Once the leaves have begun to fall, brown trout and char (brook, lake, bull, dolly varden) begin to spawn.
Males of these species are very aggressive and will attack anything that looks like it can be a competitor. Unless they are paired up with a female on a redd, these big boys are fair game.
Before continuing, the point should be made that catching trout when the males and females are completing (actively spawning) their courtship is completely unsportsmanlike. Killing these spawning trout for a meal is also less than cool, even if it is the biggest fish of your life.
That is why cameras and replica mounts exist – to protect a viable resource, despite regulations.
Kiss and release these fish. Large, mature trout are the future of a river or stream. Small trout are, no doubt, some of their progeny. If I have to explain, you probably shouldn’t have kids yourself, nor be fishing.
Streamers, flies tied to imitate fish, crawfish or leeches, are effective on males away from the redds. Females feed prior to establishing the area she is going to make a nest for her eggs, but not as aggressively. Rather than bash streamers or lures, they pick up nymphs and larvae in the stream drift, or will tuck up in an eddy and sip whatever is emerging.
Once her eggs have been laid, fertilized and covered, she will quickly resume her feeding habits, including eating streamers.
Woolly buggers fished properly work about as well as anything, but rabbit strip flies are quickly replacing them as go-to flies when chasing big fish. Streamers that have movement and sink quickly are best – double bunnies, zonkers are examples. Sinking or sink-tip fly lines are preferred when fishing these flies in order to get them down to moody males quickly.
Lures (spoons, jigs, plugs, spinners) also work well as long as they are not so heavy they hang up on bottom structure. Color doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is how any of the above are worked during the retrieve (same for the streamers, by the way).
All trout respond to movement that imitates a fish or other creature in distress. Strike responses are swift and ferocious when these strikes are made by spawning browns or char this time of year.
Luckily, we have plenty of waters in the Big Horn Basin that contains both species of fall spawners that will happily consume fly or lure. Water temps will continue to drop as cold weather moves into the region this week. By this time next week, conditions should be right for our catch and we should see a definite increase in male browns or brookies.