Our Man In Canada
October 25th, 1999

Migratory Browns

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

Locating Fish

One of the prime rules of fishing for migratory browns on small streams is that the fly fisher has to be prepared to spend more time looking than fishing. There is little point in casting blind and hoping that a brown might hit.

Many of the tributaries draw crowds of anglers while salmon and trout are running, and most pools can be crowded. If this is the case, there's not much sense in joining the crowds around the pools: not only is it difficult to cast a fly in a crowd, but any self-respecting brown will have buried itself deep in cover. In such circumstances, the fly fisher should seek out the less obvious places, such as small less popular pools and the pockets in runs.

For instance, a number of north shore tributaries run over ledges of flat limestone in their lower reaches. There is one popular tributary which has a series of such ledges right in the middle of the town just above where the flow enters the lake. These form a succesion of low, broad steps, interspersed with turbulent pools and pockets. The browns frequently hold here as they make their first foray upstream. Yet most anglers ignore these places, preferring to concentrate on the deeper, smoother water downstream.

A little careful scouting is usually all that is needed to located similar underfished pocket water on most streams. Such pockets are much more likely to hold browns when they're on the move - between sunset and a couple of hours after sunrise and when the water is running higher and with a touch of colour after a rain.

Bigger Pools and Runs

You won't always find that the main pools and runs are crowded, especially on weekdays. There are far fewer anglers on the stream in the fall than there are during the rainbow run in the spring. And there are even fewer once the chinook run has passed its peak by mid-September. This leaves them open for the fly fisher.

A Fine Migratory Brown From the Ganaraska River, Glen Hales Photo

The obvious places for browns in bigger pools and runs is in or adjacent to cover, and in or at the edge of a flow. Check out undercut banks, overhanging tree roots, rocks, rock ledges, logs parallel to the bank, and log jams. In the deeper pools, they'll sometimes hold in relatively open water, especially if the pool has not been disturbed for some time by other anglers. The same goes for the heads of pools and runs where there is turbulence and foam. During the time that there are pods of chinook in the stream, browns will frequently hold just at the downstream edge of the pod. This is partly because they're using the larger bulk of the chinook for cover, and partly because they will actively feed on chinook eggs. In very low light conditions, you'll sometimes find them holding in the shallower water at the tail.

The Approach

For the most part, in order to catch migratory browns on small streams you have to spot them first. This means you have to be sneaky. You have to spot the fish before they spot you. Poloroid glasses are essential for the former, and drab clothing is essential for the latter. Unlike pacific salmon, which will hold in plain sight even when a pool is surrounded by anglers chucking hardware at them, browns quickly fade away into cover when disturbed. This means you have to approach potential holding areas from downstream, and that you have to move slowly, avoid clumping and stumbling feet, keep a low profile, and utilize bankside cover as carefully as you would when approaching a rising resident trout during the hatch. ~ Chris Marshall

Fall Issue Next time, Presentation and the Tackle.

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

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