Last Chance Browns
It's the time of year when these normally shy, difficult fish can be extremely easy to catchby Craig Ritchie
The flurry of fall fishing opportunities tends to wind down as the final days of November turn into the first few days of December. Shorter days and much colder nights bring fall turnover to its completion, leaving lakes with water of consistent temperature from side to side and top to bottom, allowing most species to wander anywhere they like in equal comfort. As the last clumps of remaining vegetation go dormant, baitfish also scatter widely, making it a challenge to locate cooperative fish with any kind of consistency. That alone can make for very tough fishing.
There are a handful of exceptions to this however, and one of my favorite are last-chance brown trout.
The reason to get out there now is because these fish are just coming off fall spawning, and they're feeding heavily while they can before winter sets in. It's one time of year when these normally shy, difficult fish can be extremely easy to catch.
Finding Active FishBrown trout in cold water prefer to conserve energy, so at this time of year look for them to begin setting up shop in deep, slow-moving pools. They will spend the coldest weeks of the winter hiding on bottom in the gentlest currents, but right now they're still quite a bit more active, holding near the upstream ends of the pools where they get first crack at any potential food drifting downstream in the current. This is where you need to concentrate your efforts.
They're still brown trout, of course, so they won't venture too far from cover like submerged rocks, tree branches or other similar debris that interrupts the stream's flow and provides them spots from which they can quickly dart out to nab passing snacks. Focus on spots like that where swifter riffles flow into deeper water and you have half your problems solved.
Go Slow, Go DeepWith the colder water slowing their metabolism, last chance browns may be feeding heavily but that doesn't mean they're looking for big meals. To the contrary, they're far more interested in snacking on multiple smaller appetizers, over and over again. These smaller means are a lot easier to digest, and the steadier nutrient flow tends to benefit the fish more than a handful of big, hard to digest meals.
That being the case, go with smaller offerings. Early winter is the ideal time to haul out the fly rod, even if fly fishing can be a bit uncomfortable on exposed fingers. Dead-drifting moderate sized bead head nymphs right on bottom is a terrific way to tempt these fish.
Having now rid themselves of bellies full of spawn, the fish fight harder than you might expect as well, and especially in such cold water. That too is part of the appeal.
Not yet ready to give up the long rods for ice fishing gear? Then try your hand at last chance brown trout and get in on what can often be the easiest fishing of the year for these beautiful and spunky game fish.