Brown Trout

One of the greatest events of the Great Lakes is the fall brown trout run. These are some of the biggest to be found, brown’s that can run into the mid teens in weight. Most fish will run from eight to ten pounds but a 15-pound brown trout is a true trophy fish. Think about it, a ten to fifteen pound brown. Where in the world you go to catch a brown trout like that; New Zealand.

Most of the fall brown trout activity will be centered on the western end of Lake Ontario. The first of these fish start to show up in late October. These fish will generally be the biggest of the fall. By early November the main runs start to show up.

Spawning is the main reason for the brown trout to migrate up the various tributaries of lake Ontario. Once these fish start to reach the prime spawning beds they find them occupied by salmon that have been hanging around and spawning there themselves for a while. What that means is the brown trout are hit with a feeding bonanza of stray eggs and the browns take full advantage of it and so will we. Even though fall is spawning time for the brown trout themselves but when presented with a prime feeding opportunity the browns will take advantage.

Once again observation is the key to recognizing best fishing opportunities. Several feeding and spawning behaviors will observe. To start with, when large groups of brawling male brown trout are found keep looking {unless you have a 25-inch long brown trout streamer]. Fighting male brown trout are very hard to get interested in a size 8 –egg fly. Check on them later in the day they maybe settled down enough to bit on a small streamer instead of themselves.

Most fish that are in a feeding mode will be found in cut and runs in the tails of active spawning beds. These browns are actively picking off stray eggs and dislodged nymphs. Many times browns can be found in and behind spawning salmon. These fish may look like they are little confused but what they are doing is picking off discarded eggs from the bigger salmon, and ‘sitting duck for a well placed egg fly’ salmon that are actively spawning can be like a dinner bell to a hungry brown.

As the spawning cycle begins to wind down in late November the browns will start to hold in the throats and tails of pools where the currents are more moderate. By now many of the browns trout are in their post spawn feeding and resting cycle and water temperatures are falling off. The egg drift that exited in earlier fall has slowed to a trickle. The browns will be more receptive to a small steamer and medium size nymphs. From late November and throughout the winter, the browns will be feeding on forage minnows, nymphs like the stonefly and hexagenia when available. After periods of high water flow there will be a few eggs available.

Brown trout will enter the tributaries in late fall and will linger in the river all winter. The best time to sample brown trout fishing is in the first part of the run, which is from late October through November. By late November the last of browns have made their way up the tributaries. From then on the quality of the fishing depends upon us. That of course, means that we must practice catch and release to maintain winter fishing. These fish will be around for the winter, if a little care is given.

Water flow in the tributaries in an average fall is typically low and clear which can make for some spooky fish. This requires fishing light tippets with 4 to 6 pound test and rods 5 to 7 weight. A nine foot six weight is the most preferred rod for this type of fishing. Reels for the fall brown trout need not have a high line capacity. But reels need to be well built. The brown trout do not run far when hooked but fight hard on the spot. Fly line selection is straightforward. A weight forward floating fly line works well. A nine-foot leader with a 3-foot tippet is sufficient. Keep the weight about 36 inches from the fly, as with all tributary fishing the fly must be fished tight to the bottom. When eggs flies are fished, and they will be most of the time remember that the natural eggs are denser than the water and must be fished on the bottom and drifted as slow as possible without hanging up on the bottom. Fly selection is straightforward. Egg flies in 10’s and 8’s small steamers, in sizes 8’ and 6’s, brown and black buggers, black and white steamers, Mickey fin and greyghost. These are the most productive.

The lake Ontario tributaries provide a rare opportunity for the average fishermen to have an opportunity to fish for world-class brown trout without becoming a world traveler. The main challenge in taking advantage of this world-class fishing experience is timing.