Brook Trout are some of the most elusive freshwater fish in the world. They require extremely clean and cold water to survive. Anglers have to search far and wide to land these beautiful fish. Once you find these trout, it’s even more challenging to catch them. They’re spooky and quite picky with what and how they eat. If you can choose the proper flies, you’re in for a treat.
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I started my pursuit for brook trout in Northern Minnesota. The small tributaries running out of Lake Superior hold these fish and they’re some of the most beautiful Brookies I have ever seen. It took me several weeks to figure out what these fish wanted to eat, but as soon as I did, I started landing them one after another.
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What is a Brook Trout Fly?
Brook Trout will feed in all portions of the water column. As a result, it’s important to have flies that imitate all stages of the insect and even some larger prey that they might choose to feed on when the time comes.
Understanding the Hatch
Brook Trout primarily feed on insects. As a result, it’s imperative that anglers have a full understanding of the life cycle of an insect. If you do, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on what types of flies to throw and when. This is an important piece of knowledge for any angler.
The Larva stage of the insect is the first immediately after the egg stage. As soon as an insect hatches, they form into a small worm and immediately eat several times their bodyweight. They add more segments to their body as they eat. Fish commonly feed on insects in the larva stage.
Nymphs are solid imitators of larva staged insects. They bounce along the bottom and fish will fill themselves with them if they have the chance.
The Pupa stage of an insect is another common stage where fish feed. When the pupa stage occurs, the insects form a hard shell around the larva and attach itself to a rock, stick or some sort of other structure at the bottom of the water column.
Within the hard shell, the larva is transitioning into its adult stage. As it starts to become an adult, it will shed the shell and drift towards the surface. This is when the feeding time really starts to begin. This is known as the emerger stage of an insect.
The adult stage of an insect does not usually last too long. Insects can stay in the larva and pupa stage for upwards of two years. Once they reach adulthood, they’ll live for a few weeks, mate and then die. Female insects often lay eggs on the surface of the water or right near shore. The eggs will drift to the bottom and the life cycle begins!
What Do Brook Trout Flies Imitate?
Brook trout flies are similar to many other types of trout flies. However, brook trout often eat a bit smaller flies than a brown or rainbow trout would. They’re not as quick to hit streamers and more often will strike nymphs and smaller dry flies.
The water they inhibit is usually extremely cold and clear so insects are the primary food source. Not many other forms of prey are available for these fish to eat. While this isn’t always the case, it’s important to check with your local fly shop before you make your selections.
Basic Types of Brook Trout Flies
Brook trout will feed in all levels of the water column. They don’t have feeding patterns that are much different than many other trout. As a result, you aren’t forced to get too creative or fish any flies you might be uncomfortable using.
Dry flies are flies that sit on the surface of the water. These are created to imitate fully grown insects or other types of prey. If you use these flies, make sure you’re using a reel that has a floating line attached.
The floating line is going to keep your fly high on the surface. It’s also not a bad idea to cover the fly with a floatant. This will help things stay visible.
Emerger patterns are often left out of many anglers fly boxes. Since emergers really only are appealing to fish for short periods of time, anglers don’t bother using them. These patterns are the most successful about 30 to 45 minutes before a hatch. As the flies are entering the adult stage, they move higher in the water column and break out of their shells.
Nymph flies are created to represent flies in the pupa and larva stage. These flies sit on the bottom of the water column and bounce along the bottom. These are great to use before a hatch or at other points during the day when fish aren’t looking towards the surface.
It’s smart to fish nymph patterns with an indicator so you’re able to tell when flies are being taken by the fish! Depending on where you’re fishing, you might only be able to barely detect the strikes!
Streamer patterns are meant to imitate some of the larger prey under the surface of the water. They can look similar to baitfish, crayfish, worms and leeches.
If you’re looking to land bigger fish, it’s never a bad idea to tie on a streamer. While you might not catch as many fish, you have a great chance of landing a trophy!
The Best Brook Trout Flies for Fly Fishing
Brook trout are very specific to certain regions of the United States. Their diets vary based on what insects are hatching in the body of water. Be sure to have a discussion with the local fly shop before you pursue these fish, but the following 10 flies have proven to work regardless of where you’re fishing.
Best Dry Flies for Brook Trout
Dry flies work great for Brookies. They love to feed on the surface and have proven to be extremely active during the hatch.
Elk Hair Caddis
The Elk Hair Caddis flies hatch all over the United States. These patterns have proven to be worth your time when targeting brook trout. You can find them anywhere between size 8-20.
Make sure you have a variety of different sizes! You never know what the fish want or how aggressive they’re acting.
The Griffith’s Gnat is one of the smallest dry flies you can find. They’re challenging to maneuver and operate, but depending on your skill level, you can land dozens of fish in one outing if you use this pattern. Gnats are everywhere and are always near water.
Lay one of these patterns down with some light tippet and you’re in for an eventful day.
If you’re looking to see if you can land a larger brook on a dry, then throw the Chernobyl Ant. These are best used late in the summer when the temperatures have warmed and terrestrial flies start appearing.
Best Nymphs for Brook Trout
Brook trout love nymph patterns. They often feed on the bottom of the river or stream all throughout the day. These flies are a challenge to get used to throwing, but once you can manipulate the drift, you’ll catch all the fish you would like.
Pheasant Tail Nymph
The Pheasant Tail Nymph is a great BWO fly representation. BWO’s often hatch early spring or late fall so if you’re interested in cold weather fishing, the Pheasant Tail Nymph will be a great option. Also, if you fish any tailwaters, be sure to use the Pheasant Tail.
Hare’s Ear Nymph
The Hare’s Ear Nymph is a small nymph that has proven its worth in almost every situation. These flies work great for trout, especially brookies. Use these flies in size 12-20. Fish them through the rifles, seams and some of the smaller pools.
In cold water streams, the Zebra Midge is going to always work. You can even use a blood midge if you would like! They stick out on the bottom and fish scoop them up whenever they get the chance.
Make sure you’re using a light tippet because brook trout will notice!
Best Streamers For Brook Trout
Brook trout don’t always hit streamers because they don’t often grow too large. However, if you know you have the potential to find some larger fish, go ahead and throw a few of these.
The Wooly Bugger is a perfect option for targeting brook trout. You don’t always know some of the larger prey available for the fish to eat and the bugger can fill any role it needs! Fish it between size 6-10.
The Muddler Minnow is a classic pattern that has proven to work in any situation you ask. It is often found between sizes 2-8. For brook trout, go ahead and throw the 6 and 8. It’s a bit more manageable for these fish.
The Slump Buster always shows up when you need it! It has a perfect name and performs well in a variety of circumstances. Use this fly anywhere between size 4 and 6.
Brook trout are some of the most beautiful fish in the world! They’re phenomenal fighters and all have different features. You’re going to have to work hard to find these fish, but it’s extremely rewarding.