A Trout Rut by Mark Usyk
I caught a really good brook trout up north, in the 20” range. Then I didn’t fish for two weeks and when I finally did I caught a great 21” brown. Then two days later I went back to the same spot and on my short 3wt rod, because I’d forgotten my 5wt at the house, I caught a nice 16”-17” brown. This is going to sound weird, and probably a little crazy, but I feel like I’m stuck in a trout rut. Yea, I know. But hear me out.
I was never a big trout angler, I was more of a smallmouth, more of a panfish, more of a creek chub kinda guy. That’s not to say that I didn’t want to catch trout, but I didn’t chase them very much because chasing trout to me meant getting skunked quite often. Then I discovered wild brook trout. Trout that would clobber a streamer stripped past a pocket or out of a seam like black lab snapping up a hot dog dropped on the floor. Because of brookies, trout fishing on the fly suddenly became something within reach. Something I could touch.
Browns came next because of the confidence the brookies gave me. I’ve never been as good at fishing browns as the brookies and I chalk that up to a couple things. #1, brookies in small streams are easy to find because, well, the streams are small! When you can clearly see all the pockets, and the shallow waters can’t hide the bottom structures, then it’s pretty easy to find the fish, there’s just not that much water to search in a stream that’s 20’ wide or less. And #2, the waters I was fishing for browns, while they were in there, I wasn’t coming across prolific hatches that made it obvious what they were feeding on. I’m still a horrible nymph angler, so if they aren’t taking obviously on the top, something I can see and match, then I’m streamer fishing. While it can be productive, it’s never as good as matching a serious hatch going on when they’re keying in on one specific bug that you can clearly see. And, I’m still not a great dry fly guy.
All that being said, I suddenly this year feel as though after chasing brookies and browns most of the year that I’m in a trout rut. I need to get on some different water and hook into some bass, some pike, some panfish, maybe walleye. Carp would be great, and I’ve been thinking hard about hitting my cousin’s place on Oneida Lake early some morning, and seeing if a crayfish pattern won’t hook me up with a water buffalo, a big old ugly and ornery sheepshead. Fresh water drum could be awesome on a big fly rod if only I could break out of this trout funk. Seems like every time I finally get a couple hours to hit some water I’m chasing trout.
When I was working on the road my comfort zone was found in fishing different and unknown waters, not knowing what fish I would find. Now my comfort zone has become running to familiar waters chasing one particular species of fish over and over again. I need to go chase something different. For one thing variety is the spice of life. It’s time for a change. And for another, I’m starting to get the feeling that if I catch another big trout around John or JP they’re going to cut a big hole in my net or poke holes in my waders.