With the turning of the earth on its axis the seasons change.
In the northern hemisphere the length of the days begins to
decrease, the trees take on a dress of yellow and red, and
flocks of birds gather for their long journey to warmer climes.
In trout streams from Montana to Maine brown trout and
brook trout are dressed in spawning colors and thoughts of
love or lust turns the most timid brown into a fighting machine.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
When I came to Montana 35 plus years ago fall fishing was
the beginning of the second season in the mountain west. There
was a dedicated group of anglers that waited all year for the last
few months of the year to drag out the big rods, sinking lines, and
monster streamer flies. They would stand waist deep in icy cold
water throwing shooting heads into deep pools on the Yellowstone
or the upper Missouri.
The flies they used were monsters, 2's and 4's, 3 and 4x long
shank heavy wire hooks with a half a chicken lashed to the shank,
or all the deer hair from a medium sized deer spun around the
head. There were light and dark spruce flies, muddlers, both
regular and marabou style, spuddlers, and a variety of bucktails.
A good day of such fishing might result in only one or two fish
hooked and landed, but when things were right these would be
bragging fish. Hooked jawed browns, golden brown and covered
with red spots the size of quarters. Occasionally a slab sided
rainbow lurking around the tail of the pools hoping to score
some brown trout roe would grab your offering, and like a
landlocked steelhead would lead the angler on a tail-walking
run down the pool.
My friend, the late Joe Brooks, was one of the pioneers in
publicizing the fall streamer fishing in the Rocky Mountain West.
His last book Trout Fishing was published in
1972 just two years before he died, and it contains a lengthy
section on fishing for autumn trout on rivers in Montana. The
information that he provided about this style of fishing is still
worth reviewing, and the stories that he relates about fishing
during those days is worth the price of the book.
Most of the old time anglers that haunted the pools of autumn
slinging huge streamer flies beneath mountains capped with the
first snows of the impending winter have long since gone to their
eternal reward. Recently I came across several boxes of big
streamers that were given to me by Mary Brooks after Joe died.
I dumped the flies out on the table and examined each one before
putting them back into the box. As I stroked the feathers and
smoothed out the hair on each pattern I could feel the push of the
Yellowstone on my legs, and feel the surge of a brown trout lunging
away downstream with one of these huge flies hung securely in the
corner of his jaw.
Outside my window here in Montana the tops of the Absaroka
Mountains are dusted with the first snow of the impending winter.
The days are shorter and the nights are cool and crisp. In the
Yellowstone River just beyond my doorstep a big brown is
beginning to stir with the urge to reproduce his species. Soon
he will begin to move, driven by forces that he is unable to
comprehend. Moving inexorably to a certain pool, a particular
spot of gravel he will fulfill that urge. Once there he will defend
that patch of gravel waiting the arrival of a female, and then they
will begin that dance that is as old as time, and come spring a
new generation of brown trout will emerge from their gravel bed.
Maybe I will just be there to meet him. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
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