Fall is without a doubt the best time to target big brown trout. I’m not talking about the brown trout spawning that some fishermen choose to try to catch. Good fishermen know their water and the indicators that signal spawning grounds own them and avoid them. I’m talking about brown trout before and after spawning.
These fish are in “eating mode” like a black bear stocking up for a long winter nap. Brown trout sense that the lean months of winter are approaching and, in turn, eat large foods like sculpins, crayfish and their ilk.
Aggressive by nature, large brown trout are predators predominantly. Rarely will you find a brown trout 20 inches or larger sipping on dried midges. These fish need large sources of food to maintain their size.
During the fall season, large brown trout lose their sense of survival. Hidden under cutbanks and rootballs during the day all summer, these behemoths come to the surface at night for unusual flies. JP Moderno, Angler Manager for Vail Valley, is a mustache junkie when it comes to nighttime getaways and throwing big fur flies on sounds, not shapes.
Fly fishing with mice, or mice as it is sometimes called, is a niche in the angling world that requires experience to perfect. Learning to throw in the dark can be overwhelming. The sound of big flies splitting the air beyond your ear on a forward throw is something you have to get used to. Trusting your throwing and line control skills takes some effort.
Leaving the fly in the water after an audible hit is essential for success. Placing the trout in the dark removes the fly from the strike zone. A fat brunette often searches for the food after the first bite and will eat the mouse fly a second time.
Streamers represent the majority of large brown trout. Fierce, predatory instincts force Big Browns to eat out of reaction. Float fishing is the best presentation method and covers the most water, increasing your chances of success. Downlines or streamer specific lines like the Airflo Streamer Max easily flip heavy flies and save your shoulder in the process.
Tall in profile, streamers fly with joint, articulated body, swim in water column with realistic imitation. When retrieved with short broken thongs, the fly bends and folds, giving an impression of vulnerability. Any small fish that has trouble swimming becomes an immediate target for strong, fast brunettes.
Wide tails, wide pecs and a big mouth full of teeth are reasons why brown trout rule over sections of the river with intimidation and authority. Brown trout will spend a lot of energy chasing brown trout streamers by mimicking injured juveniles. Cannibals in their aggressive state, a small brown trout streamer causes fierce strikes and can be visibly followed through the water by the angler.
Anglers who love to live through their vise and self-created flies are in the midst of bliss during fall. Flies Ã la Frankenstein reconstituted with aspects of this fly and that, emerge from the vice.
Trailed behind sinking headlines, articulated flies breathe life in a way that prompts larger fish to eat. The vice-masters assemble the complex skeletal framework of which the articulated flies are made. Fur, feather, and flash are the building blocks and when combined correctly they can be unmistakable.
Now is the time to pull out a heavier rod. My streamer rig consists of an Echo EPR 7wt, a Ross Reels Evolution LTX, and an Airflo Streamer Max Short. Able to flip the biggest streamers I have for freshwater and retrieve the line with power and speed, this outfit gets the job done with ease.
The trophy brown trout head hunt is the name of the game for fall trout anglers. Larger-than-life flies on weighted lines roam the shore in search of the river’s most aggressive fish. Articulated streamers tease and dance in a mesmerizing rhythm that brings the grown-ups to the game. Anglers with the proper equipment and knowledge have the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime.
Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River Valley in 1992. He began professionally guiding fly fishing in 2002. His freelance writing has appeared in numerous magazines and websites including; Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly mag, FlyLords, Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the shore of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a pair of yellow labrador retrievers.