Recent heat waves remind us that summer is near. This means warmer waters and the end of another trout fishing season for many anglers. But for those who wish to hike our state’s wooded high country and sample the native speckled trout fishing found in the waterways there, exciting sports can be enjoyed throughout the summer months.
Few fishing options require less fishing tackle than those intended for backwoods natives. Streams and streams that support native brook trout tend to be of limited fertility, meaning there is not much to eat. While the fish are shy – instinctively hiding from avian and mammalian predators – they are also aggressive eaters. If you don’t scare them away, chances are you’ll catch them because they can’t afford to pass up potential food.
Fly and spin gear are suitable for backwoods natives. The key word here is “short”. I have found 7-7.5 foot fly rods to be ideal. I have one of each, one fiberglass, the other graphite at a bargain price. There is no need for a longer rod, nor a higher quality. Rarely will we do a classic casting involving a back cast. Instead, casts are usually simple flips similar to a bass fisherman doing a flip or pitch at shallow, heavy cover. Or a bow and arrow throw that shoots the fly low under the air cover common to good native streamers. Everything you need to put a fly in front of a potential trout.
Additionally, outings of this nature are prone to mishaps. Stems hitting branches overhead when hooking, getting stabbed into the bank while climbing it, digging into the ground when sliding on a moss-covered rock. Better to break a cheap rod than an expensive rod.
Since many casts will be flips, it is a good idea to size up the rod rating. My two rods have 3 weights, but I fish 4 weight lines for the extra weight to help with such casts. It’s also a good idea to keep the leaders a little shorter than the stem length. This way the leader-line connection stays outside the tip top when you attach the fly to the keeper, which you will do a lot when moving from place to place along the shore.
Ultralight 5-6 foot spinning rods will also work fine, those mated to a 500 or 1000 size reel loaded with a four pound test monofilament.
Fly/lure selection is also simple. Native brookies succumb to brightly colored flies. I have found shiny, downsized Woolly Buggers to be effective as well as Green Weenies. Both designs can be tied in pink or salmon colors to which brook trout respond particularly well; I have found wild browns and wild rainbows like them too when present.
A dry fly/dropper tandem is another solution, the dry being a fluffy, fluffy model like a Humpy with a wet fly or nymph on the dropper. While the sec serves as a hit indicator, often the trout hit takes the sec.
The spinners and spinners on the ultralight spinning gear catch trout, but I have found that streamers and Green Weenies fish well on this gear with the addition of a small split stroke for weight. The sharp hooks found on tackle can be hard on a native brookie’s delicate mouth. Consider pinching the barbs on all hooks for this reason.
Rounding out the gear needs are light boots or waist waders, as sometimes you’ll have to kneel by the stream (or in it) to get a good throw. Choose wading shoes based more on comfort and support when entering and exiting rather than in the current, as little wading is needed. Include a backpack or shoulder bag to carry fishing essentials plus snacks and water, and you’re set for the day.
The natives will use all available cover to hide from predators, moving forward in a flash to intercept food (or your offering). This includes deeper pools dug at the bends of streams; plunge holes under falls, sills and logs from bank to bank; undermine the banks; tree branches embedded in the background; and rocks and rocks.
As mentioned earlier, upstream fishing is highly preferable. If you’re with a friend, it’s a good idea to skip spots so you’re each fishing freshwater. If possible, keep each other in sight so you know what has been worked on.
The fly/lure presentation consists of mounting your offer upstream of the target area without disturbing the surroundings and without alerting the fish. Stay away from the bank as much as possible by keeping a low profile. Keep your shadow out of the water. Wear soft colors. Keep your steps soft when approaching a location. I took brookies from undermined banks I was standing on while doing it.
On longer holes, be sure to fish the tail first. It is possible to shoot a fish from there first and get another without fear at the head of the pool. Except in high water conditions, you will rarely get more than a few fish from one spot.
You will need to be creative in your casting. Casts don’t have to be pretty. Natives will hide in less-than-obvious places, and you’ll find yourself tossing over submerged branches and the like, adopting a “catch them first, then worry about getting them out of there” attitude.
It is often said that fishing is much more than fishing. This is certainly true with the outback natives. In a world where things seem to have become increasingly artificial and manufactured, it’s refreshing to catch native species that have been here for eons, morale boosters to know they’re sticking around.