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.

IMGP1628

Henry’s Fork Butter Ball

IMGP1640

Two Handfuls of Streamer Eatin’ Brownie

IMGP1681

Slab of Silver

IMGP1670

Mouthful of Mylar

IMGP1647

Chris with More River Gold

IMGP1661

Magic Dragon Muncher

20140709_170933

Salmon Fly Eater

20140709_171025

Darkie

IMG_20140727_195152

Kyle with a Brownie that Smashed the Peanut Envy 

20140709_182838

Hitting the Banks

20140709_192344

Connect the Dots

IMG_3434

Canal Fishing has its Perks

IMG_3441

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.

IMG_20140228_184154

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.

IMG_20140302_175710

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.

IMG_20140302_174444

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.

IMG_20140302_171846

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.

IMG_20140302_174710

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.

IMG_20140301_134414

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.

20140303_152405

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.

Finding Time For The River

Monday of last week marked the beginning of another semester of school.  The past four months off have provided some incredible fishing opportunities for me, but it feels nice to be back in class again.  The first week of the semester is always one of the most stressful times.  I’m always rearranging my schedule.  Doing homework takes a little bit of time to get used to when you haven’t had any for four months.  With that said, I think I’ve got it all figured out and look forward to another fun semester.  I’ve opted to take more online classes this semester than I usually do for a couple of reasons.  Reason number one: I have A.D.D. and I have a hard time sitting in a class room for more than an hour or two.  I get antsy and my mind starts wandering elsewhere.  Online classes let me do the work from the comfort of my apartment.  Reason number two:  Less time in a classroom = more time on the river.  Who wouldn’t want more time on the river?

20130426_194709

Rewarded For Being a Good Student All Week

I’ll be the first to admit that Saturday is my least favorite day of the week to fish.  There are usually a lot of people out, and I prefer a little bit of solitude.  Brent and I had planned on fishing Friday, but we each had things come up that prevented us from doing so.  I also ended up having way more homework than I was expecting to, so it worked out for the better.  Fortunately I love to hike, and hiking is one of the best ways to get away from the crowds.  Brent and I met up Saturday morning around 10:00 AM and headed out in search of some hungry trout.  It didn’t take long to connect with my first fish of the day, a solid cutt that would have went over 20″ but somehow managed to shake the hook.  Brent and I worked our way downriver, picking up the occasional hybrid, but overall the fishing was pretty slow.  In hopes of quicker fishing, we decided to pack up and head elsewhere.

2013-04-27 001 2013-04-27 002

Snakey Hybrid

DCIM100GOPRO

Underwater Shot: Photo Credit- Brent Wilson

As we pulled into our next stop, I felt good about our choice to move elsewhere.  There was much more water to cover, and water clarity was much better than where we began our day.  Brent worked a nice ledge on the far bank of the river, while I stuck to the bank closest to where we parked.  After a few casts, I watched a dark shadow come out of the depths and chase down my fly.  In its attempt to hit the sculpin pattern, it missed and made its way back to the deep pocket.  I continued working the run for a few more minutes and eventually pulled out a decent hybrid in the 18″ range.  Rainbow-Cutthroat Hybrids fight strong and they are one of my favorite trout to catch.  We snapped a few photos and sent the fish on her way.

2013-04-27 001 2013-04-27 009

Chrome Hybrid

20130427_164511

Terrible Photo But a Decent Cutthroat

Over the next few hours, Brent and I continued to work every run that looked like it would hold a fish, and in turn continued to catch or hook into fish on a regular basis.  Most fish were in the 12″ to 16″ range, but we’d occasionally hook one in the 18″ to 20″ range, and even were lucky enough to catch a couple in the 22″-23″ range.  I’m terrible at keeping track of how many fish I catch, but my best guess would be that between Brent and I, over two dozen were brought to hand by days end, not to mention all the fish that shook the fly loose.  Not a bad day at all in my book, especially for a Saturday.

2013-04-27 001 2013-04-27 019

Vibrant Colors

2013-04-27 001 2013-04-27 021

Shoulders

20130427_183758

Big Headed Cutty

Today, another week of school, homework, studying, and everything else that goes along with being a full-time college student begins.  A great weekend of fishing always makes it easier to get through the long days of school.  In the mean time, I can day dream about the tailing carp and streamer pounding smallies that I’m going to chase this coming weekend.