Fall Brown Trout Fishing
Each year, Lake Ontario will experience a fall run of Brown trout. These lake run Browns are big for Brown trout. They can grow as long as 30 inches and weigh over 15 pounds, but most of them will run from seven to ten pounds.
Just about all of the tributaries along the lake will have a few Browns running. However, for some reason unknown to us, most of these Brown trout will be running in the western tributaries of Lake Ontario. The timing of the runs for the Browns are fairly predictable. The earliest the Brown trout start to show up in late October. These first runs will generally be made up of males and will be some of the biggest of the fall. By early November the main runs begin. The runs will continue to show up in the tributaries until late November.
Despite the popular myth, Brown trout are not following the salmon just to feed on their eggs. This is a biological circumstance, the Brown trout are just taking advantage of the situation. Spawning is the main reason for them to be migrating up the various tributaries of Lake Ontario. Once these Browns start to reach the spawning beds they find them occupied by salmon. The salmon have been hanging around and spawning for the past three to four weeks. What this means is that Brown trout are hit with a feeding bonanza of stray eggs and they take full advantage of it, even though fall is spawning time for the Browns themselves. When presented with such a prime feeding opportunity, they will take full advantage of it.
Most of the fish that are in a feeding mode will be found in the cuts and runs and in the tails of active spawning beds and are actively picking off stray eggs and dislodged nymphs. Many times Browns can be found in and behind the spawning salmon. These Browns will be picking off dislodged eggs right underneath the salmon. Salmon that are aggressively spawning can be like a dinner bell to a hungry Brown trout.
As the spawning cycle progresses, fewer salmon will be hanging around. Brown trout will take over all available spawning habitats. Even when the Browns are busy with their own spawning, they will continue to pick off a few stray eggs and often will alternate between spawning and feeding. Browns can do a good job of digging up the river bottom and maintaining a good drift of eggs. Most often they will be found both feeding and spawning.
The riffs are where most of the active Brown trout are located and the riffs are where you should spend most of your fishing time at this stage of the run. Many of the Browns located in the pools will have been spooked and trying to hide or exhausted from spawning. It is best described as an on and off switch. They are in the riffs spawning and feeding or in the pools, not interested in biting. This behavior will be very obvious during the peak of the spawning.
Many of the rivers and streams the Brown trout do run in are naturally shallow flowing. These conditions have their own challenges, but they are perfect for sight fishing, spotting a Brown trout and then coming up with a plan to fish to it. This is often the most productive way to fish these rivers. Many of the rivers the Browns will be running do not have dams or fish barriers to concentrate them. Sight fishing will also help to eliminate a lot of unproductive water.
The spawning cycle will begin to wind down by late November. The Browns will now start to hold in the throats and tails of the pools. Many of them are now in their post spawn feeding and resting cycle and the water temperatures are starting to fall off. The brown trout’s menu is starting to expand. The egg drift that existed earlier has slowed to a trickle. They will be more receptive to a small streamer and medium-size nymphs. Brown trout will linger in the rivers all through the winter. They will be feeding on forage minnows and nymphs such as stone flies and hexagenia when they are available. After periods of high water flow, there will always be a few eggs available.
Water flows in the tributaries on an average fall is typically low and clear. This can make for some spooky fish. These conditions require fishing with fluorocarbon tippet in 6 to 8 pound test. Leaders of 9 to 12 feet long, and a floating fly line. Nine to ten-foot rods six to eight-line weight fly rod. Personally I like a ten-foot seven-weight rod for this type of fishing. Reels for fall Brown trout need not have a high line capacity but the reels need to be well built. A Brown trout will not run far when hooked, but they will fight hard where they have been hooked.
Fly selection is straightforward, egg flies in sizes ten to eight. Patterns such as nuclear row bug and estaz egg. Nymphs such as, stone flies and hairs ear. Small streamers in sizes eight to six, brown and black Wooly buggers, white Zonkers, Grey ghost, Mickey fin.
When fishing egg flies, the fly must be fished tight to the bottom. Remember, the natural eggs roll more than drift along the river bottom. So your fly must imitate this drift to look natural. Streamers, on the other hand can be fished a little higher off the bottom. Brown trout prefer a slow swing. Let the streamer hang in the current a little.
Lake Ontario tributaries provide a rare opportunity for the average fishermen. To fish for world-class Brown trout without becoming a world traveler, the main challenge is in taking advantage of these world-class fisheries.