Tips & Tricks

Swinging flies for pre-spawn brook trout

It’s that point of yr when a whole lot of backcountry anglers are about to hold up the 3-weight and begin their annual downhill migration, the place greater water is flowing slower and larger fish are having fun with the respite from summertime strain.

However, as any die-hard brook trout angler within the West would possibly let you know, “Not so quick, Habibi.”

Brook trout are fall spawners, which means that the “char rut” is underneath means within the Rockies. These transplanted, but wild fish are extra aggressive throughout September and October than they’re at another time of the yr. That could be laborious to consider, given the zest brookies possess always, but it surely’s the reality.

On many high-elevation streams from New Mexico to Montana, brookies of all sizes (and this can be a relative dedication, given the commonly diminutive size of those invasive fish from Appalachia) come collectively and begin bullying one another in preparation for the spawn.

Definitely, brook trout will nonetheless hit well-placed dry flies. It’s simply of their DNA—brookies are the opportunists of the salmonid universe. However that is the most effective time of the yr to actually change instructions and begin chasing brook trout with small nymphs and streamers fished downstream and on the swing.

Why? There are a number of causes this methodology works higher within the fall, throughout the run-up to the spawn, than it does at another time of the yr.

First, brookies are aggressive main as much as the spawn. They’re extra more likely to instinctively lash out at something that approaches them, even a small nymph or an undersized streamer. Brookies, ounce for ounce, possess one of many shortest tempers of any trout or char.

Second, brook trout don’t appear to lose their food-first perspective, even main as much as the spawn (some trout will go days with out consuming as they gear as much as mate). Their very nature makes it powerful for them to move up a meal and, I believe, as they prepared for the spawn, once they want each iota of power to pair up and get busy, they’re much more tuned in to feeding.

Lastly, pre-spawn brook trout will focus round areas in rivers and streams the place the redd-building habitat is right. This creates extra competitors among the many fish for meals and will increase the chance for aggression towards one another, and towards interloping flies that may imitate one thing that both seems like meals or seems like a risk.

What’s excellent habitat? Search for areas in rivers and streams that supply a superb mixture of stream-bottom substrate — gravel combined in with small rocks. That is the place pre-spawn fish will stage, and infrequently, you possibly can see them as they jockey for the most effective spots.

One vital be aware: in areas of the nation the place brookies are native, I might advise in opposition to chasing these fish within the weeks main as much as the spawn. Of their native vary, brook trout are a fragile useful resource with a bunch of environmental components—starting from habitat degradation to local weather change—working in opposition to them. The very last thing these fish want is extra anglers making an attempt to select them off as they get able to make the following vital technology of fish.

The flies

I get that, with just a few notable exceptions, brook trout are pretty small — a foot-long fish from a small Western stream is a reputable trophy. However that doesn’t imply they received’t chase streamers and even nymphs fished on the swing. As anglers, we must always do what brook trout within the West have finished for greater than a century: adapt.

Brookies in western streams are inclined to take over their adopted watersheds after which, over time, they overpopulate and finally stunt — in some beautiful western streams, brookies are the majority of the biomass, and an grownup spawning fish is likely to be solely six inches lengthy. So, armed with this info, it is smart for us, as anglers, to downsize the patterns we would usually fish on the swing.

A measurement 4 Zonker ought to change into a measurement 10 Zonker. A measurement 12 Prince would possibly change into a measurement 14 Copper John. Tie smaller.

Contemplate including some shade and a few supplies that may transfer water a bit higher or garner extra consideration. As a substitute of that drab olive Woolly Bugger, tie a gaudy measurement 12 Egg-sucking Leech with a brilliant pink bead for a head. Add some skinny rubber legs to a chartreuse measurement 10 Slumpbuster. Add those self same rubber legs to a measurement 14 bead-head Hare’s Ear. It’s an ideal alternative to be inventive on the vise.

The tactic

This isn’t rocket surgical procedure. The normal swing is right, notably in the event you can put a fly in entrance of a number of fish. One be aware right here: fishing for brookies as they’re truly spawning … properly, sure, they’re invasive in each western watershed they inhabit. However angling ethics being what they’re, it’s in all probability greatest to comply with your intestine and go away them be.

However, as fish stage for the spawn? Take a swing. Forged at a slight downstream angle and let the fly unfold above probably holding water (and, in lots of circumstances, you’ll be capable to see the fish you’re after, including to the attraction of this methodology). It’s no completely different than chasing large browns as they put together to spawn, or spring-run rainbows or cutthroats. Simply be good and considerate — casting to fish within the throes of spawning is a sporting fake pas.

Swinging flies is a blast. Swinging small flies on gentle fly deal with in small water is much more enjoyable, as a result of it’s intimate and visible. There’s no must upsize your fly rod — most 3-weights can deal with a barely heavier fly, as long as the load is proportional to the hook measurement.

Discover the fish and swing away.

Closing phrase

I get that the larger water is asking. The post-summer crowds are gone. Hunters are looking. As anglers, we’ve got “seasons,” and fall is a good time for backcountry anglers to come back out of the mountains and walk-and-wade for giant trout. However, for just a few extra valuable weeks, the excessive nation continues to be an ideal place to chase fish, notably in the event you’re a fan of brook trout. Slight variations to your approach and fly patterns may end up in a few of the greatest brookie fishing of the yr. You simply must be in the proper place to get pleasure from it.

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