Fall Is The Time For Big Brown Trout

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Photo by Jason Tucker

Photo by Jason Tucker

By Jason Tucker

If you’ve been wanting to catch that trophy brown trout, now is the time.

It was a cold overcast November morning when we launched Phil’s custom cedar drift boat that he had built lovingly with his own hands. We put in on the Jordan River in Northern Michigan, a stream this little boat was built for, wearing blaze orange hats to hopefully avoid being shot by any deer hunters still in the woods. Phil rowed while I cast streamers, ducking and dodging the canopy of cedar limbs and the occasional tree downed by recent wind storms.

We arrived at a large pool where the river exited to the right. Phil dropped anchor, got up and traded me places at the front of the boat. He tied on a 7-inch smelt pattern that we had nicknamed the Private Dancer and stripped out some line. He cast to the heavily cut bank and began stripping back. A large dark shadow followed, and just after we saw it, a white mouth opened and inhaled his fly. After a tough battle in the tight, wood-choked stream he brought in a two-foot long solid brown. It was a great start to a great float.

Fall is well underway, and it is perhaps the best time of the year to target BIG brown trout. There are a lot of reasons to love fall fishing, but you definitely must change up your game to be successful.

Here are some reasons you should get out this fall yet and pursue big browns.

-The dry fly season is over, and a lot of anglers hang up their gear.

-The summer tourist season is over and the kids are back in school. This removes even more people from the river, leaving you more elbow room.

-Hunting seasons and other fall activities (football) take that many more people off the water.

-Because of cooling temperatures, less daytime human disturbance, the need to feed because of the upcoming spawn, or a combination of all three, big brown trout become more active during the day and are willing to feed.

-Throughout their range, big browns in lakes and reservoirs move out and run up tributary streams to spawn, putting them within reach of fly anglers.

Those are just some of the reasons, but let’s move on to tactics.

As mentioned above, fall brown trout are triggered to feed, often all day long. For all practical purposes the dry fly bite is over. This leaves throwing streamers and nymphing/egging.

Copy-of-FallCamp-025Nymphing pretty much doesn’t change. I tend to start with naturals like hare’s ears and pheasant tails. Large stonefly nymphs can be very effective on big fish. Don’t ever forget to try scuds. Fish deep runs and the tailouts of pools, being careful not to line the fish or let them see you. Take advantage of higher stained water. Egging can be particularly effective this time of year, especially in the Great Lakes tributaries behind spawning salmon. Be careful not to snag or otherwise disturb the salmon and tip off the brown trout to your presence. Use natural colored veiled eggs in orange/peach, orange/chartreuse or pink/orange. Even outside the Great Lakes region egging can be very effective but DO NOT fish to large brown trout on redds. You want those fish to effectively spawn and propagate. Fishing the next dark water below a big redd provided you don’t cast or drift through it, can be very effective. Brown trout eggs tends to be paler than salmon or steelhead, so try eggs in Oregon Cheese color in a size 12 or 14.

The real action for big browns in fall is streamers. Big streamers. All those Kelly Galloup, Mike Schmidt, Russ Maddin, and Tommy Lynch streamers you’ve had stashed in your streamer box, this is the time to use them. Streamers six inches and longer work. The fall is by far the best time of the year to fish them. Big browns are ornery, aggressive and hungry, and a partly cloudy, cool day after a big rain, with high, stained water is a perfect scenario to have all day action, the most exciting bite that fly fishing has to offer. Circus Peanuts, Zoo Cougars, the Great Lakes Deceiver, Tommy’s Triple D, Red Rockets and the Viking Midge all produce in the fall. Olive, brown, black and yellow are all good colors. The Great Lakes Deceiver in cotton candy is a big producer.

If you find that you are getting a lot of follows and swipes but no takers, go smaller, natural, and sculpin. Smaller Zoo Cougars in white, yellow or tan cone-head Madonnas, Matukas and muddler minnows work great in the fall. If you are fishing a system that gets a local run of baitfish in fall then match the hatch. Whatever you do, get out there, pound the banks and the wood, strip hard, strip set, and you very well may find yourself tight to your biggest brown trout of the year.

Jason writes the fine blog Fontinalis Rising

Jason Tucker

Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Fall Is The Time For Big Brown Trout

  1. Phil Croff http://www.croffcraft.com is a class act and makes the most beautiful hand made drift boats I have ever seen. I love getting on the water with Phil. He is a great guide and just plain fun to fish with. You feel like you have made a friend for life before the day is over. The rivers in his neck of the woods in Michigan are amazing! I guess the secret is out!

  2. Interesting article except for the stupid anti-deer hunting comment. How ever have I been hunting for 30+ years and not been shot?

    • “wearing blaze orange hats to hopefully avoid being shot by any deer hunters still in the woods.”

      I think it’s only smart to be cautious during hunting season and this is in ni way anti-deer hunting.

      • I appreciate the comment about safety in the deer hunting woods. I had a former student killed as took his bull elk head back to the pickup. He was in camo and the head/antlers was not flagged with bright ribbons. Another hunter shot at a bull elk and killed the hunter carrying the head. Totally on the hunter carrying the head and he failed to distinguish himself from the real thing.

    • Of course theres that one person who has to make a stupid remark about something the rest of us enjoy reading upon. The guys at Gink and Gasoline are doing an AMAZING job, Thanks!!! Jeff Prough do you write fishing articles for the rest of us to read? Didnt think so. Give the guys on here credit and if you dont like it, dont read it next time and keep your opinions to yourself.

    • Seriously? That’s not an anti-hunting comment, and I am a hunter. Too many yahoos out there to not wear orange in crowded hunting areas…

    • Not sure, but he should be using either the Sage Smallie 7’11” bass rod or the Bluegill version. Sink tip and/or articulation go with the former. Cash Money…. Love the Tina Turner “Private Dancer” reference. Get down with your bad self!

  3. The Jordan River brings back a lot of memories as it was my fathers favorite river back in the 40’s and 50’s. I can remember my brother and myself wading the river in just our under pants and T shirt when we were just young kids. Caught my first trout on the Jordan when I was 7 or 8 years old.

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