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JEFF KNAPP: Brown trout grow to nice sizes

by JEFF KNAPP on July 01, 2014 10:30 AM

For the past couple of years, the pursuit of native brook trout has been high on my list.

Native brook trout are indeed special, not only the fish themselves, but the nearly pristine places in which they typically live. But they are small, with a fish in the 9- to 10-inch range a very good one.

Wild brown trout, however, do attain impressive sizes. So when I heard it on good authority that a stream not far from my home, one recovering from a history of acid mine drainage, held a nice population of stream-bred brown trout, I made sure I got out there at the first opportunity.

[PHOTO: Tom Ference admired a nice wild brown trout that fell for a spinner during an outing last weekend.   (Jeff Knapp/Gazette photo)

Well, that opportunity happened last Sunday morning. My friend Tom Ference and I fished a couple sections of the stream, catching 10 or so nice wild brown trout up to 15 inches.

Last week’s column centered on tips for catching native brookies. This week, consider a few observations relating to wild browns.

• Though it’s certainly not always the case, in many instances native brook trout streams flow through relatively open woodland shaped by hemlocks, pines and mature hardwoods. So there’s plenty of room to approach pools, to put yourself in the optimal position to make a cast. Brown trout waters often are of lower gradient and can flow through areas that include farmland. In some instances these creeks can be enshrouded with alders and a mixture of shrubs. These woody corridors can create situations where you feel like you’re fishing in a tunnel.

• When heavy growth covers the banks of the creek, often the only option is to wade the streambed. Wade upstream.

Working from this direction not only approaches the fish from their “blindside” but prevents you from muddying water you’ve yet to fish.

• As much as I like to fly fish, in situations like this it can be an exercise in frustration. You’re better off with a short spinning rod.

During our recent outing Tom actually used an ice-fishing rod about 3 feet long, one teamed with a tiny spin-casting reel. While this is extreme, he did well with it, though a fair degree of his success can be attributed to his high skill level as an angler.

I opted for a light spinning rod of 6 feet teamed with a small (not ultralight through) spinning reel. I’ve found the tiny spools on ultralights to be troublesome.

• Streams that hold wild browns often have undercut banks.

A properly place cast with a small spinner like a Rooster Tail is a good option for pulling fish out of such cover.

• Felt-soled wading boots are fine for rocky stream bottoms, but aren’t very good for climbing out of the trout streams that have soft banks, as some brown streams do.

For creeks like this consider soles with “sticky rubber,” or better yet rubber soles with screw-in studs.

KEYSTONE LAKE REPORT: After Tom and fished for wild browns in the morning, my friend Dave Keith and I fished Keystone Lake for bass during the afternoon and early evening hours.

Keystone has prospered from the rainfall of last year and this year. Submergent weed growth is back in good amounts, important fish cover that is severely set back during drought years and the resulting low lake levels.

We caught some nice largemouth off the deep edge of the weeds in 15 or so feet of water. We also had action from smallmouth bass along rocky shorelines.

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