Photo by: Bill Lindner/Lindner Imagery
Come fall, brown trout turn into meatheads. No, browns don’t lose their inherent wariness and become autumn oafs. But they do go on the prowl for substantial eats. With spawning over, big sh turn to a meat-oriented menu that puts on fat for lean times to come. Here’s how to catch the meathead browns of fall.
Load up your Honda ATV’s accessorized cargo box with rod (two-piece) and reel, tackle, bait, and lunch, and head for secluded stretches of stream. With the sun hanging low in the sky and the water chilled from frosty nights, midmorning to late afternoon is your best bet for hitting the water. This bucks conventional dawn and dusk wisdom for browns, but midday’s slightly warmer water makes forage more active, putting big trout on the feed. As autumn starts, browns run upstream, often into tributaries of bigger streams, for spawning. But as fall wears on, fish move back downstream to deeper, gentler water. Fish riffles, runs, pool heads, and strong eddies–places where actively feeding trout hold. Use an upstream approach under the clear, low-water conditions that autumn presents.
Forget about tiny hooks, delicate presentations, and precise hatch-matching. Now’s the time to get a little rowdy. Offer big flies that imitate brown trouts’ favorite fall foods: crayfish, sculpins, minnows, and leeches. Good crayfish flies abound: Clouser’s Crayfish, Craw Dawg, and Bachmann’s and Kraft’s Crawdad. Also called muddlers, sculpin-imitating flies include the Muddler Minnow, Cone Head Marabou Muddler, and Woolhead Sculpin. Streamers imitate minnows and leeches; use a Woolly Bugger, Matuka, Mickey Finn, or Lady Gaga.
Lures imitating crayfish and minnows work best, but flashing spinners will trigger strikes too. Look for realistic crayfish-imitating crankbaits about 2 inches long. Go for floating/diving minnowbaits with silver or gold flash; use 3-inch-long lures on creeks and small streams; 4- to 5-inch baits aren’t too big on rivers where outsize trout roam.
There’s nothing wrong with going after autumn browns with real meat. Pinch down your hook’s barb if you plan on practicing catch-and-release. Nightcrawlers are hard to beat, as are minnows. Using a size 8 or 10 hook and a split-shot a couple of feet ahead, attach a nightcrawler twice near the collar and bounce through riffles, runs, and pools. Attach a 3- to 4-inch sucker or shiner minnow through the upper lip to a size 2 hook and toss out behind a split-shot into eddies and runs, letting the current sweep your bait to trout.