Updated: Feb 9, 2020
Ah... Brookies… one of my favorite freshwater species to target on the fly. Why? Because not only are they one of the most spectacular and truly majestic species of fish on the planet but are also perhaps one of the most aggressive and opportunistic feeders one can possibly pursue on the fly. Brook trout are not native to BC, they were brought to BC many decades ago from out East, and have since become a huge part of what makes our BC lake fishing so great. I welcome the opportunity to pursue these aggressive brutes on the fly with great enthusiasm and excitement year after year. Brook Trout, though they may be called a trout are not actually trout but are of the Char family and like some of their close relatives the arctic char, bull trout, dolly varden and lake trout they have extreme attitude. They are a highly piscivorous super aggressive species with major predatory instincts and a seemingly endless appetite that makes for some great sportfishing opportunities. The Freshwater Fisheries society of BC stocks only sterile females into our BC lakes, and because these triploids don't spawn they will put every bit of energy into eating! Combined with the right ingredients there are many Kamloops area lakes that grow brookies like footballs and many of these will reach to sizes exceeding above and beyond 5 pounds! These tanks will surely put the strength of your tippet and hooks to the ultimate test.
Unlike Rainbow trout "Brookies" as many call them can tolerate much wider range of water temperatures and water chemistry and will not only survive harsher environmental changes than our local trout but will also be much more active during the long winters and hot summers we see here in the interior of British Columbia. Which makes for some great summer fly fishing opportunities! Even when the rainbows are extremely sluggish from scorching Kamloops summer heat, the Brookies seem to still carry on and go about things as if it doesn't bother them one bit, even though they do still prefer cooler water temps. And though they don't typically jump when hooked like our famous Pennask strain rainbows, many Brooks can fight just as hard. I've caught big pennaks that fought like a wet sock and smaller brookies that had some of the worst cases of small fish syndrome I have ever seen. And though rare, I have even witnessed some epic jumps from brook trout.
Typically, once hooked Brookies tend to fight very similar to the Fraser Valley domesticated Rainbow trout strain but in my opinion with a little more stamina, a little more power and a little more heart (they don't seem to give up as quickly). Quite often when fishing lakes with multiple trout strains and I hook into something I often know within the first 20 seconds that I have hooked either a Fraser Valley rainbow or a brook trout as both tend to want to go straight to the bottom of the lake but pound for pound I would say if they both took to the ring the Brook Trout would come out on top of the Fraser Valley in the 10th round or so if you get what I'm saying (but that's just my personal opinion and is always up for debate). Brookies on average are no spring salmon but generally fight pretty hard and will go for many long power runs usually not right away but after their first encounter with landing net is when they decide to make things count. I personally find many anglers don't give Brook Trout enough credit as a sportfish but it's their eager strikes that I think makes them a great candidate for being a perfect sportfish while many locals simply look to target them through the ice during winter for their deep red/orange flesh that makes for good table fare and easy pickings for their reputation of being eager biters. This is part of the reason I believe we are seeing a big decline in average sizes at some of our lakes but that's for another discussion.
Ok so you are probably not here for all that, you want to know what makes them tick and how to effectively target and pursue some of these tanks on the fly!
Well here's some of what I've learned in my years of fly fishing and countless hours of pursuing these magnificent creatures...
Structure and Shallow Water! Yes in early May we catch them as deep as 25ft suspended on the bottom gorging on chironomid pupae. But for the most part Brookies are a shallow water forager and tend to frequent structure. They like the shorelines, reeds, lily pads, beaver dams, deadfall, islands, sunken islands etc etc. Often times their cover can make them almost impossible to get at as they will be so protected within the structure they are frequenting that they are quite literally off limits. I will never forget fishing a certain lake one time during summer where my wife stumbled upon a whole pile of brookies well over 2 and 3lbs hanging out in about 2ft of water along the shoreline under a dead tree and some deadfall, they had some shade and were in a spot that they were safe from any predators or fishermen. I nearly fell in trying to take some underwater photos of them.
