Our Man In Canada
October 18th, 1999

Migratory Browns

By Chris Marshall
From an Interview of Glen Hales, Associate Photo Editor,
The Canadian Fly Fisher

Lake Ontario brown trout begin to enter the tributary streams close on the heels of the chinook in early September. But their run is much less concentrated than the chinooks, for it gradually builds until it reaches its peak in late September and early October. Spawning usually takes place in October, the the time will vary from year to year depending upon rain, stream flow, and water temperature.

There are places, especially at the west end of Lake Ontario, where fly fishers will target migrating browns as they run along shorelines towards the river mouths, as well as when they concentrate in the mouths themselves. However, they also offer challenging and exciting sport when they're in the streams.

Nice Brown

Yet few fly fishers pursue migratory browns once they've moved into the streams. This is partly because the chinook and coho are so much bigger and are much more noticeable when they hold right out in the open. But the main reason is most likely because browns are much more wary, much less easy to spot, and much more easily spooked. Herein lies both the challenge and the delight.

Browns move primarily at night and seek cover during the day. Sea-run browns in Europe, and on the Canadian east coast, especially follow this pattern, and are almost exclusively fished for during the night. However, the browns of the Great Lakes are sufficiently less nocturnal that they can be fished for effectively during the daylight.

Glen Hales is a young guy, still in his twenties, yet he's one of the best fly fishers around, especally for migratory trout and salmon in the small tributaries on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The following information is taken from years of depending on his eyes and his instincts on the stream.

Small Streams

The tributaries which feed the north shore of Lake Ontario from Brighton Bay to the Niagara River are small. Beyond their interfaces with the lake, none are more than 30 feet or so in width; many are much smaller. Consequently, fly fishers wishing to target migratory browns once they're entered the streams are obligated to do this in small spaces. These call for tactics somewhat different from those used on larger tributaries. Essentially, anglers are obligated to sight fish, stalking their targets in a style similar to that used for resident browns on streams of similar size. Streamcraft and sneakiness are ninety percent of the game.

When To Fish

On bright days, especially if the water is low and clear, migratory browns will usually be tucked away in cover so deep that they'll be inaccessible. The low light conditions of evening, early morning and dull days are the best times to pursue them, when they are less wary and more likely to be holding where they can be spotted and cast to. Similarly, a freshet after a rain and a touch of colour to the water will also bring them out, although the more turbulent, clouded can make spotting more difficult. ~ Chris Marshall

Fall Issue Next time, Locating Fish and more.

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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