They might be an introduced species, but I must admit I love brown trout. They hold a special place in my angling heart, Scott Coghlan of the Western Angler writes, perhaps as a result of several trips to New Zealand to sight fish for them in the South Island’s gin-clear rivers.
Brown trout, Salmo trutta
Eating: 3 stars
ID: Brown to olive colouration, with dark spots all along side, some red.
Fishing for brown trout in WA is a very different experience to other parts of the world like NZ, but that doesn’t mean some very good fish can’t be caught and each one is memorable.
For many years I only dreamed of catching a brown trout, until I caught a couple of rippers in one day on the Lefroy Brook.
Using spinning gear and a floating bibbed minnow, I picked up the pair along the Thompson’s Flats stretch, the second an absolute thumper than would have gone over 5lb in the old.
I floated my lure around a bend and pulled it past a corner where a tree pushed out into the flow.
The big brown came out from under the tree and nailed my lure, for a most memorable capture.
Browns are a great looking fish and the fact they are relatively rare in WA, and can grow a bit bigger than rainbows, makes them an intoxicating target in my eyes.
I have a few locations that are reliable producers of browns, mainly around Pemberton.
The Warren River and Lefroy Brook are likely spots to try and are stocked with them each year, as is Big Brook Dam.
Harvey Dam is another good spot for browns and I’ve caught them in some locations I never expected to find them, including one little scarp stream.
Many of the biggest browns caught in WA are ex-broodstock fish from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Pemberton-based hatchery, but there are truly wild big browns to be caught.
One location near Harvey used to have a great self-sustaining brown population, but it no longer open to fishing.
Browns certainly offer a more challenging target normally than the more aggressive rainbows, usually holding in slower water and more alert to movement nearby.
Generally similar tactics to fishing for rainbows apply though, often dictated by the spots where you fish.
As with rainbows, spinning with lures, bait fishing and fly fishing are all options in dams like Harvey, Big Brook and Drakesbrook.
The latter location was stocked, with some big fish released at Recfishwest and the Shire of Waroona’s Troutfest community fish stocking event in recent years.
At times browns will hunt after dark around creek mouths and they also like to cruise areas of slow water away from the main flow in rivers.
Although usually cautious I remember seeing tiny minnows spray out of the water in a Pemberton stream as a big brown chased them into the shallows.
I have also been on dams during insect hatches and browns will rise repeatedly when this happens.
Trolling lures is a good way to cover dams until you find a fish and some big browns get caught this way.
Most anglers will encounter browns as an occasional catch while chasing rainbows, but if you want to target them having a look at the annual trout stocking locations on the Recfishwest’s ‘I Love Fishing’ website is a good place to start.
This will tell you where they have been stocked. Click here to see.
In dams, try around creek mouths, flooded banks or submerged logs or trees.
With rivers, the key to finding browns is working out where the fish will be holding and getting your offering into that area.
The sort of wading and spotting fish they do in NZ is barely an option in WA, so we have to be more creative locally.
Although browns tend to hold in slower water than rainbows, they will still position themselves similarly, looking for holding stations where food is brought to them.
Look for rocks or logs that break the current and offer them a spot to hold without expending too much energy.
Sharp bends in river like the one mentioned earlier that offer a quiet area downstream of them are always worth a try.
For trout I always like small 5cm to 7cm floating bibbed minnows as I can let them drift downstream and then retrieve them through likely areas, particularly important when casting is limited or almost impossible.
Upstream fly fishing so popular elsewhere in world is impossible in most areas, so similar tactics on fly are often used and I have caught most local browns on a Woolly Bugger, weighted or unweighted depending on water flow.
Most WA fish caught will be 30cm to 50cm but bigger ones to 4kg do exist and the sight of a big buck-jawed male brown is unforgettable.
A rare WA gem, browns are a beautiful fish and once you’ve caught one you’ll certainly want to find more. Don’t forget a freshwater fishing licence is required to catch trout in WA!