The beginning of fall is here, never mind that it does not officially start for another couple of weeks. Last Sunday I hit a high country trail. In addition to the brook trout coloring up for the spawn and heading upstream, the trees were proclaiming the changing seasons as well. The streams are low and clear and the late afternoon storms are definitely on the decline as the monsoon slowly winds down. Fish are hungry, putting on as much weight as possible before ice takes over the streams and lakes. As a fisherman, I love this time of year, likely because I feel like quite the pro when fishing for such hungry and aggressive fish.
On Sunday, I only made minimal progress up the trail before the stream was calling me. That's one benefit of exploring a new area. Instead of doing the smart thing and heading far upstream, you can ignorantly fish wherever there is water. In my case, ignorance was bliss. The brook trout were hungry and coloring up for the spawn. Brook trout are probably not more beautiful at any other time of year. The next two months is the time to catch them, not to mention all the other hungry fish out there.
As the trail and stream nearly merged into one, I had a front row seat and soon decided to jump in instead of carrying on as a specter. The first thing I saw was a nice 8 inch brook trout that casually refused just about everything I tossed at it. In faster water, a fish rose to the buggy Parachute Adams, and I was soon admiring my first fish of the day. I snapped a picture and then remembered a fishtail picture for my buddy David Perry.
Moving up through the steep pocket water, I managed a fish from nearly every deep pocket and some of the smaller less obvious spots as well. In one wide pool a chunky and colored up male rose from the deepest water to inhale my fly. My excitement level shot through the roof as I saw the colors. I dug out the camera and snapped a couple of pictures. Another picture documented the little non-descript run that the big brookie rose from. I suspect it had moved up from the deeper pool immediately downstream, but maybe it lives in the flat run year round.
Glancing up, I saw the beginning of fall broadcasting on the stream bank. Eight years ago, I was in Arizona for the fall and while exploring the White Mountains, I fell in love with aspen dressed up in their fall colors. My camera was still out, and after finishing with the aspen picture, I looked upstream and decided to continue taking pictures. Every corner turned begged for another picture. The beauty of this place was just incredible.
Moving upstream, I found some more willing brook trout. The average size continued to be excellent and I found two more larger males sporting their spawning colors and some intimidating teeth.
Like a kid in a candy store, I was excited to discover what each new pocket and pool held. The brookies seemed to just grow in size as I progressed upstream. The lower portion of this stream follows a road and the average size of the fish I caught there was probably a couple of inches shorter than it was along the trail. Finally, I decided to scratch my wandering itch and climbed out of the stream to hit the trail. Looking up I spotted large patches of aspen turning gold high above. After snapping a couple of pictures of the stream I had just left as well as the colors on the mountain, I was ready to head upstream.
Crossing the first bridge over the creek, I stopped to photograph the brook trout jumping the falls. Another half mile up the trail I discovered a sign suggesting that I might find Greenback cutthroat nearby. Glancing around, I saw a little pool beside the trail with a fish finning that looked different from the brookies I had been finding. On the first cast the fish rose and I soon had my first Greenback!!!
Catherine McGrath Photograph
A nearby cascade suggested pristine Greenback water above so up the high I went. Before long, however, I became more interested in the scenery than catching fish. The views opened up quickly and the cascades itself was stunning.
Absorbed in taking pictures, I didn't forget to catch another Greenback. After following gravity back down hill, I found a few more willing cutts before deciding it was time to head back to the car for lunch. By three in the afternoon, I get pretty hungry even when thoroughly distracted by the spectacular fishing and great scenery.