Our Man In Canada
November 1st, 1999

Migratory Browns, part 3 (conclusion)

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


Once you've spotted a brown (you'll be able to tell them from salmon, because of their smaller size and thier greenish-yellow apprearance compared with the blacker salmon) don't move any further. Take a few moments to plan your approach. You'll need to get as close as you can without the fish spotting you. Use whatever cover there is. If there is no cover, keep as far back from the edge of the water as practicable, and kneel- crawl - if necessary. If you keep downstream of the fish, you should be able to get quite close - often as close as 10-15 feet. Sometimes you can get close enough so that you cast is little more than a swing and a dangle.

Once you're in position, make your false casts away from the water (provided there's room) and drop your fly far enough upstream of the fish so that it will have sunk close to the bottom by the time it's drifted down to where the fish is holding.

Autumn Gold, Glen Hales Photo

Try to keep the fly in sight as it drifts so that you can see if the fish takes it. If it's impossible to see the fly, watch the fish - not the leader, the line or a strike indicator. If the trout takes you'll see it move. this might be a minute movement upstream, a sudden twist of the body, a turn of the head, or no more than an opening of the gills and mouth. If you see any of these things when you see any of these things when you think your fly is close to the fish, set the hook

Spmetimes, browns will take on the first drift, especially if you're using an egg pattern for one which is actively feeding behind spawning chinook. However, it is often necessary to tease with multiple drifts before you manage to induce a strike. If this is the case, it's a good idea to rest the fish by pausing for five or ten minutes after every half dozen casts.


Migratory browns in the Great Lakes can run over twenty pounds, but these are rare; most of the fish you'll locate will be between five and twelve pounds. A six or seven weight outfit is the best. The rod should be long, no shorter than 8 1/2' , preferably 9' or longers, in order to provide optimum line control and distance from the target fish. There's no need for disc-drag reel nor hundreds of yeards of backing, as migratory browns seldom make long, blistering runs. Rarely will they head for the lake as chinooks often do. The leader should be short (5' - 6') toi facilitate short casts of under fifteen feet. The only exception is when fishing places where the water is more than four feet deep, and such places are uncommon on the small streams on Lake Ontario's north shore. The ideal tippet size is 3X - 4X to accommodate the relatively small flies which are used.


Babine Special, Glen Hales photo Because migratory browns will feed in the stream, especially on chinook spawn, flies which imitate natural food, such as egg flies and nymphs, are essential. But for the times when trout are less inclined to feed, attractor flies are needed. Because feeding takes place on or close to the bottom, most patterns should be weighted, although shot can be added to the leader to get the fly down.

Wiggler, Glen Hales photo

  • Nymphs:

    any impressionistic nymph in natural colors. Sizes #10 - #14.
    Hackled Crystal Egg, Glen Hales photo
  • Egg Flies:

    any of the conventional egg patterns, including impressionistic marabou-wing streamers.
    Devastator, Glen Hales photo
  • Attractors:

    anything with sparkly and/or flourescent synthetics. The Xmas Tree in sizes #8 and #10 nymph hooks is hard to beat. ~ Chris Marshall

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

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