Tom Ference admires a nice wild brown trout caught and released during a recent outing.
For the past couple of years, the pursuit of native brook trout has been high on my list. Native brook trout are indeed special, not only the fish themselves, but the nearly pristine places in which they typically live. But they are small, with a fish in the nine to 10 inch range a very good one. Wild brown trout, however, do attain impressive sizes. So when I heard it on good authority that a stream not far from my home, one recovering from a history of Acid Mine Drainage, held a nice population of stream bred brown trout, I made sure I got out there at the first opportunity. Well, that opportunity happened recently. My friend Tom Ference and I fished a couple sections of the stream, catching a wild brown trout up to 15 inches. Here are a few tips for catching wild brown trout: Though it's certainly not always the case, in many instances native brook trout streams flow through relatively open woodland shaped by hemlocks, pines, and mature hardwoods. So there's plenty of room to approach pools, to put yourself in the optimal position to make a cast Brown trout waters often are of lower gradient and can flow through areas that include farmland. In some instances, these creeks can be enshrouded with alders and a mixture of shrubs. These woody corridors can create situations where you feel like you're fishing in a tunnel. When heavy growth covers the banks of the creek, often the only option is to wade the streambed. Wade upstream. Working from this direction not only approaches the fish from their “blindside” but prevents you from muddying water you've yet to fish. As much as I like to fly fish, in situations like this it can be an exercise in frustration. You're better off with a short spinning rod. During our recent outing Tom actually used an ice fishing rod about three feet long, one teamed with a tiny spin-casting reel. While this is extreme, he did well with it, though a fair degree of his success can be attributed to his angling skills. Streams that hold wild browns often have undercut banks. A properly place cast with a small spinner like a Rooster Tail is a good option for pulling fish out of such cover. Felt soled wading boots are fine for rocky stream bottoms, but aren't very good for climbing out of the trout streams that have soft banks, as some brown streams do. For creeks like this consider soles with “sticky rubber,” or better yet rubber soles with screw in studs.
Jeff Knapp is an outdoors columnist for the Cranberry Eagle.