi Nick,

      I’m glad you asked that question. I think it’s extremely important to leave brown trout alone as they spawn. And I will not target spawning browns. I think doing so is unethical.

      However, I fish our rivers throughout the spawn. I think responsible anglers can easily avoid the redds and the sections of river where trout spawn. It’s also extremely important to for anglers to understand where redds are, if they have any plans to fish throughout the winter. Too many guys choose not to fish through the spawning season, then they go out in the winter and tramp all over the redds and the egg within, because the redd silt over and are not visible.

      I wrote a full article on the topic here:





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