Overview

Brown Trout - Salmo trutta

Also known as: Breac, Brook Trout, Brownie, Bull Trout, English Trout, Lochleven Trout, River Trout, Von Behr Trout

Native to Europe and parts of Asia, from Afghanistan and the Aral Sea across Europe to the British Isles and Iceland, and back across Scandinavia to Poluostrov Kanin (Cape Kanin), in Russia, on the Barents Sea. It has been introduced in other areas, notably, Newfoundland, Canada, U.S.A., South America, New Zealand, and Africa. Today it is found throughout the U.S.A. in the Great Lakes area, south in the Appalachian to the northern edge of Georgia, south in some high gradient streams and rivers of the Mississippi River drainage system, throughout much of Nebraska, and in every state west of Texas and Nebraska to the Pacific coast.

It resembles its relative, the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Despite the historical common names salmon and trout, these two species belong to the same genus Salmo (see Salmon, Atlantic). Both have black spots on the back, upper sides, and on the gill cover, and sometimes have red spots. In fresh water especially near spawning time, both species are bronze to dark brown in general coloration, with black and (usually) red spots on the body and head. In salt water both species tend to become silvery with fewer black spots and no red spots.

Though both often occur in the same areas, they can usually be distinguished without laboratory analysis. In fresh water, brown trouts as a rule, are more heavily spotted than Atlantic salmon and usually a good number of these spots are surrounded by lighter halos. The spots on the shape of Xs or Ys, which is not usually the case in the brown trout. The brown trout also has dark spots on the dorsal and adipose fins and vague spots on the tail, though nothing like the prominent radiating spots on the tail of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The Atlantic salmon has no clear spots on any of these fins. Also, the brown trout’s tail is squarish or very slightly concave or convex, while the Atlantic salmons tail is slightly forked or indented. In juveniles the difference is much more obvious. The tail is slightly forked in the brown trout and deeply forked in the Atlantic salmon. Otherwise, these parr (young Salmonids) look very much alike with small exceptions. A positive distinction between these two species, usually observed in the laboratory, is that the brown trout has well-developed vomerine teeth in a double zigzag row, while the Atlantic salmon has only a single row of poorly developed vomerine teeth.

The brown trout, like the Atlantic salmon, is one of the world’s most widely distributed and highly esteemed freshwater fish. It is a prime target of fly fishermen and one of the most difficult of trouts to catch by any angling method. It will sometimes be spooked by the bait or fly and at other times it will simply ignore it.

They sometimes hybridize with brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) producing a strikingly marked fish called a tiger trout. Few of the eggs or hatchlings of this cross survive due to genetic differences between the two genera, and the offspring is unable to reproduce.

Habitats

Overhanging Trees and Bushes

Usually close to shore, these spots offer protection from the sun and above-water predators. Bigger fish rest in these areas if the water isn’t too shallow, allowing quick access to deeper water for feeding and escape.

Outsides of Bends

When the river or stream curves, the faster water (which carries the food) moves to the outside of the bend, and fish look for food in these bends. If the outside of the bend also contains a rock or fallen tree (to slow down the food-carrying current), it’s an even better place to catch fish.

Current Edges

A current edge is a place where natural or man-made objects slow the current. When the current slows, the food that travels with it also slows. So fish rest at current edges and wait for a nice, slow meal to come by. Current edges can be created by natural or man-made structures like bends, merging currents, drop-offs, rocks and islands.

Merging Currents - Feeder Brooks, Stream or Creek Mouths

Flowing water carries food. So when two bodies of flowing water meet, fish will find twice as much food. Plus, when currents collide, there’s a small area in the intersection where the water and food actually slow down, making merging currents an excellent place to catch fish.

Drop-Offs

When water flows over a drop-off, it slows down and sinks, taking the food it carries with it. A drop-off is a great feeding place because it has food, deeper water and it’s away from the current, allowing for a more relaxing dining experience for the fish.

Rock and Boulder Pockets

When flowing water hits rocks and boulders, it splits and goes around the obstruction, creating an area of calm water on the downstream side of the obstruction. Fish will rest, facing upstream, on the downstream side of a rock. These pockets are small, but a handy cast could land you a fish.

