Trouting in moose season
Last weekend our Bay de Verde moose management area No. 34 opened for the autumn 2018 big game hunt. I went sea trout fishing on Saturday because it was the last weekend for that as well, other than coastal waters, which you are permitted to angle 12 months of the year. I could be salty fishing on Christmas Eve. But anyway, it felt funny to be going trouting on the opening day of moose season. But as it turned out, an excellent decision, because the trout fishing was outstanding.
Matt Brazil and I timed our departure so that we could hit the outgoing tide at one of our favourite October locations to intercept brown trout returning from the ocean. These are the true magnificent chromers of the trout fishing world. Imagine if you can, silver sides like a polished quarter, plummeting and somersaulting in the bright autumn sunshine. The air is cool, and leaves of brilliant hue flutter to the riverbanks, shaken loose from swaying birch by a freshening midmorning breeze. The colour, smell, and ambiance of fall are all around us. The flowing water is cool on our thighs, and the fragrance of pungent estuary chemistry, coalesced by tide of salt and fresh, garnishes the mix. This is as good as it gets.
The tide and weather are everything in sea trout fishing. These are very smart fish, the most intelligent for sure of the trout species, and maybe the biggest brains of the whole freshwater world. From my experience, these creatures, nomads of the tides, as the Irish angling writer Chris Mccully coined them, are indeed especially challenging to catch. I know this; it’s far easier to catch your first salmon than to capture your inaugural grilsesized autumn run trout. Only some saltwater species, like the roosterfish, or permit, might have superior grey matter.
Most of us Newfoundland sea trout folk have only met Mr. Brown at his worst. That’s because for reasons I don’t fully comprehend we typically fish for our sea trout when they are leaving freshwater in spring and heading for the salt. Now think about this. These trout have been living under ice all winter. It’s been dark and cold with meagre protein pickings. By spring they have lost their lustre, salty sliver faded to a murky brownish yellow, thick rotund football shaped bodies have withered to slinky dimensions. These fish are bloody hungry, the primal driving force as they swim from ponds and headwaters to tidal water. But they are still so frustratingly fussy and wary. I’d bite any old fly under those conditions, not Mr. Brown Trout.
During March and on into April, depending on ice out timing, sea run brown trout populate the tidal waters at the mouths of many rivers around
Conception, Trinity, St. Mary’s, and Placentia Bays. The fishing is good, although the trout’s fighting form and culinary value are much demised by our long winters. Some are better than others depending on how long they have been feeding on the edge of ocean bounty. They are still wary and wise but much more given to temptation than in September when their bellies are full and satisfied. Come autumn brown trout can drive you crazy, trying to figure out the right fly to tempt them.
The finest sport in sea trout fishing is chasing silver. Brown trout turn silver in the ocean and take on an appearance almost indistinguishable from our beloved Atlantic salmon. And they fight almost as hard, and sometimes even more so. The difference between tangling with a fresh run silver sea trout rocket and a slinked-out spring trout is like driving a Porsche and then riding a moped. There are pockets of opportunity throughout the season in various places for silver. Trout sometimes move to the sea at odd times, but autumn is the time of grand opportunity. Too bad the season doesn’t run a tad later. There are still lots of trout in the salt.
Like I said, I went sea trout fishing last Saturday. The tide was running out nicely when Matt and I arrived. I rigged my 12-ft 6-in 7wt stick of graphite and knotted on a nice tempting seal fur streamer pattern. I love to fish two handed for sea trout whenever I can. Matt rigged his 11-ft 6-in Loop two-hander and away we went. I hadn’t been fishing in a few weeks and did it ever feel good, knee deep in running water, upriver wind, time for a single spey off the right shoulder. The sun was shining, my muscles felt loose and life was good.
Sunshine isn’t the best for sea trout. A few years ago, I fished the Rio Grande in Terra del Fuego, and even there, one of the best rivers in the world, the bright sun can skunk you. But today the tide at least, was perfect, and Matt and I were just happy to be fishing.
For the first while, maybe an hour, we didn’t see much. Then the tide began to push a bit, meaning the ocean began to take control, pushing salty water back into the estuary and slowing the river’s natural flow of freshwater. The trout approved, or maybe they just arrived with the incoming high salinity water. Who knows? Remember, tide is almost everything in this game.
Early morning or late evening counts for nothing most of the time. Anyway, we started seeing some very nice autumn silver. I was excited.
I heard a splash and looked across the river towards Matt. His rod was bent deep and he was into a very nice trout, a chrome-clad rocket. More splashes and flips and somersaults ensued. Wow, this trout was on steroids or afterburners, fighting with every ounce the energy of any sea- iced salmon I’ve ever witnessed. Matt tried to tame the battle until I waded across the river and up to the truck to fetch my camera. He didn’t pull on the trout and let it sulk a bit. When I was ready with the lens Matt leaned back on the rod and this crazy fish went aerial again. This wild epic aerobatic display was well worth the long drive and missing a day in the woods.
I would have a fin and grin for you but apparently fall sea trout have very slippery tails. Next time we’ll bring a net. And next week it’s moose hunting.
This trout was totally wild.
Sea trout have slippery tails.
Catching sea trout on a sunny day is never easy.
Autumn angling on Manuels River.