Damsel Flies and Trout Behavior

Fishing during a damsel fly hatch is a great time to target large trout feeding in the shallows. Because damsel flies hatch along weed beds and shore-line structure, trout move into shallow areas to take advantage and feed heavily on the large insects. Understanding basic damsel fly entomology and trout behavior during a hatch will provide an opportunity to catch some of the year's largest trout.

Using the Reel to Fight Fish

Fly fishermen often fall into the trap of using their finger to pinch the line and control the fight. This results in inconsistent pressure and extra line that frequently tangles around sticks, weeds, boots or other random objects. By developing the habit of fighting fish on the reel you will land more fish, especially large or powerful species. Follow a few simple steps to make sure you put more fish in the net. 

1) Quickly get the excess line onto the reel!

2) If the fish goes on a run, let him go! Make sure your drag is set to the proper tension to allow line to be pulled from the reel without breaking the tippet while still tiring out the fish. 

3) As the fish runs, lower the rod tip, remove your hand from the reel and let the fish take line directly from the reel without additional tension being added. 

4) As the fish stops raise the rod tip and again apply pressure with the rod. Keep the rod tip high to provide a shock absorber and gain line and keep a constant pressure on the fish by reeling the line tight.

These simple steps will prevent breaking fish off by employing the reel. The reel is designed to provide a steady source of power while fighting the fish and can be a huge tool when landing fast or trophy fish. Get in the habit of always fighting fish on the reel!

Behind the Fish- Team Work Brown Trout

There has been a lot of debate in my head about whether or not to ever post this fish, in the end it seems the fish is too incredible not to share. The story has to start with proper credit; putting this fish in the net is entirely because of Josh and Jordan Gilbert (@crimsonjaw) and Targhee Boss (@utahstillwaters).  To be honest things did not go as planned and this is not how I pictured landing my personal best brown trout.

Giant Brown Trout

These 3 guys are about as fishy as they come. Josh and Jordan have a knack for research and they often call me to discuss potential locations for trophy fish. A few years back Josh and I chatted about an overlooked system or two within a reasonable drive, which they believed held some big trout. After lots of research, discussion and effort, good things started to happen. We fished together as much as we could, trying to find big trout at every opportunity, sometimes getting skunked and sometimes being rewarded with a true trophy. 

We made arrangements for the 4 of us to meet up and fish, this time Targhee was kind enough to haul the drift boat out so we could fish a few deeper areas and reach new water. We hit the usual spots with not too much happening. We were working through a small area with a large amount of structure where earlier Josh had spotted a big fish working along a drop-off. We had fanned out, blind casting along the bank in hopes of hooking up when I saw a shape that was almost perfectly camouflaged against the bottom. I came tight on what was clearly a big trout pulling line from my reel, head-shaking and doing it's best to impersonate a gator with frequent death rolls. 

Since we were fishing streamers with stout tippets, I applied as much pressure on the fish as I possibly dared, working it toward the net(s). Within a few minutes the fish was close to shore where Josh and Jordan stood, each with a net in hand. It was almost as though the fish had been taking it easy on us because as the fish neared the net, something changed. Suddenly the fish changed tactics and went from a slow pull, head-shakes and death rolls to a constant pull, peeling line of the reel with no sign of stopping. Up until this point I had felt some measure of control during the fight but now it seemed as though the fish was calling the shots.

The four of us sprinted down the bank chasing the fish that was well into my backing at this point. Still applying ample pressure, I tried to gain line but things suddenly came to a jolting stop after a depth charged run. It seems the fish had dug down into some vegetation or rock shelf and was stuck. After slowly trying to work the fish free my reel again began humming as the fish took line heading toward the depths. Trying to turn the fish seemed useless but none the less I kept heat on the beast trying to tire it out quickly. As I gained line the fish turned right and began to again rip line heading parallel to the bank. Running down the bank I was beginning to feel hopeful that this was the end. Backing turned to line as we gave chase and the reel refilled itself with each rotation. 

The monster momentarily turned right at me and then... nothing. It was hung up and there was nothing I could do. Stuck no more than 30 feet away from me on some unseen obstruction on the bottom. Wading out until the cold water was less than an inch from spilling over the tops of my waders proved fruitless. Nothing seemed work, the line was wrapped around something and there was not a single thing I could do. The fish was still on, occasionally trying to free itself from whatever it had wrapped itself around. 

After some discussion Targhee volunteered to launch his drift boat and row across to where I was standing, frozen in place by whatever held me and this giant trout in place. Minutes past and then we saw Targh, rowing like a maniac, moving as quickly as he could to get me in the boat. As he approached Jordan scrambled in the boat, I passed him the rod and he helped me in. With Traghee on the oars and me reeling until we were right over the fish. We tried to untangle the line but it just wouldn't come free. I again handed Jordan the rod and laid over the front of the boat. Jordan put one foot on my legs to keep me from going overboard and Targhee worked the oars to keep us in position. 

