By Zach Lazzari
Fall is the season for big trout and big brown trout specifically. As winter approaches, packing on calories is essential and for brown trout, gaining energy for the spawn requires aggressive feeding. While many rivers have great fall hatches that bring trout to the surface for small mayflies, dedicating a few days to chucking big streamers can produce thrilling takes and big fish that are difficult to find most of the year.
Fly selection is really a matter of preference. The biggest brown trout I’ve hooked in a river crushed a very small muddler minnow fished just under the surface. I wasn’t expecting such a large fish to grab a smaller streamer on a fast, shallow retrieve. Typically, running bigger streamers is the preferred approach, especially from a drift boat. But don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a smaller option like the slump buster, small wooly buggers and even two streamers fished in tandem.
Sparkle minnows are also deadly on bright, sunny days. When the fishing is slow, try flies that push water and really create a wake. Not only are they meaty and attractive, the in-your-face style of fishing can trigger a territorial response.
I really like fishing a bow river bugger on a sink tip or with a split shot a few inches above the knot. It wobbles and makes a wake that can coax big brown trout from undercut banks and log jams. The Sex Dungeon is another great option for a more aggressive approach.
The trick is to experiment and see what flies are getting followed. If it’s moving fish, stick with the pattern and play with different colors. Some days they follow and don’t strike but persistence pays off in the streamer game. Eventually, a big one will fall for your presentation.
Wade Fishing Approach
Wade fishing before and after the spawn is productive. Be extra careful during the spawn and watch out for redds. If you see fish fanning gravel, move along and give them some space.
Some areas deserve extra casts, especially when fish are chasing - but staying on the move is my favorite approach. Cast, retrieve and take a step or two downriver. Cover ground and prospect until a fish turns up.
Play with the retrieve and alternate between fast, slow and variable strip speeds. When one speed clicks, stick with that cadence. While boats offer a few advantages, I’ve caught and landed more fish over two feet while wade fishing. The ability to be very specific and repeat casts against the best-looking water and structure is very effective.
Using Boats to Cover Ground
Streamer fishing from a raft or drift boat is an exciting game. You can cover a ton of ground and reach areas that are difficult for wade anglers. Plus, the elevated position offers a view of fish chasing down flies. When the fishing is hot, being in a boat is too much fun.
The most common approach involves fishing the outside bends. And while this is effective, it pays to make a few casts through the inside seams and even into the shallow tailouts and odd spots that are typically dead zones. Brown trout are migrating to spawning areas and you might cross paths with a big one in unexpected waters.
Recommended Streamer Rods
Among the Mystic staff, one of our favorite streamer rods is the Mystic JXP in a 9-foot 6-weight.
Finally, if you want a streamer rod that can double as a big game or saltwater rod, take a look at our Tremor Saltwater rod in the 9’ 3” 7-weight. A perfect streamer-saltwater crossover fly rod, the Tremor can handle big flies and stiff winds.