Best of brown

Gene Hart of Gunnison hefts a handful of brown trout during a recent day on the Gunnison River. Serious anglers know fall means brown trout time.

Brad Befus of Montrose designed the Squirrelly Minnow streamer, one of the better-known patterns for attracting heavyweight fall brown trout.

There’s a new snap to the air in the high country, aspen trees are changing colors, and blaze-orange displaces camouflage as the outdoorsman’s tuxedo of preference.

There’s also a change in the fishing. Fall means brown trout are preparing to spawn, and there’s nothing quite so mean, nasty and totally irresistible as a knobby-nosed fall-run brown trout.

“Brown trout get pretty territorial when they’re spawning,” said Phil Bloom at Western Anglers Fly Shop (244-8658) in Grand Junction. “And when they’re protecting their nests, they can be particularly nasty.”

We’re a bit early for the heart of the brown trout season, but it’s time to get ready. Browns seem to peak at the height of the fall colors and before the branches are totally bare.

As with most fish, feeding isn’t primary when there is spawning to be finished and nests to protect, but as soon as the eggs are in the redds, trout rediscover their appetites, with a vengeance.

It’s safe to put away the small flies and lures and tie on something with a bit of heft to it.

Streamers, especially those tied to resemble bait fish, catch brown trout year-round but are particularly effective when these big fish are hungry after weeks of spawning.

And those bragging-sized fish come from the darnedest places.

“I was fishing with Tyler Befus when he pulled an 18-inch brown trout from a small creek south of Gunnison,” said Pat Oglesby of Grand Junction.

Streams in the Gunnison Basin can be small enough to step over most of the year, but they all have overhanging banks to catch the current and offer hiding spots for big trout ambushing the next passing meal.

“We’d fish the undercut banks of those streams, and I’d often see big trout dart out and make a pass at a streamer, but that was the biggest fish I’ve seen come out of there,” Oglesby said.

Favorite fall streamers include such patterns as the Autumn Splendor, Ed Day’s Sculpzilla and Montrose fly designer Brad Befus’s Squirrelly Minnow, which his son Tyler was using when he hooked that 18-incher.

“I always tell my customers that if they want to fish for browns, tie on a streamer,” Bloom said after the hearing Oglesby’s story. “You can catch them on dries and nymphs, but when browns get to be a certain size, they get this contrary attitude, and streamers really are the best way to catch them.”


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