Visions of beautifully-colored brown trout fill anglers’ dreams all summer.
The thought of these fat, gorgeous fish attacking every fly in sight is something folks from all over the country share in. From Montana to New York trout anglers all know the allure of fall fishing for browns. Autumn weekends are often kept clear of other duties so we can pursue these fish with heavy streamers or egg patterns. An overlooked time of year, which can be equally if not more productive, is the pre-spawning period of September and early October.
There’s a prevailing sentiment in fly fishing that the spawning seasons are the best time to throw big streamers. While that’s certainly a good time to do it, the pre-spawn can also yield extremely productive streamer fishing. Browns can sense the change in season coming and will start attacking streamers the minute it happens. That season change starts much earlier than the spawn, so when low temperatures start to dip into the 50s it’s time to throw meat!
Aside from streamers, fishing eggs in the pre-spawn period can be an excellent tactic. Trout will key in on these protein-rich morsels all year long, and the first signs of brook or brown trout spawning will reinvigorate the instinct to gorge on eggs. If you aren’t fishing streamers, fish a brace of egg patterns through the deep troughs below riffles. That way you’ll be targeting fish that are actively feeding, but not those who might be spawning already.
Watching the trout activity can also go a long way in determining whether or not it’s in spawn mode or not. If the fish is clearly on a redd, or paired up with another, just leave it be. The continuation of the species is far more important than us catching the fish, and by extension disrupting the spawning dance. However, a fish that is downstream from spawners or behaving normally is fair game!
Those browns that are posted up behind other spawning fish are there to actively feed on the eggs and bugs kicked up from the gravel. When there are spawners present, but browns are still mostly in the pre-spawn, spend the day walking and looking for these situations. Fish holding behind spawners will be aggressive and actively move away from their holding lie to run down a fly. Some of the largest browns caught each season are like this!
Don’t wait until mid-October to get your fix of brown trout. Get out there with the very first hint of fall and you’ll be surprised by the results! Look for fish that are holding behind spawners and come ready with a full arsenal of eggs and streamers. Do this, and by the time everyone else gets around to targeting big browns you’ll have weeks of fishing in the rearview mirror already!