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    Pat Stout

      By Peter Stitcher
      Ascent Fly Fishing
      Denver, Colorado

      Fall is a magical time for fly anglers, as the chill in the air and the changing colors of the leaves signal not only the end of the fishing season but also the onset of one of the most exciting periods for brown trout fishing. As these magnificent fish prepare for the spawning season, their feeding behavior undergoes significant changes, making it the ideal time to hone your skills in streamer fishing. In this article, we’ll explore the changing feeding behavior of brown trout before the spawn and provide you with valuable insights on how to effectively fish for them using streamers.
      Understanding Brown Trout Feeding Behavior Before the Spawn
      1. The Pre-Spawn Period: Brown trout exhibit a fascinating shift in behavior as they approach the spawning season, which typically occurs from late September to early November, depending on the location. During this period, their primary focus is on building up energy reserves for the strenuous spawning process, rather than actively feeding.
      2. Territorial Instinct: While brown trout may not actively feed as voraciously as they do in other seasons, they become fiercely territorial. They guard their chosen spawning sites and are highly protective of their territories. This territorial aggression can be a golden opportunity for streamer anglers.
      3. Opportunistic Feeding: Though not actively feeding, brown trout are opportunistic and will strike at streamers that enter their territory. Streamers resembling injured or disoriented prey, or small fish looking to poach their eggs can trigger a larger brown trout’s predatory instincts.
      How to Fish for Brown Trout Before the Spawn with Streamers
      1. Choose the Right Streamer Patterns: Selecting the right streamer patterns is crucial during the pre-spawn period. Opt for streamers that mimic smaller fish or wounded prey, such as sculpin patterns, Woolly Buggers, and articulated streamers. Using natural colors like olive, brown, and black can be particularly effective in the fall as lower water levels and clear flows don’t require a lot of flash to catch a big fish’s attention.
      2. Approach Stealthily: Brown trout can be easily spooked during this time, so stealth is essential. Approach your fishing area quietly, and wear neutral-colored clothing to blend in with the surroundings and keep low to the bank as you approach. Make sure your casting is accurate and land your streamers well upstream or downstream of your target fish to avoid spooking them.
      3. Target High-Profit Waters: Focus on areas where brown trout congregate before the spawn. These include the tailouts of pools, runs, and riffles adjacent to deeper water. Please, avoid the fish that are in shallow areas with rocky or gravelly substrate as they are either spawning or preparing to spawn! Don’t tread on the redds!
      4. Cast Upstream and Allow Drift: Cast your streamer slightly upstream from the targeted area and let it drift naturally into the trout’s territory. This presentation mimics a struggling or disoriented baitfish, which can trigger aggressive strikes.

      5. Cast Downstream and Strip Up: Try casting downstream of your target feeding lane or habitat, and retrieve your streamer upstream like a small trout trying to escape a larger predator.
      6. Vary Your Retrieval: Experiment with different retrieval techniques, including slow and steady retrieves, erratic twitches, and my favorite – sudden pauses. The key is to imitate the behavior of injured prey, enticing territorial brown trout to strike.
      7. Use Sinking Lines: To effectively fish deeper pools and runs, consider using sinking lines, a sink tip versa leader, or weighted streamers to reach the desired depths where brown trout may be lurking.
      8. Catch and Release: Given the vulnerability of brown trout during the pre-spawn period, practicing catch and release to ensure the population’s health and support their successful reproduction.
      Fall is an exceptional time to target brown trout before the spawn, taking advantage of their territorial behavior and opportunistic feeding habits. By understanding their unique feeding behaviors during this season and using the right streamer techniques, you can increase your chances of a successful fishing trip. Remember to watch where you wade and to hold yourself and others to ethical angling practices, ensuring that these beautiful fish continue to thrive in our waters for generations to come

      Pat Stout

        And to be clear, Brown Trout are definitely in the river from the Falls to the Niobrara. See photos of recent catch (Kyle Shidler) and fish surveys.

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        Pat Stout


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