While I am not immune to the temptation of a late Baetis hatch, I must confess to becoming thoroughly preoccupied with brown trout in the final weeks prior to the arrival of winter on the Henry’s Fork.
It is truly a hunter’s mind state that causes me to become armed with a big, nasty streamer and a seven weight fly rod. Moving at a more aggressive pace than usual, I will often cover several hundred yards of a promising run or deep riffle during the prime hours of potential.
Reclusive by nature, a well-seasoned brown trout is at a peak point of accessibility from mid-October through late November. In obeying the mating instinct, even the largest and most secretive adults will occupy habitat that can be thoroughly probed by the determined angler seeking to prevail over a most elusive opponent.
A big, fall brown in full spawning mode is not responding to hunger when it slams a streamer. Instead, the strike is a fierce reaction to a perceived intruder that would challenge territorial dominance.
Fast action and big numbers are seldom part of the deal when the objective is so far beyond what is common. A half dozen hours or more of continuous double hauling the big rod can seem, at times, more like work than pleasure. This is particularly true when the day’s effort produces little more than a good physical workout.
But when the drift is interrupted by the sudden presence of throbbing weight, all hours of futility vanish in a matter of seconds. A battle with a heavy fish can be its own reward, but the real prize is something completely visual.
The vivid colors of a fall brown trout are as striking as any in a season known for visual splendor. A big river brown is a muscular animal that seems built for combat, and there is a primal elegance in the powerful jaws and menacing teeth.
I look forward to fall and the time when brown trout rule my consciousness with as much anticipation as any season of the year. But there are other times and other trout that are just as important.
And the attention I apply to the rainbow, cutthroat, brook trout, and cut-bows will be no less intense.