Undercuts

Undercuts are considered the perfect hiding spot on the river. They occur where the current has cut out a cave-like hole in earth or rock along the shore. If there’s a tree above the undercut, all the better. Undercuts provide protection from above-water predators and the sun. And easy access to deeper water for feeding or escape. The biggest, baddest river fish live in undercuts.

Dams and Falls

When water continually drops off a dam or falls, it creates a big hole or drop-off. Fish will sit at the bottom of these holes to get away from the current and to eat sinking food. Fish can get trapped in these holes if they are going upstream to find cooler water or to spawn.

Small Pointed Waves

These triangle-shaped waves form where faster water meets slower water. Like the riverside edge of a bend, bay or eddy. Large fish gather under these waves because the water slows and food drops.

Riparian Zones

Riparian zones are the middle strip of vegetation between the river and the flatter land beyond the shore. These zones serve as a natural biofilter to protect water from excessive sedimentation, polluted surface runoff and erosion. And they supply shelter, food and shade for fish and other aquatic animals. A thriving riparian zone is a sign of good water quality and good fishing.

Rivers and Streams

In a lake or pond, fish have to move around to find food. In a river or a stream, the food comes to them. So moving-water fish find hiding places and travel anywhere from a few feet to up to several hundred feet, several times a day to eat.

You have to decide if you’re going to fish where the fish are hiding or where the fish are feeding. Either way, you’ll have to learn about river and stream feeding and hiding structure.

Hiding structure include undercuts in the banks, eddies, sunken trees and overhanging trees and bushes: places that provide protection from the current and above-water predators.

Feeding places include the outside of bends, merging currents, drop-offs, feeder brooks and springs: places where the current slows down and food collects or sinks.

In general, fish found in moving water tend to be a little smaller than lake fish. But they’re fighters, strong from battling the currents.

Eddies

When fast moving water flows into a small inlet, or eddy, it slows down and creates a whirlpool. Fish will feed where the whirlpool is slowest or in the main body of the river where the whirlpool kicks out the food that has been carried in and out of the eddy.

Standing Waves

If you see waves on the water that look like a rollercoaster, the water is probably going over underwater rocks. Fish like to sit in the shallow part of these waves.

Fishing Methods

Bait Casting

Bait casting is a style of fishing that relies on the weight of the lure to extend the line into the target area. Bait casting involves a revolving-spool reel (or “free spool”) mounted on the topside of the rod. Bait casting is definitely an acquired skill. Once you get the hang of the technique (check out the casting animation), you will be casting your lures right on target into the structures where fish are feeding and hanging out.

With bait casting, you can use larger lures (1/2 to 3/4 ) and cast them for longer distances. To get started, you’ll need a rod with good spring action, a good quality anti-backlash reel, 10–15 pound test line and a variety of specific bait-casting lures.

Fly Fishing

With fly-fishing, various materials are used to design a very lightweight lure called a fly. A fly can serve as a ‘dry fly’ or ‘wet fly’. A dry fly will float on the water and mimic a floating insect and a wet fly will sink below the surface to mimic a swimming bait. It takes a little practice, but fly-fishing is a pure and exciting way to fish. Unlike other casting methods, fly-fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-fly-fishing methods rely on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast on its own so it must follow the trajectory of the cast fly line, which is thicker and heavier so that it casts easier than lines used in other types of fishing (such as monofilament). The angler normally holds the fly rod in the dominant hand and manipulates the line with the other hand close to the reel, pulling line out in small increments as the energy in the line, generated from backward and forward motions, increases.

Bait & Lures

Flies

Poppers and flies are small lures used with spincast and fly-fishing tackle. These baits are very good for pan fish and other fish that feed on the surface such as trout and bass. Poppers get their action from a cupped face carved or molded into the front of the lure body. Fly action is totally controlled by the angler.

Insects

Ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars are ideal for catching pan fish, sunfish and trout. Brown trout are especially attracted to ants presented on a fly. Smallmouths and large trout prefer immature versions of mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, hellgrammites and dobsonfly larvae. You can buy insects or catch your own. Ants can be gathered from a nest and large insects can be captured with a net.

Jigs

Jigs have weighted metal heads and a tail made of animal hair, soft plastic, feathers or rubber. Anglers sometimes add a minnow or piece of pork rind to the jig's hook. Jigs can be used to catch nearly every kind of freshwater fish