Brown Trout Supreme

Not once have I ever heard a fellow fly fisherman utter the words, “Oh, it’s just another brown.”  Even small browns are a treat.  Larger browns are a prized possession. Many sleepless nights have consumed my time; time spent searching for a single fish that only comes out to feed in the still of the night.  Brown trout reign supreme in the eyes of many anglers and have rightfully earned that standing.  Despite their voracious nature, they are also extremely wary, offering a challenge to any who are willing to accept.  The past few weeks have offered many exciting opportunities to fish for browns and my friends and I have not been disappointed.


Henry’s Fork Butter Ball


Two Handfuls of Streamer Eatin’ Brownie


Slab of Silver


Mouthful of Mylar


Chris with More River Gold


Magic Dragon Muncher


Salmon Fly Eater




Kyle with a Brownie that Smashed the Peanut Envy 


Hitting the Banks


Connect the Dots


Canal Fishing has its Perks


As Wild as the Come

If you haven’t spent much time targeting browns, now is the time to start.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Brown Town

One of my favorite things about fly fishing is the different places that it takes me.  I love exploring new water.  Having only lived in Eastern Idaho for three years, I still have a lot of exploring to do.  There are so many miles of water here, it would take a life time to explore it all.  My buddies and I are always on google earth, sharing screen caps through Face Book messages with comments such as, “Have you ever fished here before?” or “This run looks like it has to hold some serious hogs”.  Often times places end up being a total bust, but every once in a while everything comes together and you find that perfect spot.  There is something about finding a new run that is chock full of fish eagerly waiting to eat your fly.


Dirty Water Brown

Anyone that knows me knows that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the South Fork of the Snake River.  Most of the year the flows are too high to reasonably wade fish.  If you know where to look, there are side channels that can be fished without the use of a drift boat, but they are pretty few and far between.  Late fall through early spring is prime time on the South Fork for the wade fisherman.  Three years ago, fishing was phenomenal on the South Fork.  It was not uncommon for me to go out in the afternoon and fish til dark and land 30+ fish, with at least a handful in the 16″-18″ range.  The past two years have been a different story.  Aside from night fishing, I have had a terribly difficult time catching very many fish.  Even my usual spots were not producing the normal numbers of trout they did in years past.  I attribute this partially to the fact that we have had terrible winters the last two years.  Unusual fluctuations in water flows have messed with insect life and have also reshaped the river, causing fish to hold in different runs than they did previously.  Simply put, I was a bit put off with the idea of fishing the South Fork.


Last Light Brownie

Last week, I decided it was time to give the South Fork another chance.  I went and fished a couple of my old haunts and quickly caught a couple of small cutthroat trout.  I was much more interested in catching brown trout, so I decided to do a little exploring.  The South Fork is riddled with side channels and almost every one of them holds a lot of fish.  I decided to go fish a new side channel that I had not explored much before.  The last time I had attempted to fish it I had been run off by a couple moose and was a bit hesitant to return.  The deep cut bank on one side and gravel bar on the other made any route of escape a difficult one.  After checking the area and deciding there weren’t any moose near by (at least none that I could see) I decided to jump down into the channel.  Within a couple casts I was hooked up on a decent little brownie.  I quickly released the fish and slowly worked my way down the channel.  At one point in time I was catching fish on every single cast.  The fishing continued like this until dark and I ended up with 30 or so fish to hand, most of them between 12″-16″s.  I considered staying to night fish but didn’t want to deal with fishing in the rain in the dark.  I was content with the day and already planned on returning in the morning.



With my faith somewhat restored in the South Fork, I was excited to return to the newly discovered run the next morning.  Unfortunately, conditions were not going to be as prime for streamer fishing.  A couple inches of snow had fallen, the wind was blowing, and the temperature had dropped about 20-25 degrees.  Water clarity was also beginning to return to normal.  I arrived at the river with the air temp somewhere around 15 degrees, and with windchill, it felt somewhere in the single digits.  Undeterred, I made my way down to the run and began working my wooly bugger behind some boulders.  It didn’t take long to hook up with a healthy 16″ brown.  I worked my way down to the tail out, only picking up three fish along the way.  I figured the fishing would be slower with the change in weather and decided it was time to move elsewhere.


Blizzard Fishing

After deciding where to try next, I made the short drive to one of my favorite spots on the river.  It was immediately evident that the fishing was going to be better in this location.  After only a couple casts I had hooked up with a fish.  I worked my way down river for 1/2 a mile or so, picking up fish the whole way, but most of these fish were smaller.  Things eventually started to slow down and I decided to start heading back to my truck.  On the way back, I planned to stop and throw to one of the deeper pools one last time.  In years past I had seen some very respectable browns in this hole, so I knew there was most likely a nice fish in there.  I cast my streamer, this time letting it sink much longer so I could work the deep run more effectively.  I began stripping the fly slowly towards me, and on the third or fourth strip felt the take of a noticeably larger fish.  When big browns hit, they don’t hold anything back.  They attack your fly with a vengeance and there is no mistaking that they are there.  After the initial take, they usually dive straight for the bottom or the river.  As I fought the fish, I did all that I could to work him up from depths of the river bottom.  He did not want to budge at all.  I fish with pretty heavy line, so I wasn’t too concerned about breaking him off.  Fly fishing for carp really teaches you how much pressure you can put on a fish before your knot will fail.  Eventually he came to the surface, throwing a huge wave of water.  I finally caught a glimpse of him and let out a shout of excitement.  Big browns are not very easy to come by, especially in the light of day, and I was face to face with the biggest one I had ever hooked on the South Fork.


