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Event Article

Get Away and Fish for Beautiful River Brook Trout (continued)

Fishing for Brook Trout isn't any different then targeting the more common Rainbows. Kastmasters will work in any deeper pools, but tend to hang up in the very shallow streams that Brookies favor. Small spinners from Panther Martin, Blue Fox, or Mepps are ideal for these conditions, and a brisk retrieve keeps the lures spinning in just a few inches of water.

A Brook Trout hooked on a spinner

In deeper pools or slow running deep water anglers can also use a small float with a egg, worm, or ball of Powerbait. Tubes are also effective for slow dragging or even jigging. While there is no doubt that you will catch more Brookies with live bait but I prefer catching these fish on lures. When the fish are aggressive they will often give chase and at times even compete for your lure trying to snap it up right in front of another follower. 

Panther martin Spinners are among the most effective for targeting these fish in shallow water

A subtle presentation is key to catching Brookies, and I find these trout among the most hook shy. The younger juvenile brookies are much more likely to dart right out and attack a spinner, versus the older larger fish that may follow your lure all the way back to shore and then simply turn around right before you think the fish will commit. Any river Brookie over 12 inches in length can be considered a trophy fish, and they got that big by being wary of anglers. 

You will drastically increase your strike numbers by sneaking up on fish and staying hidden from view. These fish spook easily!

Try and wear clothing that matches your surroundings, green is usually a good pick but in the fall I like browns and oranges. The fish will usually dart the minute they see you on shore, and while you may still see them hovering in the water in front of you they will go into complete lockjaw mode. The fish are also sensitive to movement and if you simply walk up to edge of the stream you will often see wakes of fish moving away from you before you even catch a glimpse of the fish.

Zander lands a Brown Trout on a spinner while targeting Brooks

I like to take my time to approach good stretches of water, and will often creep up to the waters edge on my knees and whenever possible keep cover alongside trees or in tall grass. I then lob cast my lures as far over the target area as possible and retrieve the lures at a constant pace through the area where fish are holding. Brookies like structure and will hold alongside submerged wood or rocks waiting for prey to ambush. Working riffles is also very productive, just make sure to cast over them because if you cast your lure directly into the area where fish are holding you are likely just going to spook them.

We had no trouble catching Browns on this trip, but finding water that held Brook Trout was a challenge

On this particular trip catching a Brook Trout proved to be a major feat, and we caught over 30 Brown Trout before we got our first Brookie. Waters once filled with the small variety of fish had now been completely taken over by Browns and Rainbows. There are four main types of Trout that you are likely to see if you fish in Yosemite or venture beyond to the Eastern Sierras, these are Rainbows, Browns, Brooks, and Goldens. Rainbows are the easiest to catch and many of the Eastern Sierra lakes and rivers are stocked with fish, Saddlebag lake for example receives a fresh supply of Rainbow Trout each week during the season, and because they are hatchery fed they will strike just about anything. Browns, often called German Browns are found throughout the region and can be caught on conventional tackle or fly rods. These fish can grow to a large size, and monsters can be seen cruising within deep pools.

When Brook Trout are mature like this 12 inch Brookie they exhibit a enlarged head that is disproportionate to their body

Brook Trout are extremely colorful and when the fish mature their heads often darken and grow to the point where they actually look out of proportion in comparison to the rest of their body. Then there is the only trout that I think is even more attractive than the Brook Trout, the rare Golden Trout. Goldens, also known as the California Golden Trout (Salmo Agubonita) is without a doubt one of the rarest in it's pure form. Extremely brilliant in color this fish was originally found only in the Kern River here in California. It has been since introduced to Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington with success. It is quite rare to catch Goldens in the High Country, but not impossible. Interestingly Rainbow Trout will readily hybridize with Golden Trout. These hybrids share markings of both fish including the distinct rainbow band and roughly 10 parr marks, and catching these hybrid golden rainbows can be difficult. While I have caught them in the past on this particular trip I never saw a single one.

Wet your hand in the water before handling Brookies to lower the temperature of your hand as well as to help preserve the Brook Trout's protective layer of slime

When you are lucky enough to catch a Brookie be sure to grip it securely but not too tight as the fish are very slippery and if you are not careful it is easy for the fish to jump right out of your hands and on to the shore. Brookies are coated with a layer of slime that protects their sensitive skin from infection. You want to quickly unhook the fish and get them back into water as quickly as possible, I actually like to wet my hand in the cold water to both lower the temperature of my hands before handling fish and making sure my hands are not dry to preserve the fish's protective layer. 

While the days are still warm the nights are cold enough to completely freeze shallow sections cut off from the main river, there have been times I have found small Brookies frozen in these pools

JIP and I hiked a total of eleven miles on this trip, and changed our location twice by car. Finding the fish proved to be the hardest part of the expedition, but it made catching them all the more sweet. Backpacking overnight makes it easier to find the fish in the backcountry, but with restrictions on overnight camping and parking due to the extremely cold nights we didn't have that option. Even on day trips into the backcountry it is important to pack emergency supplies. You should never be without basic survival gear like a water pump to filter water as drinking water directly out of the stream is not safe as it can be tainted by bacteria. Make sure to pack a radio and GPS, and you should always carry warm clothing and a flashlight or headlamp just in case. Always travel in pairs, and stay within radio distance, there are a lot of unpredictable factors in the backcountry.

Practice catch and release and these stunning fish will have an opportunity to grow to fight next season

Conclusion: Brook trout will migrate with conditions and part of finding the fish is finding the ideal cool clean water conditions that these fish prefer. The good news is that while hunting for these fish you will likely find yourself in some of the most scenic surroundings that you are likely to ever fish in. Big things come in small packages, and this couldn't be more true when it comes to the gorgeous fish that is the Brook Trout. Only rivaled by its golden cousins these small fish are prized by anglers that want to pursue these surprisingly hard fighting petite fish for their splendor or for their meat, as many anglers consider them among the tastiest of all Sierra Trout. Take only what you can eat, we encourage catch and release practices when possible to ensure that there will be many more of these fish inhabiting streams for years to come. While bass fishing is my first love there is something enchanting about fishing for trout in the backcountry, and when the water cools down it is nice to get away and fish for Brookies, a fish that while small is no less spectacular than the picturesque mountain milieu they live in.   










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