A guide to catching aggressive fall brown trout
It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the autumn season when you’re on a mountain stream. However, the season also provides a great opportunity for trout fishermen in Appalachia to get aggressive. Brown trout are known to color up and ornery as they prepare for their fall spawn. This is the perfect time of year to target these big fish. In this article, experts provide insight into the behavior of these animals and where to find the best bites.
Although brown trout aren't native to North America, they have thrived since they were brought over from Europe during the 1800s. They are known to be dominant in various streams and rivers in the East, and their diet is mainly piscivorous. This makes them an ideal target for fly fishers who like to strip.
Brown trout begin their spawning season in the fall. The females move to find suitable habitat, which is called redds. Most of the time, they head upstream.
In order to find a receptive female, male brown trout go looking for a similar habitat. They become aggressive toward other males in an attempt to get the chance to fertilize eggs, and they are also known to display vibrant colors that reflect autumn's warm tones. Mature specimens eventually develop an upturned portion of their lower jaw, which they use to fight with one another.
Redds are known to lay eggs in conditions that are good for their development, such as high oxygen levels, clean gravel bottom, and a good flow. Females will often search for this area around the edges of their pools or near the tail of a riffle.
When a female finds something that she's looking for, she starts digging with her tail and turns on her side to create a redd. She deposits her eggs in the gravel deposit. Males then fertilize the eggs and the female kicks the gravel back on top of them.
The process of spawning can take a couple of hours or days. A female will typically deposit her eggs in several redds, and the incubation period for these eggs can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the water conditions. Young brown trout, which are egg-sack dependent and stay in the redd until they are ready to feed on insects, also stay there for a couple of days.
During the fall season, people who visit brown trout streams should avoid disturbing the redds. This includes people fishing, swimming, and throwing balls at dogs. Redds are oval features that are lighter in color than the surrounding gravel.
According to Habera, it’s easy to spot redds and avoid them while you’re out fishing. He said that it’s also possible to learn how to avoid them.
Ethics of Fishing the Spawn
While most people agree that trampling redds is bad form, there are also some conservationists who don’t want to fish during the spawning season.
They believe that harassing the spawning brownfish is bad for the fish. It can make it harder for them to reproduce and survive.
During the fall season, brown trout become more accessible to anglers due to how they tend to move out of their summer homes. They also become more aggressive as males tend to chase each other in shallow water. These actions can make for a fun fishing experience.
So, should we leave our heavy rods in their tubes during some of the best streamer fishing of the year?
Although he doesn’t think that it’s a bad idea to harass the spawning brownfish, Habera said that it can be a personal choice. He also said that he doesn’t think that it would be a problem if you were catch-and-release fishing.
Contrary to popular belief, fishing the spawn does not affect the population level of a healthy brown trout fishery. According to Habera, the actively spawning females do not eat. Brown trout also have plenty of males that can fertilize eggs.
The fall season also brings a reduction in fishing pressure. According to him, the kill-and-grill crowd tends to be more likely to be watching football.
The fishing pressure starts to decrease by October, according to Habera. He said that the people who are still fishing are aware of what's happening.
Although he allowed certain populations of brown trout to be protected, Habera advised anglers to check the regulations in areas where fishing is prohibited during the spawning season.
Timing the Action
It can be hard to determine the peak behavior of the spawning brownfish in a particular area. For most anglers, the best strategy is to target pre-fish. These are the ones that are most aggressive and ready to move.
The spawning movements of brownfish can be affected by various factors such as weather conditions, habitat types, and the length of days. The process usually begins when water temperatures drop to around 40 degrees.
According to him, wild brown trout in Tennessee usually spawn from mid-October to the end of November. On the other hand, browns in big tailwaters such as the South Holston and the Watauga spawn later in December and November. In most cases, the individual fish will spawn in varying stages over a period of several weeks.
From September to December, a wide range of areas across the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Pennsylvania can experience the brown trout spawning season. Depending on the water conditions, the action can start earlier than in north Georgia.
According to Habera, one way to catch a glimpse of the brown trout activity in a particular area is by standing on a bridge over the South Holston River. This type of observation can be very effective as the cold front moves through the region.
After a long summer, cooling waters are ideal for the spawning activity of brown and rainbow trout. Also, spring-producing rainbow trout can be rejuvenated as they feed ahead of winter's scarcity of insects. With fewer people fishing, it's a good time to practice fly fishing.
When it comes to fly fishing, Alex McCrickard is not bothered by the insects that live in the water. Instead, he enjoys throwing large flies and trying to land the biggest brown trout that the river has to offer. He is an experienced fly fishing guide and the aquatic education coordinator for Virginia's Department of Wildlife Resources.
According to him, the brownfish in Virginia during October are especially aggressive as they prepare for their spawning season. They are known to put on their spawning suits to attract females. They will also get territorial as they get closer to the spawning area.
The large and older brown trout are known to be very cagey. They prefer to eat large meals to maximize their calories and expend as little energy as possible. Although smaller brown and rainbow trout will often eke out a living by consuming tiny insects, big brown trout are not likely to acknowledge flies, nymphs, or other small insects.
