I launch my Water Master into the tea stained water and head for my favorite spot on the lake. No one is around, it's mid November and the temperatures have dropped substantially; a slight breeze sends a chill across my face. Only minutes later my line stops and I'm hooked up! It's a very plump brookie, about 14 inches long with the vibrancy of brilliant spots and flame orange belly! They are aggressive and are on the prowl to stuff themselves before this particular lake freezes over. My Hardy Jet 4 wt fiberglass fly rod is just the right rod for these medium size trout. When it bends to the handle, it gets exciting! My first fly caught trout was a brookie and I never get tired of them. A beautiful fish that is super aggressive yet wily enough to refuse your presentation!
Two other cousins of the brook trout that are not far off for me to pursue, are the bull trout and lake trout (aka mackinaw). The greatest advantage of late fall fly fishing is that many anglers also hunt or maybe they're fair weather fisherman. Whatever the case may be, the opportunity leaves plenty of room to fish on the lakes. Bull and lake trout are apex predators where they thrive. So guess what kind of flies work? My favorite of course, BIG streamer flies! Four to six inches long, I'd say that's big, served on a size 1 to 3/0 hook! I like to use integrated sink lines, 300-400 gr to get em down deep. My line pick is the Airflo Depth Finder with intermediate sink running line. I commonly use an 8 wt glass fly rod for both species.
Where you find one bull trout, there are typically more. They can school up pretty close to shore, which is why you want to drop you fly fairly close to the shore depending on the depth to begin the retrieve. Bull trout are found in rivers or lakes. Personally, I think the lake form, lucustrine, are much more robust and fight harder. They tend to eat a lot of kokanee. An 8 wt rod is best and I wouldn't hesitate to use a 9. Stout gear is in order plus I'll use 15 lb fluorocarbon leader. They don't call em "bull" trout for nothing!
Lake trout are very different from bull trout. To catch one with a fly, window of opportunity is much shorter, which, occurs when lakers move into the shallows in late fall (pre-spawn) and will hang near shallows till ice out. Problem is, most lakes with macks become snowed in and that ends the game. Lakers can also be more solitary and it's a good idea to move around and try different areas. Since they spawn over rocky bottoms, it's a good approach to fish over this type of structure. It's not uncommon to hook lakers well into the double digits. Like the bull trout they pull and bull dog and can turn on a dime quick enough to break your line or rod if you're don't lighten up! Both of these char species are primarily fish eaters. Streamers that resemble rainbow trout, kokanee and/or whitefish are good bets. But colors like white, yellow, black or purple should not be discounted. Fairly fast retrieves seem to work best even when the water is 45 degrees. Oh ya, I have found that early am can be the best time for lakers especially for the big boys. Unfortunately, it is often well below freezing, however, in the wee hours of light when you hook a 37" big mack, it helps warm the o'l bod up in a big hurry!
The late fall season can be a great time for targeting trophy char species. A trout of a lifetime could be prowling near shore at any moment, so don't let the cold or inclimate weather stop you!
Tight lines in your fly fishing pursuits!