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.
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.
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!