Fishing for Brown Trout
Of all the fish that I pursue, the Brown Trout is my all time favorite fish to try to catch. Notice I used the word “try,” I’m not saying I don’t succeed, I do, but brown trout are the hardest trout to catch, especially the big ones. The brown trout has evolved over thousands of years into a crafty, stealthy fish that epitomizes predatory sophistication.
Brown trout are native to Europe, and were brought to North America in 1883 to provide a substitute to brook trout, which were disappearing as their habitat was being taken over by human civilization. The brown trout is considered a heartier fish, capable of withstanding environmental challenges, partly because of where they choose to live in a river. Browns prefer undercut banks in slower water, tangles of brush or log jams, basically whatever thick cover they can get into, which is one of the reasons why they are the hardest trout to catch.
Browns can live to be 18 years old, and they get big by eating more than just insects. While you can catch browns on aquatic insects like may flies, caddis flies, and stone flies, they are voracious predators that eat crawfish, frogs, mice, other fish, and even baby ducklings. These fish can grow as large as 40 pounds, but anything over 10 pounds is considered a monster, even a five pound brown is quite an accomplishment.
To catch a big brown, you need to fish for them differently than you would any other trout. The main thing to keep in mind is their preferred habitat and their predatory nature. Most really big browns are caught at night when they will venture out of their lairs and are more accessible to fishermen. One of the most exciting fishing experiences is to twitch a mouse fly in a slow moving area of water and have a big brown slam the fly. But fishing a river at night isn’t always practical, and there are methods which work when it is light out.
To go after a big brown trout, hone in on deeply undercut banks first, preferably with over hanging trees. If there is a tangle of tree limbs submerged next to a wide curve in a stream, with an undercut bank and exposed tree roots, there will likely be a large brown trout laying in wait for a hefty meal. The challenge is getting your lure or fly in the very narrow feeding zone as the big fish will not move far to take a bait. You will lose a lot of tackle going after big browns, but it is well worth it once you hook and land one. The trick is to cast your fly or lure directly at the bank, even hitting trees, rocks, or dirt, and then let the bait fall into the water. As soon your fly or lure hits your target, immediately strip in line or crank your spinning reel. You repeat this over and over until you entice a strike. Even on a bright sunny day, this activity will draw a fish seemingly out of nowhere to attack your lure or fly. You will miss about half of the fish, but it is truly an exciting way to go after a big brown. In deeper pools look for sunken logs, brush, or big boulders, this will be an ideal spot for a big brown as well.
A very important thing to remember is that to catch a big brown, you need to use a big fly or lure. I mentioned a mouse fly earlier, and large streamers, wolly buggers, frog and craw dad patterns work well too. For lures, a large red and white Dare Devil spoon is an excellent choice, as are floating/diving minnows, crank baits that can dive quickly, and large spinners. You will also want to use heavier line than you normally would for trout fishing. For spinning gear use at least 10 pound test, and for fly fishing a minimum of 4x tippet.
If you haven’t gone after a big brown trout, you are in for a treat once you do. They are beautiful, strong fish that will test your patience and fishing skills alike.