That Head…

I scooped the fish into my net and sat there for a minute, admiring his monstrous head.  His kype was so large that it kept his mouth from closing all the way.  I had never seen such a large head on a trout before and was quite impressed.  I quickly snapped a couple pictures and sent the big guy on his way.  I can’t help but wonder what he might have looked like in October, prior to the spawn.  Sometimes after catching a nice fish I decide that it is ok to call it quits for the day.  This was one of those days.  I looked up, thanked the Lord for the opportunity to catch such a beautiful trout, and made the hike back to my truck.


One of My Biggest Browns To Date

Sometimes you catch a fish and the entire experience runs through your mind over and over again, like a scratched DVD stuck in a loop.  While fishing today, I couldn’t help but re-run the experience of catching that brown through my mind.  I was already content with the day before I ever stepped out of my truck.  Fishing was a little slower today, but I still managed a nice 22″-23″ hen.  She was still skinny from the spawn, but a healthy and beautiful fish none the less.  Brown trout hold a special place in my heart, and it was nice to take a break from the ‘bows I’ve been more accustomed to this Winter.



Sometimes all it takes is a couple good days of fishing to restore your faith in an old favorite spot.  Other times it might take only a single fish.  Through a combination of both, my faith in the South Fork of the Snake is once again restored.  Snow pack is looking great for this winter, so I am hopeful that brighter days are ahead for the South Fork in the coming year.

Warm Fronts

Sometime last week I said that I was done night fishing for the year unless a good warm front came through.  Well, earlier in the week we had a warm spell and night fishing was back on my mind.  My buddy Gabe was coming up from Utah for the weekend and I thought to myself, what better way to get  the weekend started than a little night fishing.  I had planned on hitting our usual spot but decided to try elsewhere when Chris showed me another potentially awesome location.  Chris and I scouted it out earlier in the day and found the water looking just as awesome as expected.  We only threw a few casts because both of us had places to be.  We did each land a fish, which was a good sign for the trip back.  Chris wasn’t able to make it last night, but we were both pumped to see what beasts would come out to play once the sun went down.

Gabe rolled in to Rexburg around 9:30 PM.  We got rigged up and wadered up at my apartment and headed off to the river.  In case anyone was wondering, walking through a thicket of bushes in the dark is a rather intimidating experience, especially when the area is known to be thick with moose.  Despite my scouting of the trail earlier in the day, it took us twice as long to get to the location, but we finally made it there around 11:00 PM.  The fishing was a little bit slow at first, as it usually is when fishing a new spot.  My first set up wasn’t getting any love so I switched to a new pattern I had tied up the day before.  It was nearly pitch black so I decided the bigger and darker profiled fly would be easier for the fish to see in the water.  A few casts later and I had hooked into my first fish of the night.

At first, I could not really tell how big the fish was.  He ran pretty good for a while and then he rocketed straight out of the water.  That’s the first time I’ve ever had a 20″+ brown jump out of the water.  They usually dive straight for the bottom of the river.  Anyhow,  I could tell by the splash that it was going to be a big fish.  I searched around for him with my headlamp and was able to catch my first glimpse.  I started hollering like a mad man for Gabe to come over and to bring his net with him.  The fish made few more runs and  eventually tired out and I was able to land him.  After a little celebration and snapping a few pictures we sent the big guy on his way.

My Biggest Brown Trout To-Date

Quite the Kype!

My happy bucket was more than full after landing the fish.  We kept fishing the run for a little while longer but thought it’d be best to head downriver a while and let the hole rest.  In the process of searching for the fish with my headlamp, I spooked a whole lot of other browns.  They aren’t too fond of the headlamp shining in the water.  We fished the lower end of the run for quite some time without much luck.  Gabe had a couple of hits but they were short striking the fly.  45- minutes had gone by and we figured we could head back up the best part of the run again.  A few minutes later, Gabe hooked into his first fish of the night.

Gabe’s Brown Trout

We continued fishing for another hour or so but didn’t have any more luck.  There is one thing that I attribute to us catching any fish and that is the use of a stinger hook on the flies we were fishing.  Both fish were barely hooked in the corner of the mouth by the stinger hook alone.  This means that the fish were really short striking tonight.  Stinger hooks are a great way to eliminate the problems you get with short strikes.  The fishing never did turn fast and furious but we were both able to catch a fish.  Night time is when the big boys really come out to play.  This past warm front was enough to get me out again and I’ve decided I’ll probably keep night fishing until it is too cold to do so.