The Day the Brook Trout Came Out to Play

Fishing for brookies in the fall has always presented unique challenges and rewards. As the fish approach their time of spawning, they gain their autumn colors that make them one of prettiest of all species of fish. The males thicken from dorsal to their bellies and their kypes grow more pronounced. The females gain significant bulk as their eggs grow inside. It is the time when they are the heaviest, prettiest and often hardest to catch. Though they still need to eat, brook trout become incredibly finicky but will sometimes take an unusual food source, mice.

Gorgeous coloring

Gorgeous coloring

No one really knows what triggers a brook trout take a mouse, especially if it has been cast over the fish dozens of times with not even a hint interest. And then suddenly, the fish will turn and take the mouse with such an explosive vengeance it sounds like someone fell into the water. So when one fishes for trophy brook trout, the expectation is that maybe, with some luck and perseverance, one will get an unforgettable take from one of these beauties.

And then there was that one day last week at Little Minipi when this all changed. We had just arrived at the river’s edge under cloudy skies and a slight breeze. My wife and I headed down to one of the river’s famous holes, figuring we would have our chances to see and possibly even land a monster or two. But we would need to exercise some patience and persistence, which is usually dictated when in casting mice.

The first cast immediately produced interest from a huge 5-6 pound brook trout who literally smacked the mouse imitation with a swipe of his tail. He was telling us that this was his territory and to stay away. Of course, that was the challenge to us, and on the next cast, this fish took the fly with such abandon that his entire body cleared the surface of the water. A few minutes later, I had my first Minipi trophy of the trip, a colorful male that was in excess of five pounds. At this point I figured my trip was made and it was all gravy from here on out.

Ricki and Chris

Ricki and Chris

Our pilot Chris was fishing above us and smiled. He was an expert on this water and his only comment was, “You’ve seen nothing yet! Let’s go down to the Honey Hole!” This was only another five minutes hiking downstream and we quickly heeded his advice. Upon arrival, my wife Ricki waded out into this widened stretch of water to the edge of a deep run that was littered with large boulders. She made her first cast and pulled fly a couple of strips and wham, another savage strike. But, the fish completely missed the fly, all but splashing water on her. She laid the mouse back into the channel and again stripped the fly toward her. As the mouse passed across the front of a large stone, a huge mouth and dorsal fin surfaced and was in hot pursuit of the rodent. It soon caught up to the fly it took it with all of its gusto! Ricki was hooked into her first monster brook trout of the trip that turned out to be a 6.5 pound male.

The action got better and better. Literally every cast into the Honey Hole generated interest from a monster brookie. We probably landed one fish for every five strikes, but every fish was a trophy brook trout. I expected the fishing to slow down, but it never did. These fish chased, swatted, jumped over, swan around, and eventually chomped down on our mice patterns until we decided to end the day.

I have heard of countless stories of rainbows eating mice patterns in Alaska and other far away lands and that is indeed true. Catching a trout, any trout on a mouse is an unforgettable visual fly-fishing experience. But there is no place like this where the trout are monster brookies who will fly through the air in order to latch onto our mousy toys. And today was just one of those days when the brookies came out to play!

Minipi memories: the closing of our 35th season

You wouldn’t know this year how imminent the approach of winter is by looking around. The trees are still in full summer colour and the days are gloriously warm and balmy for the most part. Not much giving away the sliding away of summer – except for the chill in the air when the sun goes down, and the brookies doing their characteristic rituals of the fall season. For the brook trout, love is in the air. So perhaps even for that reason “Lover Boy” run can honestly carry that name well as it did again this year.

1983 it was. I just looked up the old fish records. Jack, Raymond and I were at Lover Boy Run. Jack and Raymond were fishing and I was just doing what I usually like to do (Well yes, being a woman I may offer a running commentary, but sometimes I’m just sitting there being observant and otherwise helpful).

The guys threw out bombers. They threw out leech patterns, sculpins – you name it. What was odd was that occasionally big black backs and dorsal fins would surface from the depths and flick anything hitting the water’s surface with their noses, it was almost like they were annoyed with the goings-on of the surface – what right did we have to be there?

Agnes Ochs with her 8 1/4 lb brookie!The light was such that you could almost make out the white of the fins on the pebbly bottom, could that be really what we were seeing? A whole bunch of fish? Straining over the canoe sides, sure enough, we could make out the shadowy shapes of huge, huge fish swimming in circular patterns in the shallow waters of Lover Boy. I can still remember that feeling – it was like being privy to another dimension, like a child stumbling upon a primitive and secretive world of wonderment and one of the most thrilling moments that I remember so well to this day.

The lads took the dip net and waited for the black shadow to swim around the circle. And sure enough, we had one. This first little lady was 6 1/2 pounds, a beautiful female, we quickly weighed her in the net and carefully put her back to join her suitors … and what followed was one huge brook trout after another. All weighed, released and heading back to their underwater ritual of spawning. There was one character that almost doubled the back size and half again as long that we could not get close to. We left that evening knowing that without being able to catch or even dip net this big fish; there were truly double-digit brook trout in those waters.

We didn’t get the double digit this year, I’m sure he’s still out there somewhere. We had so many Big Red wannabes, 6 and 7 pounders. Lover Boy again shines, with the biggest thrill going to Agnes Ochs of Michigan (above photo) with an 8 1/4 pound brookie this week. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer lady.

Today is the last fishing day of the season, we’re packing up and heading home. There is a frost warning out now for the nights, and the weatherman now peppers his commentary with “freezing rain” or “flurries.”

It is time to go and let the silence take over the Minipi air, and for the snow blanket and protect the ground. Until later. Be well.

Minipi Guides Report: 2013 vol.3

Minipi Guide Ralph Coles

The Rain Gods answered our prayers (and with a vengeance I might add) because low July water levels have been replaced by excessive amounts for August, so much so that wading is next to impossible – except for river fishing of course. This means that most casting is done from boats, making it more of a challenge for anglers because all big rocks that serve as hideaways for those squaretails are underwater.

Coupled with that, one must remember that the time of year is now approaching for brook trout to begin its reproductive cycle meaning all interest have been more or less suspended from the eating/gorging stage to the romantic stage, and subsequently, a defensive mode. So wonder no more when anxiety gives way to frustration for anglers when in a brook trout’s world they’re telling us to “stick your bombers, muddlers and wooly buggers where the sun don’t shine – we have other things on our minds.”

It should be noted though, a male brook trout and a male char in its spawning regalia with its crimson underbellies is a sight to behold for those of us fortunate enough to experience it. You just don’t know what you’re missing!

Woody’s and Halfway Outlet appear to have been rejuvenated as landings have been up substantially with at least two seven pounders landed in the past week.

The Penalty Box at Minipi and The Honey Hole at Little Minipi have produced some unusually big fish as 5, 6 and 7 pounders are very common replacing the 3 and 4 pounders, which have been the norm for years.

A fly out to Minipi would be incomplete without a trip to the Gorge, from where success is often measured in numbers. This breath-taking sight is one where tons of water pours through the Great Minipi watershed itself enroute to its mother river, the mighty Churchill.