Feeling along the line and giving Jordan instructions to reel up we gained a few inches, just enough for me to reach a branch that was part of the submerged tree in which my line was tangled. We worked together pulling the tree off the bottom to untangle the fish and then in a moment the trout was free diving under the boat. With the rod bent almost to it's snapping point Jordan grabbed my legs with his free hand and helped me back over the side of the boat, handing me back the rod. Targhee now rowing to keep up with the fish, after a few very long minutes the fish surfaced right near the boat and Jordan quickly slipped it into the net. 

It was in this very instance my heart sank, the fish was not hooked in the mouth.... Back at shore we celebrated with high fives as shook our heads in disbelief at this incredible fish. None of us had ever imagined seeing such a magnificent trout but there she was massively beautiful and perfect in every way. I struggled to come to grips with the fact that my personal best brown had been fouled. Had the fish tried to eat and got fouled as it slashed at the streamer? Had it momentarily been hooked in the mouth and gotten snagged when it popped free or had it been fouled all along? Maybe I never even and enticed the fish at all, maybe it was just chance that had connected me with this monster?

Big Brown Trout

These thoughts threatened to steal the moment and in the end I decided whether or not I could count the fish as truly "caught" or not seemed somewhat unimportant in comparison with the fact that it was a privilege to hold a trout that had grown to its full potential. Being a part of this group was an honor and the fish was a result of a team effort, impossible without everyone involved. So, count it or not... that I guess will remain unanswered but this fish is just too amazing not to share.

Massive Brown Trout
Huge Brown Trout

The Steeple Cast

The steeple cast is best used when there are tall obstructions behind you. The purpose of the cast is to get your fly line above the obstruction and enable you to cast even when you are in difficult casting situations. The video below goes over the techniques required to make the cast effectively.

I often find myself using this cast when fishing high mountain lakes, small streams or along brushy ponds. As always make sure to adhere to the casting fundamentals of straight rod tip travel and speeding to a stop to ensure the cast is powerful, effective and does not end in a tailing loop or tangled mess. Hopefully this will allow you to access more water and ultimately catch more fish.

Alternative Streamer Techniques

Streamers can be a highly effective way to catch trout. Traditionally streamers are fished with a downstream and across presentation, this video is meant to present various alternatives to the downstream and across method. Techniques such as jigging, tight-line (similar to high stick nymphing), upstream stripped downstream, pounding the bank, swimming the fly against the current or below an indicator are all good ways to cover the entire pool or run with a streamer.

By learning various technique you will catch more fish and be able to cover more water. Follow up videos will contain a detailed look at the techniques presented in this over-view and give instruction on how/when to employ them.

Brown Trout Caught on a Streamer

Behind the Fish- Jabba the Brook Trout

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As with anything the harder we work for something the more meaningful it becomes. This fish was no different, lots of hard work for one fish.. Well worth the price of admission! This fish was made possible by the rare event when 2 friends separately approached me asking if I would be willing to hike a long ways to explore a small lake thought to hold big brook trout. The goal was simple, one big brookie each and it would be worth while!

We discussed timing, snow pack for the season, weather and so on and figure it would be best to get there as early in the season as possible. As anglers with a secretive nature one friend didn't name the lake or the general location although I had a hunch that somehow both of my buddies were referring to the same place. So, 2 trips planned for what would later turn out to be the same lake, requiring 25 miles of hard hiking for one full day of fishing with a few hours to cast on the hike in and out.

The date of the first trip arrived and I met up with Eric MacKay ( @littlebrookie3), and we made the journey to the lake with a midnight drive and early start on the hike. The brookie lake turned out a be less than ideal fishing with only one eat and a lost fish for the hours of effort. Luckily for me, I would be returning in a matter of weeks, although at the time I was still unsure of that fact as the second trip remained a mystery. That's how it goes sometimes, you don't cough up the info until your buddy shows up at your house and you are on the road headed to the destination...

Hiking for Brook Trout

Yup, swing and a miss! Haha, 25 miles of mosquito filled misery for a single brookie. That's the game, any time you explore you are risk getting skunked and the smell was pretty bad my friends. Round 2 proved to be just as tough as the wind blew and blew, temps dropped and weather took a turn for the worse, but I've got friends that are as sick as me and pushed on. Mike Larson, Jesse Ward and Nat Foster and I made the long trek to that ended up being to the familiar shores of the lake from my previous exploratory trip. The four of us fished hard and after enduring hours of weather we second guessed our sanity. Finally a had a single hit, hooked up and felt the slow thumps of a large fish head shaking. The fish tired out quickly and after bringing it to the net it was easy to see why, it wasn't the most aerobicly inclined fish! Almost as girthy as it was long that hadn't missed a meal, ever.

Back Country Fishing

Later, Mike was rewarded with a similar fish, unfortunately I was nowhere near to snap a photo. Two fish, two fish that made the effort all worth while. There are certain trips that can never be forgotten, these are 2 trips that won't easily fade from the memory banks carved into ours minds by countless insect bites and sore legs from 50 plus miles all for one fish, I call that bargain shopping when it's a personal best brook trout!

Big Brook Trout