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Early Season Brooke Trout

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

We are almost there. A few warmer spells here and there are signalling the coming Spring here in the Shenandoah Valley. Of course Virginia still have plenty of cold nights ahead, but warmer afternoons are starting to produce hatches of little black caddis and soon March Browns. On these warmer days brooke trout are slowly awakening from their winter slumber and feeding a bit more aggressively in the afternoons.

The cold mornings still provide a good excuse to sleep in and stay warm, but when the days start getting longer I get cabin fever and get back on the water when possible. Though the fly fishing usually isn't real consistent, just getting outside and moving around again always feels better. There's no greenery around yet, but soon little signs of Spring will start to pop up and even a slow day on the water can be worthwhile.

I usually start the day nymphing bigger pockets of water where I know fish will be hiding. New Zealand style strike indicators and small beadheads make for a quiet presentation on these crystal clear waters. I fish these holes pretty methodically as this will be food deposit areas for fish that want to feed, but not move around a lot. Make sure you have enough weight to be close to the bottom, but not snagging. One snag will blow your cover and you'll need to move on to the next spot.

As the warmer part of the day comes on I start to look for insect life. I rarely see rises at any part of the day, but these streams are usually small enough that if the bug is active, the fish will likely take a dry. Obviously watch for flying bugs, but stoneflies will climb out of the water and onto rocks near the stream so you might come across some, or old casings. Any little pocket of a run can hold a fish, and you'd be surprised how little water they need sometimes. As you move upstream put a few casts in each little run, and work the larger pools a little more carefully. The fish will decide in the first half dozen good casts whether it's going to eat or not so cover the spot and move on.

Flies this time of year are usually dark and on the smaller side. Black Elkhair Caddis, Royal Coachmen, Adams, and March Browns are all good flies for this time of year. Try to go small, but not so small you can't follow them down stream. Takes are usually soft and quick so you have to be able to see what's going on and react quickly. I try to use 9 foot 5x or 6x leaders depending on the water level and clarity.

Take advantage of those earlier warmer days. It's a good opportunity to knock the rust off, get some Vitamin D, and see the stream before the foliage fills in. You might just find a good hatch one afternoon and a big brooke trout just waiting for your fly.

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