Some thoughts on brown trout

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My favorite trout are brown trout.

Unfortunately, we have to travel out of the Flathead Valley to find some.

Brown trout were introduced into North America in l883 and first appeared in Montana in 1889 in the Madison River.

I’ve caught a bunch in the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Madison, Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and catching brownies on Rock Creek during the salmon fly hatch is an annual eagerly anticipated fishing trip.

Twice this September I got skunked on brown trout on Rock Creek. I’ve watched them spawn in extremely shallow upper Rock Creek tributaries in November. Both experiences make me wonder why brown trout spawn in the fall, rather than spring—like rainbows and cutthroat—when river flows are higher.

So I asked my friend Jim Vashro, retired FWP Region One fisheries manager.

“It’s interesting how species parcel out habitat”, said Vashro. “Good spawning sites are at a premium on most streams. In some streams browns spawn in the same spots as bull trout, but a month later. Fall flows are generally more stable than spring. Eggs don’t get stranded as long as there are groundwater flows. Fish really key in on groundwater. During winter good spawning sites are often ice free. With cold water, the eggs incubate a lot longer, probably not hatch until February or March maybe emerge in April.”

Casting streamers for brown trout can provide some of the most exciting fly fishing of the year, if you can find the fish.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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