Our Man In Canada
January 8th, 2007

The Brook Trout - Dumb trout?
By Chris Chin, Bay Comeau, Quebec, Canada

I was born and raised in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, Specifically Kamloops; home of the world famous Kamloops Rainbow. (For a century, believed to be a genetically separate variety of Rainbow).

Charles Jardine once named the Kamloops region as one of his all time favourite fly fishing destinations. For more on Kamloops lakes, see some of the articles such as: The Bill Nation Kamloops Area Lakes, Part 3 by Art Lingren..

Naturally, this meant that the only species we fished for in my youth were Rainbows. I can remember in college, when friends would find summer jobs in the Far East (well...Saskatchewan), we would shrug our shoulders and then console them. The money would be good, even if there would only be Pike, Char and Walleyes.

I can also remember stories of friends coming back from Northern Quebec. They went there for the Caribou, but got in lots of fishing for Brook Trout. Salvelinus fontinalis. Speckled Trout, Brookies, Square tails...Call them what you will, they were Monsters. 8, 9 even 10 lbs. The most intriguing part of their stories was the ease at which they were catching these "trout" (actually, a Brook Trout is a Char).

It seems that many fly fishers find that brookies are a bit dumb and will jump at any offering. Further, the flies that could be used were often big and ugly, lacking all the finesse of those used in "match the hatch" fly fishing for "real" trout. This "myth" has led to some severe disappointment and hours of frustration for many an angler here on our home waters.

You see, the Ste-Marguerite River in Central Quebec has a magnificent run of sea run Brook Trout. Unfortunately, many folks don't realize that the anadromous variety of this population is quite a bit different from their "put 'n take" brethrens.

Sea run Brook Trout don't eat while in the river; at least not very often.

First off, the adult trout which return to the river to spawn didn't get to be +5 lbs by being dumb! They have spent a few years in the very hostile marine environment. They are easily frightened and put down. They are curious but skittish. They won't flee from a holding pool, but will slowly drift away from an angler who may be shuffling around too much on the beach.

In my experience, the sea run trout here act very much like their Salmo salar cousins. No one knows why they eventually move and rise to a fly. All the classic bets are valid: Curiosity, aggression, hard wiring to eat, low fat reserves...

For whatever the reason, fly fishing for these monsters is a joy. Far from being the "dumb trout" of childhood legends, we use a variety of strategies; fly selections, presentations and tactics.

After almost two years of learning the ropes, my (then new) girlfriend, Renée was getting antsy to connect to her first trout. Instead of whipping up a storm and thrashing the pool to death, I had her slow down and rest the pool.

After showing some friends how to fish the #49 for a couple hours, they moved off to another run. Renée and I strolled back to camp for a long lunch and a nap. After letting the run rest for a while, we slowly made our way up the trail to try again.

As we are walking the 500 yards back to the beach, we can both feel that this was going to work.

Back then, a yellow birch had been uprooted during spring run off and was lodged in the run, mid stream. Trout were holding all around it, finding shelter in the shadows as well as in the deep water where hydraulic effects had scoured out the gravel bottom around this obstacle.

All morning we had been practicing different stripping retrieves, so this afternoon we will be going the dead drift route.

I had Renée set up straight across from the yellow birch and cast straight up and out. The rabbit strip muddler laid in the film, drifting towards the pod of trout.

On the first pass, a small female charged up from the bottom in a flash of silver and refused at the last instant. Like a seasoned pro, Renée let the fly continue its drift. Five seconds later and the trout is back, this time taking the fly hard from the surface in a boil and plunging back towards the deep.

The line is instantly tight and Renée is almost into the backing before the trout turns again and pulls hard in the slow current. Her very first trout on a fly rod and Renée is amazed by the power of the animal, which is now using the current to its advantage.

Sailing in the current, the trout is sitting midstream, hovering off the bottom...doing its best imitation of a cinder block. Luckily, we have set up Renée's line with a medium weight tippet and she is able to muscle the trout off of the bottom and in towards the beach.

Once out of the current, the big female Brookie soon comes to hand.

After countless days spread over a couple seasons, enduring rain, wind, sleet, snow, attack beavers and ornery Wardens, Renée has finally her first sea run Brook Trout. A far cry from the childhood legends of "onion rows" of Brook Trout, one is enough and a well merited fish at hand.


Renée has since become quite proficient at catching sea run Brookies. Somehow, the First is often the most memorable though. ~ Christopher Chin - Bay Comeau, Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me in October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/.

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