Sept/Dec 2009

Sept/Dec  2009
Sept/Dec  2009
Sept/Dec  2009
Sept/Dec  2009
Sept/Dec  2009
Sept/Dec  2009

Eastern  Brook Trout

Eastern Brook Trout are beautiful game fish that came to British Columbia via stocking programs from their native home in eastern North America. To fish for these superlative members of the char family involves an off-island trip Eastern to the interior of BC where these brook trout have been stocked with great success in many lakes from as far south as the Okanagan Valley to beyond the Prince George region. In their native territory, these trout have traditionally been stream and pond fish. In their new home here in British Columbia, they are primarily stocked in spring-fed lakes that had no native rainbow trout populations.
Brook trout are taken with the traditional fishing methods we apply to rainbow trout, but there is one habit brookies have that set them apart from native species: Their tendency to school in large numbers over sources of springs in the lakes these fish inhabit. This frequently results in finding most of the fishing-pressure concentration in a small area - especially during ice fishing. It is also known that they move from one site to another in the lake for no apparent reason other than they occasionally seem to like a change of location. Another aspect of the schooling urge happens in the fall when they approach their spawning run. Since in most cases they must spawn over spring-fed gravel, they will gather in the area where active springs allow them to spawn. However, I understand that recent stockings of brook trout are all triploid, meaning that they are sterile. This means that triploids no longer need to spawn. As an aside, brook trout even in spawning season are still excellent table fare with the probable cause being that when they enter the spawning season, they have so much body fat they don’t lose the quality of their flesh as do other fish in the spawning mode. Thus, brookies survive to spawn several times.

Added to the mix of fishing opportunities in Interior lakes, triploid brookies are stocked in the same waters along with triploid rainbows which increase trophy-class fishing opportunities for these two species.

This past season Island Fisherman’s publisher, Larry Stefanyk, and I experienced some great fly fishing using chironomid patterns for both species. The fact he outfished me on my home turf is something he reminds me of when the occasion arises. Suffice to say, we had superb fishing and the brookies added “icing to the cake”. Larry’s best brook trout was close to four pounds, which is a respectable-sized fish.
Another one of my most memorable times fishing for eastern brook trout occurred in the late 70s when I was asked to take the Chinese Ambassador to Canada fishing. The event occurred in November just before freeze-up in the high lakes near Kamloops. I took him to a small lake where I knew brook trout were schooled near the shore. We fly fished with 3.Doc Spratley fly patterns. For every cast he made over the school of willing fish, he either had a bite or frequently hooked up. In a short time he had his limit of eight trout. It was difficult to get him to stop because of the language problem. When I finally got him to quit, he had ten fish. Later, when he talked to the legislative assembly in Victoria, he recounted how he caught ten fish while fishing with Ralph Shaw. It was a good thing for me that he had diplomatic immunity. It was also the only fishing trip I’ve ever had where I was surrounded by a gallery of undercover RCMP.

The above incident underlines how easy it can be to take a limit of trout when they’ve schooled and are in a biting mode. Fortunately for the trout, they’re not always in a biting mood. It’s then they simply ignore all your offerings and you end up going home without so much as a bite.

If you’re a fly fisherman, you can get into some trophy-class fish which are in prime condition right up to freeze-up.
Fly fishing for big brookies is a leader-breaking and challenging class of fishing. They didn’t become a world premier trout species because they are a push-over! They’re exciting, powerful fish to land on fly-fishing equipment.

In the Interior lakes, they tend to hang out in schools of large fish, while other schools are made up of small fish.

Successful fly patterns are micro-leeches, leeches, spratleys, scud patterns, bright attractor patterns and chironomids, to name a few. Brook trout are very fickle at times, so it is best to be prepared and try several offerings in search of the one they just might take. Most fishing is done in fairly shallow water of less than ten feet, and it is not unusual to watch the trout take the fly. They hit hard, so I recommend not less than a six pound tippet, or an eight, if you are fishing large fish. A sink-tip line works well in shallows, but a slow-sinking line will work as well in most situations. I find that moderately fast retrieves with occasional stops and quick starts will often trigger a bite. Look in the water and if you see freshwater shrimp moving about, take their speed as a clue to your retrieval timing.

On my last fishing trip I did very well with a #12 brown chironomid and fished it about twice as fast as I do for rainbows. If you are not a fly fisherman, a spinning outfit with a float and meal worms or corn for bait works well. I suspect that many of the Berkley Baits that work for rainbow trout will do equally well for brookies. Willow leaf trolls catch fish with worms or flies in open water. To sum it up, brookies are quite catchable by most traditional trout tactics.

A good time to think about taking an eastern brook trout trip to one of any dozens of lakes spread throughout the Interior, is when fall fishing season rolls around and the accompanying cold weather sets in. You could extend your fall fishing into winter fishing and combine a cross-country ski trip, or hunting trip, into an excuse to fish for brookies. Snowmobile tripping is an excellent way to access remote trout lakes during heavy snow cover. I hesitate to single out specific lakes for the simple reason there are many throughout the Kamloops, 100 Mile and southern Caribou areas that offer excellent fishing opportunities.

