Report and Dialogue on Brown Trout Spawn 10.16.19 - Written by Ben Rock

The Yampa River was flowing at a healthy 82 cfs this morning and came in at a frigid 37 degrees. The winter storm we received last week really cooled down the conditions for the time being. The water temperatures are rebounding a bit, but looking at nighttime lows, these colder temperature trends are definitely here to stay. There has been a slight boost in flow from the recent precipitation, which as it continues to melt to the next couple days should pump a bit more melt into the system. This is a good thing, as it will provide more appropriate conditions for the brown spawn.

The main topic on most anglers minds right now in our area is the Brown Trout spawn. I would like to discuss this fishery both from a technical perspective, and ethical approach. Anglers tend to outspokenly display an opinion on fishing during the spawn... and most other things for that matter. One of my favorite quotes from The Complete Angler, written by Izaak Walton "All matters of fishing are that a faith rather than fact.“ There is a ton of information out there, but I believe the best understanding comes from experience.

The Brown trout spawn is an extended event, usually lasting for the better part of 2 months. Just like any mating season, there are early arrivers to the party and there are fashionably late fish as well. By this time of the season Browns are in full-blown spawning mode and pretty fixated on the deed. At this point many fish have already completed their spawning ritual, and put the feedbag back on. Many fish are in the act of spawning, and there are still plenty gearing up for the show. All three of these stages imply different behavior, and therefore you need to utilize different angling approaches to be successful.

To understand how to fish to these browns, it is important to know where they are. The fish are pretty well grouped up right now. Big mature spawners can be found in groups near their redding areas, or spawning beds. The other smaller browns are all nearby as well, Not just for the abundant egg food source, but also to look through the windows and see if they can get a peak of the action! Browns almost always build their redds in the tongue of a riffle. Generally, the redd will sit center of the riffle right before the smooth tail out water from the run upstream turns into the nervous water in the next riffle. The largest fish in the spawning group will move on and off this location throughout the day. These trout are very vulnerable to birds when on bed, so early and late in the day and overcast skies tend to be their preferred conditions. These fish will almost always choose a location with deep water upstream of the riffle. This way they can quickly bump up into cover to escape pressure. This deep water upstream is also where the post-spawn and pre-spawn fish will be hanging out recovering or waiting for their turn.


Spend some time watching the Browns in the river right now and it will become obvious how fixated on the spawn they really are. What is not so obvious is that the rainbows are also wrapped up in the brown trout spawn as well. Whatever the species may be, these fish are programmed to capitalize on the easies, most abundant food source in the river at any given time. If there are eggs in the river they are the natural choice. There’s no comparison with eggs when it comes to an easy protein packed meal. This is why the largest, wisest, most desirable to the angler, rainbows are at the party too. The rainbows will not only hold downstream of the Redding riffles, eagerly slurping up excess eggs drifting out of the pans, but they will literally nose right up to the tail of a female Brown and intercept eggs inches after they emerge! When you witness this for the first time, it’s a bit surreal, but enlightening.

The elephant in the corner here has to do with how anglers approach fishing for these browns and the bows near spawning riffles. Depending on who you ask, this can be a very controversial topic, and rightfully so. For the sake of productive procreation, these fish should not be harassed while in the act of trout making. While on redd, these fish are easily visible, accessible, and will readily eat a bead or glow bug pattern. The urge to stick and pic one of these breeders can be more than some can resist, but we really can have our cake and eat it too!


Try sitting on the bank for an hour and watching these spawners in a redding riffle. It Is much like watching a buck chasing around does during the rut, constantly moving. Browns will move from the Redds, into the run upstream, over the next riffle, into the next run upstream, and then back down to their redd, all in a matter of minutes. This behavior is not Just from anglers spooking them out of location, but simply their ritual all day long. They move around a ton.


Numerous anglers preach heavily during the fall fishing season to stay away from redding riffles. While I absolutely recognize and fully appreciate the intention and origin of this fly shop narrative, so often it is ignorantly portrayed. If you are fishing the river during the brown trout spawn, you are fishing to spawning brown trout. If you are fishing the river in the spring during the rainbow trout spawn, you are fishing to spawning rainbow trout. They are everywhere, and despite your self proclaimed innocence, you are catching them… If you’re doing it right. It’s hilarious to hear the song and dance this time of year about fishing to spawning fish, only to see the same people produce photos of egg laden hens and milting males, not caught on bed.... but close enough.


The fishing is awesome right now! Go out and catch a huge brown trout on an egg pattern, just don’t hit him while he’s getting busy in bed. Rest assured, that same fish will be here there and everywhere all day long, so find some water nearby and work them there. Just don’t be that guy or gal on either side of the argument, get yer drift somewhere in the middle.


Tight lines, be nice, have fun, throw beads, catch browns.

-Ben Rock

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