We have had many of our very best days targeting brook trout along the reeds and weed beds in no deeper than 3ft of water, and some absolute hogs to be caught as well. We would cast so close into the mess of things that we would often get our lines hung up and stuck along the various obstacles at the edges of the lake. We have done this on multiple lakes with great success, lily pad lakes are the worst as they will hide beneath them and you know they are in there and your best chance for success is to cast along the edges hoping to intercept the odd fish hanging around the outskirts. Even when you do hook one they will retreat into the maze of things and often break free only for you to lose your fly to some lily pads. Brook trout also like to frequent any waterflows of a lake, if there is a small stream coming into a lake during the spring run off you should be almost certain it is an area many brooks will like to frequent or hold in.
Attractors! Brookies will strike almost anything at any given time of year, they are very opportunistic feeders, less picky than rainbows and will typically eat whatever is an easy meal most of the time. It doesn't seem to matter as much whether your stripping dragonfly nymphs, damsel flies or hanging your favorite larvae or pupae patterns but if one really want to get their attention one key to success is using the most un-orthodox, obnoxious and un-natural imitations of these. While I tend to go for more natural or realistic patterns for rainbow trout, if I am trying to target brook trout I will do exactly the opposite. Out comes the ugly flashy flies the most respectable rainbows would likely have no part of. While it's easy to fool a Brook trout into eating a realistic imitation of a natural food source, they seem to go out of their way more often than not for anything with a little shock value. And RED! I don't know what it is about red and brookies, but red butt chironomids, red tailed leeches, red hot spot flies, it doesn't seemed to matter, in my own experience I have found red to trigger something with brook trout that no other color will compare with. I have tested this time and time again and while I don't always lay a pounding on fish every time I go out our success has been great enough to know there is some truth to this.
We catch brooks consistently at all depths year round however there are times things are quite slow and one way to try and turn things around is to try fishing your fly right on the bottom with a very slow retrieve or sudden fast bursts or strips of your line followed by moments of pause in between. Brookies can be at times real bottom feeders, so are the rainbows but not nearly to the extent of brookies. This is something I really learned from countless hours of staring down an icehole over the winter months. Brookies quite often root around nose in the in the mud picking off snails, bloodworms or whatever they can find. Also by doing this you may intercept a brook that is just lying or resting on the lake bottom and tick it off enough by disturbing it that it will strike out of pure aggression. This I have also witnessed ice fishing one year as I watched a brook trout lie dead still on the bottom for many minutes before I decided to give him a rude awakening and thus his anger indeed got the best of him.
Finally, be patient, Brookies are somewhat of a schooling fish. They hang in large travelling groups and just because you haven't had much success for a little while doesn't mean the parade isn't on it's way. And if you are picking up some smaller fish don't be quick to change locations, if this was strictly rainbows we were targeting I would recommend getting out of the nursery but with brookies, where there's smaller fish there is also almost always bigger fish right there along with them. And if you can find places brooks like to frequent such as shallow waters with tons of structure and an abundance of feed this is a good bet to anchor and wait for the schools to roll in!
I hope this short article has been somewhat helpful and informative for you and might help you better understand how to target Brook trout more effectively. They truly are an easy fish to catch but that's part of what makes them so fun and searching and sifting through the crowds for the real hog lurking amongst the depths can be a lot of fun too and rewarding when you are lucky enough to tangle with an exceptionally large brookie.
If you live in the Kamloops area or are planning to come for a visit in the near future,
here is a list of some productive Brook Trout Lakes within less than an hours drive you can try your luck on, but also please check your reg's before you head out!
Red, Mcglashan, Horsehoe, Bog, Rose, Tulip, Black, Edith, Deep, Phillips, Tsotin, Powerline, Lemiuex.
If you are at all interested in a guided trip for both Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout, contact Kamloops Trout for more information as we will be hosting guided fly fishing excursions starting in 2020!