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Early Fall Run Browns

Posted On
Sep 25, 2015
Yellowstone Fly Fishing


We are approaching the fall season which, at least for me, implies that it’s time to chase big browns. The biggest browns in river systems are becoming increasingly active before their spawn, while lake dwelling browns are starting to migrate into small streams and large rivers in preparation for their spawn. Once the lake run brown trout have entered river and stream systems in full force, they tend to stack up in staging areas. This “stacking up” allows anglers the opportunity to “fish in a bucket” for 17 to 30 inch trout, which is a phenomenon that doesn’t happen any other time of year. Unfortunately, in many cases there are hoards of anglers aware of this, which leads to nut-to-butt combat fishing. This not only leads to less than desirable fishing situations, but in many cases this extreme pressure can be detrimental to trout survival. While the savvy angler may have a place or two that’s still a secret, these locations are only found through extremely hard work and secrecy.

What many anglers don’t know is that on many river systems, a few lake run browns start their migration much earlier than most people think. Let me use the Dream Stream section of the South Platte as an example. By the first or second weak of October, there are usually high numbers of big lake run brown trout that have migrated out of 11-mile Reservoir into the Dream Stream section of the South Platte. In addition to the arrival of all of these hogs, there are even more anglers targeting these trout. While some of these anglers avoid redds and target fish in an ethical manner, many others target fish on redds, walk right through redds, and simply harass the spawning trout. Sorry, I’m digressing…. According to a true expert on this fishery, what most anglers fail to realize is that a small number of big lake run browns will start migrating in and out of the system as early as late August. My own observations over a three year period strongly supported this claim. In fact, one early September morning I was diligently trying to spot at least one big lake run trout. By 9am I spooked a 22 to 23 inch brown (which may or may not have been a lake run fish), but that was all I identified. At about 10am, I watched an extremely accomplished guide (the same expert I referenced above) help his client land a 28 inch brown. This was definitely an early lake run trout. I’ve watched this guide find these large lake run browns several weeks, if not months, before the big influx.

Although I’ll keep the river names anonymous, personal observations and experience have confirmed for me that this same phenomenon happens on several rivers in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.

In summary, if you’re looking to find your biggest brown of the year in the fall, don’t think that you have to wait until late October to find them. Although they might not be present in high numbers, some oversized lake run browns are available in spawning rivers and streams in late summer (if there’s relatively cooler and damper weather) and early fall. You’ll just have to put some time and effort in to find them.


One final note… It should go without saying, BUT… Please don’t fish to spawning brown trout while they are on their redds. Let them do their business so that they can thrive for years to come. A nice thing about searching for lake run browns in late August and September is that they are most often still in pre-spawn mode and are not yet paired up on redds.

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