According to him, large brownfish require larger food items to sustain their growth and size. They are opportunistic and will consume both terrestrial and aquatic insects and crayfish. Most fly fishing patterns mimic this behavior.
This behavior, along with the pre-spawn aggression, increases the likelihood that a large brown will attack a fly fishing rod. In most species, jealousy and lust can cause males to loosen their inhibitions. Brown trout are no different. When a big brown trout is around looking for a fight, it will already be cocked and ready to attack.
Streamers are also effective for covering lots of water quickly in search of aggressive fish.
According to him, persistence and being stubborn are the key to landing a big fall brown. He said that one must put the fly in front of a lot of fish in order to have success.
During the spawning season, he said that he often fishes near areas where large fish are known to congregate. Although he prefers to give the active spawners a space, he also enjoys fishing for browns that are staging in areas off the main spawning grounds.
He said that these areas are ideal for attracting large brownfish because they require less energy to hunt and gather food. Aside from deep pools and vegetation, other factors such as log jams and drop-offs can also attract large fish.
The technique of fishing is different from that of other types of fishing. According to him, one must approach the sport with a mindset that is different from that of other anglers. He said that one must be willing to trade up to a few strikes per day in order to have success.
A big tailwater brown trout can grow up to two feet longer than a 14-inch fish. On smaller streams and rivers, a 14-incher can be considered a true trophy. When it comes to choosing the right gear, it should be tailored to the situation.
The Biggest Brown in the Creek
According to him, carrying a heavy rod is ideal for fishing in areas where there are large freestones and mountain streams. This type of rod can be used to battle bigger fish and make slingering easier.
Although floating line is usually enough for these areas, you'll need a heavier fly and a nine-foot leader to allow your streamer to reach the water column. He also said that he prefers to use tippets and heavier leaders than those used with dry nymphs and dries.
He said that a reaction strike is often the key to landing a big brownfish. These fish are usually chasing after smaller forage fish. They don't inspect a dry fly that's floating in a flat pool to determine if they want to eat it.
Selecting the right fly is also a bit challenging when it comes to catching large brownfish. It's important to consider the availability of food in the stream and how you can use the aggression of the fish to your advantage. According to him, a size 6 to 8 Woolly Bugger is ideal for most areas. However, depending on the conditions, this type of lure might not be enough to attract the large fish in the creek.
If you're casting for the fences, you might want to go big. A 12-inch brown will sometimes take a swipe at an articulated streamer.
This is especially true in smaller streams that are known for producing large brownfish. One of these is the South Fork of the Holston in southwest Virginia. According to him, this area is a place where large flies are commonly used to attract large brownfish. Another example of a smaller river is the Chattooga River, which is located near the South Carolina-Georgia border. Brown trout prefer big flies in colors that resemble their young counterparts.
When dealing with large tailwater brownfish, things get even better. Although a 20-inch brown is an excellent fish, it grows larger whenever the conditions allow. If you're planning on catching a fish that's measured in pounds, you should give it serious meat.
According to him, if he's fishing in larger streams, he likes to use large articulated flies. He said that these types of lures are often used by Western fly tyers such as Charlie Craven and Kelly Galloup. He also likes to use spinning wool heads and dual hooks.
In terms of food, large tailwater brownfish are known to feed on various types of fish, such as shad and perch. On rivers such as the Chattahoochee or the White River, anglers are sometimes stunned when they see large brownfish that are 30 inches long rising from the water and ripping 9-inch trout.
When he's fishing for large brownfish in tailwaters such as the Jackson River in Virginia, the Potomac in Maryland, and the South Holston in Tennessee, Pat McCrickard usually uses a 9- or 10-foot-long rod with a 250-grain sinking line. Some of the other notable fisheries that are worth mentioning when it comes to preparing for the hunting of large brown trout are the Nantahala River in North Carolina, and the Toccoa River in Georgia.
Sinking line, or a sinking tip, is an ideal choice for large brownfish since it eliminates the need for a long leader. Also, since the weight of the fly line tends to pull the lure down, large brownfish are not line shy. For this reason, Pat uses a 3-foot section of 0x tippet with a breaking strength of around 15 pounds. If the water is stained, he uses a 20-pound test mono.
When it comes to catching large brownfish, Pat said that he's more confident with a fish that's two feet long if he has it on 20-pound line.
More to Consider
According to studies, brown trout are known to be nocturnal. They'll often be active in the low-light of the morning and evening, especially when there's a weather system moving in.
According to Pat, fishing for large brownfish in cloudy and rainy conditions can be very productive. He noted that these conditions can coincide with the low pressure systems that are moving in.
The clarity of the water also affects the type of fly that you should use. For instance, Pat prefers dark olive or black colors when fishing in dirty water. On the other hand, when the water is clear, lighter colors with flashes are a good idea.
Although brown trout are known to eat a lot of streamers during the winter season, older individuals are still wary of them. This is why it's important to keep in mind that you should only fish with a rod and not a streamer.
According to Pat, a productive day is often dependent on the type of lure that you're using and the conditions. For instance, if you're casting a 10-foot long rod with a 250-grain sinking line, you might not be able to catch many brownfish. However, if you're going out with the mindset of trying to catch two or three fish, then you might be able to achieve a successful day.