By: Gary Buchannan
Posted On: 2009-01-24
If there's a fish that deserves more appreciation from American anglers, it's the Brown Trout. He's highly respected in England, where angling first became an art. This Trout is larger than either the Brook Trout or Rainbow Trout; the world record Brownie, taken in Scotland, scaled 39½ pounds, and even in our large streams and lakes 8-pounders are common. He can survive in murkier and warmer waters (80 degrees) than can other Trout, and if it weren't for him there would be no Trout fishing at all in many of our warm southern streams and in many northern streams which have become partially muddied and polluted as civilization has deforested the wilderness areas.
Moreover, no fish offers a greater challenge to the fly angler. The Brown Trout is the most discriminating varmint you'll meet. Even when he likes your fly, it may take him 15 minutes to make up his mind to go for it. And then he may snatch it so viciously that your leader snaps before you realize what has happened. Or he may mouth it so gently that if you aren't wise to his ways he'll spit it out before you can hook him. He's frequently criticized as being a sluggish fighter, which is true in warm streams, but in the cold Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout waters he's guaranteed to smash your tackle faster than any other Trout his size. He's amazingly powerful, putting on a running, head-wagging battle that makes you think you're fast to a runaway torpedo. He doesn't leap like a Rainbow, but neither does a Brook Trout. The only really legitimate criticism of him is that his softer flesh often tastes more like panfish than Trout.
Our Brown Trout is a naturalized citizen, first transplanted in this country in 1803, and you can find him everywhere except in the extreme Southern states and Canada. Germany was his original home and sometimes he's still called German Trout. He's also called Loch Leven Trout, a name he received in Scotland, which was one of the first countries to adopt him. In color he's a dark brown tinged with olive on his back and upper sides, shading to a lighter olive-brown toward the belly. His back is covered with dark brown or black spots, his sides with bright red spots each encircled by a white ring. Old males develop a hooked jaw, which gives them a pugnacious look.
The Brown Trout is not a wanderer; in searching for food he doesn't forsake his chosen home, which in a lake or river is most frequently some large underwater obstruction (on which he can snag your leader when you hook him) or a deep flow beneath an overhanging bank. In a stream he likes to lurk in front of the large boulders that break the current, seldom behind them as do other stream Trout. You'll also find him at the lower ends of the deep pools. Brown Trout are present in most Rainbow Trout waters although you might not know it because an eager Rainbow will almost always get to your fly first. For dinner fare the Brownie likes insects and flies, even when he grows to monster size, but to fill his belly he must supplement these with worms, frogs, snails, minnows and anything else edible that comes his way, such as a stray field mouse.
During the day a Brown Trout in a lake or river can be persuaded to take a minnow-like spinning lure retrieved at moderate speed past his lair. But don't give up if the first few casts fail to bring results. Cast a dozen times, using a different lure each time. Use a stiff* spinning rod with thin but strong (8-pound-test) monofilament line; a heavy line will scare him off" more quickly than anything else. For fly fishing in a lake or river, fish from a boat and work the shore beneath the overhanging bushes in early morning and late evening when he comes into shallow water looking for flies. Make no noise with the oars and never use a motor. He prefers dry flies to wet ones. When you cast the dry fly toward shore, let it rest on the surface at least 15 minutes before you pick it up for another cast. Twitch it but don't jerk it; if it moves so as to leave a wake on the surface he surely won't touch it. Use a standard dry-fly Trout rod with a 9-foot or 12-foot leader tapered to 4X. He might snap the light 4X tippet but he's apt to see a heavier one and not strike at all. In fly patterns he usually likes the less colorful ones such as a Black Gnat or the brown variations. Use the same fly tackle when stream fishing for Brown Trout, and the same techniques as described for Brook Trout—but be a hundred times more careful.
A Brown Trout is one of the most difficult fish to fool but it can be done, and here's one way to do it repeatedly although it requires some casting skill. When casting your dry fly toward shore at dawn or dusk, don't cast to drop the fly on the water; cast it further so it lands on a low overhanging bush. Then twitch the tip of your rod several times. The fly will loosen and drop lightly on the water. What could be more realistic? If your fly refuses to become unsnagged from the bush, pull your line hard to break it off, tie on another fly and try again. So what, if you lose a few flies! This trick will get you a nice Brownie—and a few lost 25 cent flies are a cheap enough price to pay for him.