Winter fishing for brook trout is primarily a food fishery and I use the term with respect because the best reason for catching a fish is to use it for food.

As the popularity of ice fishing developed, anglers were encouraged to target eastern brook trout and leave the rainbow trout for summer fishing. Ice fishing for brook trout is a growing sport in many lakes throughout the Interior, making fishing a tribute to the superb fighting and eating qualities of these fish.

After freeze-up, brook trout fishing becomes an ice fishing extravaganza where we move into an increasing list of special equipment to enjoy the sport. 6.One of the unique shelters available is a small, black tent called an Ice Cube, designed to keep the light out. It’s sold as a one- or a two-man form. This tent allows one to sit out of the cold wind and stare into a small hole cut into the ice. There, one can see your bait (corn kernels or meal worms) hanging in about eight to ten feet of water and one can watch the trout swim by as you try to tempt them to take the bait. Fish with a short rod that is designed for that very purpose. Just jig the bait, or fly, up and down in quick short movements and be ready to set the hook on a hard bite. Big trout frequently break the gear or straighten the hook because they are strong fighters. Use at least a ten-pound monofilament line on your jigging rods. I have used flies or small, lead-head jigs dangled from a short rod with great success. 
Another piece of special equipment is an ice auger for drilling holes in the ice. 8. Also needed while ice fishing is a comfortable place to sit. Many anglers glue foam to the bottom of a five gallon pail for that use and, in turn, it serves as a container to carry fish and gear off the lake. It is easy to find hot-spot fishing locations by simply observing where crowds are gathered, or where a series of holes have been cut in the ice by previous anglers.

Many anglers who make annual trips to the Interior in search of big rainbows should find a day or two to take on some trophy fly fishing for big eastern brook trout. I am no exception. I cannot afford a flight to Labrador in search of these trophy trout, but I can go to the southern Interior and find trophy class brookies in excess of six pounds - which is a good fish in any league. 

There are many reasons why people fish, but mostly because they like to eat what they catch. Brook trout are one of the finest of all freshwater fish when it comes to eating. Their flesh can be a light pink or shaded up to a light orange in colour. They tend to be much fatter than most wild fish and although I am not certain why, they can be like little footballs in some lakes. If you enjoy trout fishing in all of its many forms, and like eating good fish, an off-island trip for these transplanted eastern brook trout could be a wonderful excursion for the whole family.

Huxley’s Run: 

It’s a tough assignment to write of September fishing at the beginning of July. The difficulty is to outline thoughts of a September river, the September ocean or a September lake, when all that is July consumes me.

First there is the initial arrival of summer steelhead in the Campbell River and other points northward on this great Island. Second is the weather: Heat of sun, despite the wind; dryness of air, despite the rain; and the scents of full summer – quiet yet pervasive, solid and yet permeable to an old nose that has waited twelve long months for them.

And then there is my garden. Not much really – beets, peas, raspberries and my sunflowers. When I took up gardening, I was jealous of the time it stole away from the time I spent on stream and ocean and lake. It took time from the real important task of angling. Yet it persisted and addicted me and I think now I have an idea why.

The garden is seeded in spring. Yet it is thought of through the cold, grey months of the year’s beginning. It is planned somewhat gallantly, with dreams of larger, better harvests. It is planted and waited upon with all the anxiousness of, well, angling.

In comparison, the salmon emerge in the spring and begin their descent down the river. To them come the cutthroats, a truly bolder and stronger fish always to be found higher in the river. They will drop to the estuary with their smaller cousins and join those cutthroats who have been fattening and getting more wary in their mixture of salt and fresh water grazing. In spring, too, fishing thoughts of September come easily. The same v-shaped follow on a retrieved fly will then be just as easily a coho of 10-pounds instead of a cutthroat of 18-inches. Such is the beauty of dreaming of the water garden; such is the beauty of the earth’s garden.

As I watch my garden grow, I watch, too, the subtle changes in the plants. They green stem and leaf and fill out, ready for their spawning - ready for their harvest –just like the salmon preparing for net, hook or spawning gravel, or the jaws of some hungry creature whose very survival depends on the bounty in either garden.

While thoughts of September come easy then, they also come reluctantly. For September means summer’s end. It means shorter days and air that whispers quietly, secreting to you thoughts that it intends to get colder and wetter, but it expects you to be there, to hang in and to love it as much as you do the warm wafts of July. That is the difficult thing about September in July. Both months love the garden and the salmon with the same unerring devotion. Both months mean so much to the beginning and the ending of gardens. They both mean so much to the angling. How does one choose the other?

One cannot. One must accept that July will give in to September, and September will cycle again into July. The many months between have their own beauty, but none with so much unfettered expectancy of mind or heart then July and September will bring on this west coast.

Tonight I will check the deer fence around my peas. I will pull some beets and check their growth. I will, perhaps, water with a glass of single malt in one hand for me and water for the garden in the other. And as those drops fall upon my garden, my mind will wander and realize that rod, line and hook are really quite similar to a garden hose.

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