Time to Fish
You have a decent rod, some line with a leader, a set of hemostats on a zinger, some flies, drab clothes and a whole lot of hope. Let’s break it down to location, setup and presentation.
Pollution and sprawl have decimated the once huge number of brook trout fisheries. Fortunately things are slowly getting better and very few people pursue brook trout. This allows them to once again grow to healthy, mature sizes in areas not heavily fished. Problem is finding these areas. Start with known brook trout streams.
Pennsylvania has a great listing of wild brown and native brook trout streams at: http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/classa98.htm
Maryland fisherman can find brookies using one of my favorite books Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing, The Catch-and-Release Streams.
Virginia is home to a healthy population of brookies in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although the streams have been taking some punishment from pollution and drought this is the scenery more than makes up for any shortcomings.
The photo to the left was taken at one of the many beautful stretches in this great resource.
New Yorks Catskill and Adirondack regions are convenient to the New York City Metro area and really let you escape the hectic pace of the city.
Additional information can be found by contacting your local chapter of Trout Unlimited at www.tu.org.
I usually keep the leader to an overall length between 7' and 8'. Any shorter and I "line" the trout. This is when you spook the trout when the heavier fly line lands too close to them. If you make the leader too long, you may have problems getting the fly to turn over and keeping the hook out of the trees. Speaking of trees, I use a 4lb tippet to connect the fly to the leader. This is much heavier than would be required but it helps you yank your fly from the brush and trees. Always check your hook and knot after a snag. I have spent way too much time crying beside the stream after missing trophies due to broken knots or bent hooks..
Time for a fly! Everyone has a favorite pattern and methods for choosing these patterns. Lighten up! Brook trout are opportunistic feeders. They hit nearly anything that is presented well. I recommend simple attractor patterns. A tried and true starter fly is the Royal Wulff in a size 14 or 16. I fish a variation of this fly year round. Besides it looks really cool and the white tufts of calves tail hair make it easy to see in the fast moving water. Take plenty of flies. The trees will take their share and if you have a good day, you may be surprised how many get destroyed by the fish (what a great problem!)
Look for plunge pools and large rocks. The plunge pools oxygenate the water and the large rocks slow the water to give the fish a break. Approach the pool from the downstream side staying as low as possible. Native brook trout spook easier than any other trout I have fished and once spooked they will not strike the fly. Cast to the back of the pool first as trout often hang there and you don't want to cast the fly line over them. A smooth drift is important but not nearly as crucial as with brown trout. You will often get hits as you or the current pulls the fly through the water. Stealth is the most important thing. You will look silly crawling on you hands and knees but you will catch a lot of fish.
Patience is highly overated. A hungry trout will usually slam a fly within the first or second pass and the biggest fish almost always hit first. You can always try the pool again when you walk back downstream.
When you catch a trout (and you will if you are stealthy) try to remove the hook without removing the trout from the water. Do as I say, don't do as I do. I am sure you have peaked at the photo gallery already. Sometimes I net them and sometimes I move them to a shallow pool to photograph. Just use common sense and be gentle. If you have a trout who isn't floating upright when you release it, hold it gently in moving water. Be careful not to hold the gill plates shut so water can freely rush through the mouth and over the gills. Over the years I have helped others revive some real “goners” and have gone on to catch the same trout a week later. If they are dead, and some fish will die, try to learn from your mistake and enjoy your dinner.