Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pre-spawn Brown Trout Bite, PTHW Style

Some rivers' fish are already completely post spawn. That was definitely the case for the Farmington. I was there Saturday afternoon and the fish we lethargic, slow, just all around boring. So I stayed closer to town on Sunday, on my part time home river, where the water is generally abnormally warm in the winter. I have yet to see shelf ice there, even on 24 degree days. 

The fish there also have an affinity for meat flies. Nymphing has accounted for three of my wild browns there. Streamers, probably 30. I wasn't quite sure what to expect on the river this time, my last visit had been in very early fall. I was going to keep my eye out for redds, I expected to find at least a few. There were none. That fact, along with the behavior and holding positions of the fish, told me they are probably going to spawn within the next two weeks, but haven't even started yet.

I was pretty limited in my streamer selection, having left my articulated streamer box open at the tying desk with three grey maraceivers drying out. Oops. I had two woolly buggers, one white and one black and olive, one Granato's Brown Trout Sasquatch, and one Coffey's Sparkle Minnow. I used the Sparkle Minnow all day. On bigger water I would probably have gone with the Sasquatch but I wanted to get the small fish today too. I only wavered for two minutes with a nymph trying to get a specific fish, which did not work out as expected. More on that soon....

My first fish came in the first pool. It was a holdover rainbow, which I found interesting. This river suffers from warm summer water. Last winter in all the trips I made I didn't catch anything but wild browns, so I kind of expected the spring stockers to last only a short time. I guess they made it pretty well. Huh.

I struggled up until the first bridge, missing some good takes and getting frustrated by ducks that insist on doing everything in their power to spook the fish. 

After the first bridge I started hooking up, and was pleased to catch mostly wild browns. In all, three wild rainbows and 12 wild browns, which made this far and away my best day on this river. Every once in a while you get a really crazy streamer bite, it seems like every fish you run your fly by wants a piece of it. This was that kind of day. I had one fish solidly hooked for 4 seconds. It came free but decided to just hammer the fly again. Three others followed the fly to the rod tip then planted themselves there, hitting the fly cast after cast until I hooked them. I wish the 18-26 inch fish would do that. The average size today was between 8 and 12 inches, which is pretty good for a river this size.

So, about the short time I spent nymphing. I had moved a small fish that I though may have been a wild brookie, and as I haven't yet caught one in this river I figured I should at least try to catch this one. I didn't. But I did catch a little dace, which was, to my surprise, a long nose dace! A new species, completely by accident! I'm thankful and relieved to have finally gotten one of these little bastards... they've been giving me a hard time for months. 63 down, don't think I'll get the 7 more I need to reach the goal I had set for myself this year at this rate.

And this is why I love fishing my part time home water. Who else wants to cast to a wild brown holding in a discarded tire using a busted up shopping cart as a platform? It's that gritty urban trout stream kind of appeal. Not everyone likes it. "Trout never live in ugly places." HA! Watch this....


  1. Wow---you've got some crazy nice "home water"!!! So many trout!
    I think the rainbow holdover makes sense considering the wet cool summer. Heck, I caught 3 trout in September--in a very heavily pressured stream -- you commented on that one.

    I read your article about using egg patterns a couple entries back. And I took that as advice and had some fun a couple days ago.
    But I usually only manage to catch a couple fish in an outing. I'm not sure what would happen to my head if I caught 8 or 10!

    1. Actually this stream could be classified as low yield, and "nice" isn't quite the right word. It's very polluted. The highest temperature I saw there this year was 76, which is nearing straight up fish kill heights for stocked trout. The wild ones know where to go and are just genetically more adept at handling warm water. I think some of the rainbows just got lucky. A tributary of this stream that is less than a quarter of it's size actually has about twice the number of trout per mile.

      You should have seen my actual home water from 2010 to 2013. 30-40 fish a day was very normal if the conditions were good. Of course there's always the chance of getting a good hatch on a very productive stream. I had 33 browns and 2 rainbows in 40 minutes during a caddis hatch on the Beaverkill last year.

    2. That is utterly extraordinary. That's every cast and one a minute or something like that.
      Someday I'll have to simply tag along and watch you doing this. Of course I'd probably skunk you in the process haha.

  2. RM
    Looks like a productive day, question----I assume the Farmington is a tailrace, and you indicated the trout their do go through the spawning process, do they complete cycle? I know on my home tailrace the "Sipsey" the trout try to spawn but never complete the spawning cycle. Even on the big Caney tailrace I fish here in Tennessee they do the same as the Sipsey, never completing the spawn. Great Post!!

    1. Considering almost half of the trout population of the Farmington is wild, stream born, yeah... they definitely spawn successfully.

  3. That sparkle minnow sure did well! For a polluted stream the presents of those natives is fantastic.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...