Our Man In Canada
September 8th, 2008

Brook Trout
By Chris Chin

Salvelinus fontinalis. Lots of anglers have the impression that Brookies are just dumb. A Brook Trout will often chase after flies which have no resemblance to natural food prey. They also have a reputation for a feeding frenzy behaviour, coming back to flies again and again (much to the delight of novice and experienced anglers alike).

IMHO, Brookies get their ill earned reputation because of where we often find them: Remote mountain streams and brooks. (well, South of 60 anyway). (Right: David on the Tellico). In these areas, fishing pressure is low and food sources are even lower. In this type of habitat, the Brook Trout is at the top of the aquatic food chain. If it's in the water and it moves, it should be food! The bigger the better.

This myth is also a minor source of frustration for visitors to my home waters. You see, on the Ste-Marguerite River here in Central, Quebec, the Brook Trout are of the anadromous variety. That is to say, they are sea run trout (well, Char, but who really cares). The adults come into the river at about the same time as the Atlantics and for the very same reason. They come here to spawn. In a logical quark of evolution, they also don't eat (very much) over the summer. After all, if they DID, they would be preying on their very own young.

Having survived in the maritime environment for several years, these adults are also very wary. Gone is the blatant urge to chase anything in sight regardless of cover. After all, in the salt water, a 6 lb trout is little match for a seal or Beluga. Luckily for us, we still do get a shot at these trout. Sometime only one shot at that.

I got stuck in the office until well past supper, so didn't get to the river until well past midnight. Since I didn't want to wake up the Warden at nearly 02h30 in the morning, I simply unrolled my sleeping bag on the little porch of the guard shack on the #49 and sacked out. Lounging under the stars, I was occasionally woken up by the sounds of rises and boils out on the pool. The characteristic urgency of the attacks typical of adult brook trout hunting for mice and voles in the darkness. Needless to say, at 04h30, the coffee was perking and I was stringing up a 6 wt by the dim light of my headlamp.

The walk down to the run is short, but it gives me time to clear the cobwebs and have a good listen. I can hear the run babbling out down to the #47, so I know that the water level must be really low. The night time air temperature never got below 50, so the water must be well over 58. This is going to be tough!

I gingerly slide down from the trail to the gravel beach and dump my kit bag on a log. I wait. There! A splashy rise resounds across the pool. In the mist shrouded darkness, the sound is diffused and I can't get a bearing. I'll wait. Five minutes later, another rise. I still didn't see it (heck, I can barely see my feet). It's 05h10 and legally, I can start casting (1 hour before sunup), but I don't want to blow this. (I have absolutely no idea why one calls this civil twilight: No civilian in their right mind should be out and about at this hour!).

There is a big adult taking prey off of the surface. It's probably been active all night and is getting in a last few licks before daylight streams into the valley. By lamplight, I stiffen up the leader and tie on a nice big #4 mouse. Well, it used to look like a mouse. Now it's simply an unruly "blob" of deer hair on a debarded bomber hook.

Another boil and this time I get a good bearing to the source. It's hiding just down stream of the big spruce which was uprooted this spring. The tree is leaning out 15 feet into the current; its branches reaching down to within two feet of the water's surface. I wait and watch some more. This should interesting.

Once it's light enough to see the island 800 feet upstream, I rise and slowly wade into the water. Breaking ALL the rules, I decide to cast to this one trout. To get my meagre offering into the proper lane, I'll have to cast, dump some line and mend several times, effectively blowing any chances to fish the rest of the pool.

The cast isn't long, and the mouse lands tight up to the far bank. I draw out another 10-15 feet of line and throw two hard upstream mends to keep the fly out and away (I love 10 foot rods). As the fly drifts straight down stream, I'm still not fishing it; I just want it to slide under the tree branches.

Once it gets right under the base of the uprooted tree, I start to fish. One short draw and the line is straight. I strip the line in short 6 inch movements and I can see the mouse gently burping and gurgling its way through the surface. Just as the fly gets to the trout's lair, I pause.

The take is spectacular!

The trout inhales the fly and turns back towards the far bank in a heartbeat. I lift the rod at the same time that I set the hook with my stripping hand. The few short feet of loose line easily slides up and out the guides. I gingerly back up towards the beach to get some stable footing and to get the trout out of the current.

There is barely any current anyway so the trout has no choice but to follow me. It zigs and zags around the pool a bit, but keeps on coming in. The water is actually over 62, so this will be done pretty fast.

The trout is on the reel and the 60 feet of line is quickly recuperated. A short 5-10 minutes later and I'm kneeling in the shallow water. I slide my hand down the leader, grab the fly and hold it firmly. In the growing light I can see that it's a big female, well over 24 inches and that she is cleanly hooked. The trout gives one last head shake and she's away in a flash.

Big Brook Trout don't get this big 'cause they're Dumb.

I spool up the rest of the line and leader and head back towards the pickup just as a rain shower starts. I'll be meeting friends in the afternoon and I would like to let the pool rest for the remainder of the day. In the meanwhile, there are salmon in the #47 and the cool rain might just be the ticket!

It's shaping up to be a fine September day on the River.


Nicole going after bruisers on the #48. With a tight loop, she is able to drop the dry straight out and under the overhanging branches to the lair.
~ Christopher Chin, Three Rivers 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 44 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica.

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website. You can email Chis at: Flyfishing.christopher@gmail.com.

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