Trout­ing in moose sea­son

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WEEKEND LIFE - Paul Smith Paul Smith, a na­tive of Spa­niard’s Bay, fishes and wan­ders the out­doors at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. He can be con­tacted at fly­fishthe­rock@hot­ or fol­low him on twit­ter at @fly­fishthe­rock

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.

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