Every fall/winter when the brown trout begin their annual spawn, an “ethical” controversy begins to emerge among some fisherman as whether or not to target brown’s during this time of year. While it’s certainly possible to catch a brown at this time, handle it gently (as we would anyway) and then release unharmed, there is inherently more of a risk of overly stressing a fish which may lead to a failed spawn or in some cases even mortality. So, I’ll leave the decision making up to you and we’ll discuss what the trout are actually doing right now that’s so important!
This is the time of year that you’ll hear the word “redd” quite often. A redd is actually a spawning bed created by a female trout in a shallow. well oxygenated part of the river where gravel is present. She swiftly moves her tail to get rid of silt or any other substance that could potentially harm her offspring. This creates an easily identifiable ‘light colored’ oval in the riverbed. Once the redd is built and the female and male have deposited the the eggs and milt, the female will immediately begin to cover the eggs with gravel. Once all the eggs have been laid, fertilized and covered, she will leave the redd (or redd’s) and the egg’s fate are left in the hands of the river. It is at this point that it becomes very important for wading anglers to be mindful of where they tread (walk)! As a single step of a wading boot on an unnoticed redd can potentially kill thousands of eggs or alevin (sac fry).
With all this room for error, you can however still fish during the spawn. If possible, try to locate areas that are deeper and swifter, as there is a very low chance of a redd being there. Also, try fishing for species other than browns by throwing small nymphs or woolly buggers that attract rainbows. Again, if you do however happen to catch a brown trout during the spawn, make sure to handle it very carefully, never take it out of the water, and release it as fast as possible.
With that, let’s talk about what’s been working.
Minimum flow is finally here, so take advantage of it while it lasts. During the last couple of weeks we’ve seen lots of flows down around 700 cfs, which may or may not be the case during this incoming cold front. However, during these low flows, all of the walk-in accesses that were previously hard to fish are much easier to fish now. I have heard great reports from every major access point from Three Chutes down to Rim Shoals, and boat fishing continues to be highly productive as well.
Currently, nymphing is still the go to method on the White. With flows ranging from minimum flow to two units, fishing Rootbeer and Ruby midges, pheasant tails, and a variety of jigs including Devil Jigs, Hare’s Ear Jigs, and Steve’s Tailwater Jigs have accounted for the most success. Also, stripping some olive woolly buggers, squirrel leaches, and slump busters have proven to be very successful as well.
The Norfork continues to be off color due to all the organic matter that ended up in the lake this past April (but is getting better). Based on recent reports, the catch rates seem to be improving.
With that said, there’s still good numbers of fish to be caught. When nymph fishing, be sure to run bright colors under an indicator. The best combo’s are either egg patterns or San Juan Worms ahead of a scud or sowbug pattern. Also, don’t rule out a Ruby or Rootbeer midge.