As the heat of summer yields to cooler fall days, it’s always a great time to hike through the woods to visit a remote mountain stream in the hopes of catching a large native brook or brown trout. The word ‘large’ here is quite relative. Catching a native measuring eight inches or more would be quite impressive.
The experience is more like hunting than actually fishing in the more traditional sense. Native streams are usually narrow and fairly shallow. A ‘good hole’ might be only two feet deep or less. Stream widths can range from about three to ten feet. The water is almost always crystal clear and by casting your shadow across the surface, telegraphs an immediate signal to all trout and instantly they scatter under rocks and roots. Being stealthy, very stealthy is the only way to improve your luck. If you can see the trout there is an excellent chance they’ve already seen you and will consequently not bite. Sometimes there is a more flat, calm area of water several feet downstream from the hole you want to try. That calm, wide area usually has a few two, three, or four inchers standing as guards while keeping an eye out for a snack floating by. If you spook those fish they often race upstream and sound the alarm to any fish in the pool. Before your garden worm hits the surface of the water, all of the fish have been alerted.
On a recent trip to Tipton Run, Blair County, PA I carefully made my way down stream. It was rough going because of all the laurel, trees, and brush overhanging the water. If you bump against a tree branch and its shadow moves over the stream, the fish are gone. And, of course there is the challenge of keeping the line from becoming tangled in limbs on shore or over water as well as trying to prevent a snag in the water that would disrupt the hole.
I felt I was doing a good job of delicately dunking the small worm in several good spots but nothing was happening. No bites. I’ve found that just because the stream is known to have native trout does not mean that the entire stream is populated. When I start to fish, I sometimes walk abruptly up to the edge of the water to see if any small trout disperse. This way I know there are fish in that portion of the stream. I’ve been known to have spent many hours fishing in small mountain streams only to realize that there were simply no fish at home! But I’ve also fished in streams where there were no fish in a 75 yard portion of a stream but then a few feet farther magically ‘showed up.’
Eventually, several three or four inch brook trout held onto my worm long enough to be lifted a foot or so out of the water but dropped back in. There were no keepers this day.
The next several weeks are a great time to be in the woods hunting for native trout. And even if you don’t catch a prize you will not be disappointed by the fall colors or the aroma of the fall air.