Big brookies, everybody wants one. They hold a special place in the vast majority of people’s hearts. Whether it’s the rarity of a specimen held by two hands or just the sheer spectacle in the galaxy of color brought together in one char. Either way, one thing is certain, it’s not an easy task putting your fly in range of one of these vermiculated monstrosities. Some people will tell you that brook trout are not hard to catch and they’re not wrong. But once they tell you about the biggest they’ve ever tangled with, it’s clear to see why they are holding on to this notion.
It’s common knowledge that brookies have a history of becoming overpopulated and stunting themselves faster than you can say caudal peduncle. Waters with gratuitous spawning habitat are usually the culprit. There are many places in the West where native fisheries have fallen victim to this most prolific trout. In many cases, the brookies get large right off the bat, then within a number of successful spawns, things get spread thin, fast. A plateau is reached, the competition for food increases and the potential max size descends.
Stocked lakes that have no reproduction and are managed properly can produce some really nice fish. Lots of grub and overwintering are definitely key factors. These sterile fish can provide great fisheries as well with minimal risk to native populations. If you’re ever fortunate enough to find a body of water that has a limited spawn run, then you’ve really got something. For example, if there is a rather small spring or creek entering the lake, only recently mature fish can enter into the reproductive season. Brookies can surprise you with what kind of exposure and vulnerability they are willing to endure for the sake of procreation. But this low water can and will deny the big boys and girls a place on the productive redds where the magic happens. They will still get down and dirty somewhere else though. This leaves it to the smaller, younger and lower egg count fish to produce the next generation of baddies. Small batch whiskey is good, small batch brookies are even better!
If you were to try to personify a stout brookie with a certain generation or demographic of society today, it would be the millennials, for the following reasons:
1. They can be picky and only want one type of food.
2. That food is called easy, they want everything with minimal effort (for free), you just won’t see a fish who’s girth is 70% of its length coming like a bullet for anything that is more than a ten feet away.
3. They don’t like leaving their safe zone, they didn’t get this big by cutting laps.
A nice cool source of fresh water is a draw for them, especially in warmer waters. Top that off with a nice snack, you’ve got brookies who don’t like changing the channel very often. Old habits die hard with these char, proven hiding spots will not be given up easily. Sometimes they’ve had the spot for so long, that they outgrow it and still think it’s legit. Logs with noticeably dug holes beneath them result from many past accelerations. The inhabitant of this spot may even stick out half a foot or so on each side when home. Other places where they can closely target prey are also on the list. A spot where small fish have an obstacle that forces them to make a path choice, one way is the highway, the other is death by dirty ol’ kype.
So, let’s say you have the opportunity to sight fish some beasties. Like any apt feather flinger, flies will be tossed until there’s a reaction or you just get played out. Don’t get downtrodden, these fish have to crush something eventually. Focus in on other cyclical factors that you have no control over, eg. weather, barometer, moon, AM/PM, and fishing traffic. Make an X on the calendar and record the variables for every outing to help decipher feast mode. This collection of facts and ideas are what you need to consider when trying to figure out if there is a true brookie monster under your bed or not.
Chase Bohning is a fly fisherman and photographer in the American West. Be sure to check out the rest of his awesome content on Instagram @jackfishboots!
Photos courtesy of Chase Bohning.