Over time, the feeling that it is necessary to catch as many brook trout as possible, and the biggest brook trout possible, has waned for me. I used to be fiendishly obsessed with the species, and still am, but it takes less to satisfy me these days. A few fish to hand is enough, and though I still look for the largest in any given stream I don't put nearly as much time into that pursuit as I once did.
Have I fallen out of love with brook trout? No, quite the contrary. I've just grown up a bit in my fishing. I know how sensitive native brook trout are, and I feel that mitigating my intrusions on them is not a bad thing. I've tried to do the same thing for striped bass and other at-risk native fish as well, limiting my catch and altering my methodologies and photo taking and posting habits.
Now, when I walk a brook trout stream, I am far more inclined to seek out a visibly actively feeding fish rather than prospecting every viable pocket. It means I catch fewer fish, which is fine with me. But the experience I get is as rich and fulfilling as that of hunting down a giant brown slurping mayfly spinners.
One cool April evening I was walking "The Family Secret." It was windy, and indeed chilly compared to the days prior. The insect activity was lackluster but not absent. There was a smattering of paraleps, some small black caddis, and two different stonefly species. I saw no rise activity until I reached a certain pool I've often had decent luck in. I stood and watched for a while, but saw no rises or flashes. Then, in the shallow and swift tailout, a brook trout rose. It wasn't a small fish, but it had dropped back into just 5 inches of swift but smooth flowing water. It was doing almost exactly what a large brown trout does during a hatch or spinner fall. I tied on a black CDC stone, and waited a bit. The fish didn't come up again, so I made my best guess as to where it was sitting. The first four casts drew no response, so I let the fifth drift further down. The fly disappeared in a swirl and I gently raised the rod. He was on. The fight was spectacular, highlighted by a handful of acrobatic leaps.
I continued fishing, but the only other fish I found actively feeding in the waning light was a small fallfish. No more brook trout came to hand that day, but that made the one I did catch stand out even more.
Until next time,