Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall Browns: Yea or Nay?

I grew up fishing in Arizona, a state not well known for its trout fishing. Yet, those who look a bit deeper will find a state containing scores of fantastic wild brown trout streams (see photo at left of my old man with a slab of an AZ brown). These streams are not stocked with browns, their populations are entirely dependent upon natural recruitment. I learned early on the value of these fragile brown trout fisheries. The quality of fisheries such as Chevelon Creek, Diamond Creek, Haigler Creek and many more are almost entirely dependent upon the presence of wild browns. Due to the importance of these trout, there was an unwritten rule amongst anglers: DON'T DISTURB SPAWNING BROWNS!!

With few exceptions (ie: Bright Angel Creek) I adhered to the rule then, as I try to do now. Yet I see fellow anglers - including many which I generally consider to be very ethical - targeting spawning browns in Montana rivers.

So I pose the question: What is your stance on fishing for fall browns?


  1. This is great topic Will, In my opinion its all good and you should leave them alone. If I find spawning browns say up a diversion or below a roller dam, and its obvious they are busy being fish then they should be left alone. Just the other day I found a shallow flat run where young males were getting ready for there first go at it, I left those alone. But am I out there thowing streamers and enjoing the big bright bellys? hell yea! We cant, "not fish" thoughout the year there is always a species of trout in spawn or pre or post. Right? I voted all good and leave them alone.

  2. I not opposed to fishing and if a territorial brown hammers a streamer of spinner so be it. I put them back to continue their journey.

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  3. Big ~ I feel ya, it's unrealistic to not fish in the fall, just because the browns are doing their thing. And you've got a point, if a guy had a strict mindset of "leaving 'em alone" throughout the year, he'd never get to fish.

    Ryan ~ A spinner!?! I assume you're referring to a rusty spinner...right? Ha, no worries - I won't judge, but I hope you're pinching the barbs on those bad boys.


  4. Hey Will,

    Good subject--I just voted "Not over redds" before even looking at the voting results, and then noticed that the majority of the votes so far are in this category. If I come across Browns actively spawning, or sitting on top of a redd, I leave them alone--the fish generally aren't interested in feeding anyway, and at least to me it feels like intruding on their business if I am casting over them at this time.

    On the other hand, I would say everything else in the fall is fair game; one of the things I love about autumn is that it provides one of those windows when the larger mature Browns are marginally more catchable and active, and in their most vibrant colors of the year.

    I suppose it is a judgment call that all anglers have to make, but as Big said above, if you adhered strictly to not targeting fish at all around their spawning time, it would make fishing difficult throughout much of the year.

    And by the way, I just got back from an extended fishing trip, the first part around Taos and the Rio Grande (the Ute Mtn Run near the end was the highlight), the second part around the Black in AZ; at least a few nice Browns caught in both locations, and in great condition. I am planning a visit to Chevelon Creek soon as well, but more on all of that later...

    Tight lines, Iain

  5. Iain,

    Not over redds" is probably the best compromise between the two extremes. While I have no evidence to prove it, I'm sure it would be best if we left them alone entirely in the fall. Of course I'm speaking mostly of smaller, fairly fragile brown trout fisheries. The Madison's and Yellowstone's of the world can undoubtedly absorb any ill effects from fall angling pressure due to their sheer size and trout densities.

    I too love catching fall browns, they're in prime shape and are looking their best. I certainly won't refrain from fishing brown trout waters this fall!

    It's nice to see that the poll is trending toward "not over redds". Although the "it's all good" faction is gaining ground.

    Perhaps I should have also included an "ignorance is bliss" option. I would suspect that some of the anglers I see targeting fish on spawning beds (the Bighorn comes to mind) just don't know any better.

    Best of luck with your fall fishing...I'll be interested to hear how you do on the Black and at Chevelon!