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.

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Henry’s Fork Butter Ball

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Two Handfuls of Streamer Eatin’ Brownie

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Slab of Silver

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Mouthful of Mylar

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Chris with More River Gold

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Magic Dragon Muncher

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Salmon Fly Eater

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Darkie

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Kyle with a Brownie that Smashed the Peanut Envy 

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Hitting the Banks

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Connect the Dots

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Canal Fishing has its Perks

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Chromer

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Torpedo

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.

Solitude

Fly fishing in the winter is a bit of a love – hate relationship for me.  Before my family moved to Eastern Idaho, Winter was by far my favorite time of the year to fish.  All the people floating the rivers were gone, the flows were low and the river easy to wade, the water was always clear, and you didn’t have to worry about someone else fishing where you wanted to.  Not to mention, the fish love the colder water that winter inevitably brings along. Winter is much milder in the Boise area than it is here in Rexburg. When my family moved to Rigby four years ago, I was caught off guard at how cold and extreme the winters really can be here.  Days of subzero temperatures are not an uncommon occurrence and single digits in the mornings become the norm.  Right now it feels like mother nature can’t seem to decide if she wants it to be winter or fall.  We’ve been receiving the occasional snow storm, followed by temperatures cold enough to keep ice on the guides all day.  On the other, the occasional warm front will come through that reminds me of the mild weather we had this fall.

Winter Fishing

 I’ve learned to love the winters of eastern Idaho and look forward to them every year now.  Solitude is easily found on most all rivers.  People have either put their fly rods away for the year or they have moved on to fishing the hard deck.  Ice fishing is definitely another reason that I love the winters here.  There is something about standing over a little hole in the ice all day and catching yourself a nice mess of perch.  But for now, ice fishing will have to wait.

All Colored Up

Another thing I love about fishing in the colder weather is the beautiful colors all the fish are sporting.  The cooler water does them good and it shows in the way they color up again.  All the colors become more vivid.  Often times nymphing is the name of the game.  Most of the fish don’t want to move very far or burn much energy to get a meal.

Buttery Bow

Beautiful Spotting Pattern

Surprise Cutthroat 

Then there are those days when a fluke warm front comes through and the fish go nuts on  Streamers.  Saturday was one of those days.  The fish wouldn’t touch a nymph but we couldn’t keep them off of the streamers.  No monsters, but definitely some quality fish that more than made up for their size with their beauty.

Sweet looking Brownie

A Chunky Hybrid

November has definitely been good to me and I expect it to keep getting better as the days continue to become more overcast and cooler.  This week is the start of Thanksgiving break.  I am excited to spend time with family, eat some great food, and I also intend to get out and fish quite a bit.  I can’t think of a better way to express my gratitude for what I am thankful for than experiencing it first hand.  Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!