Early Winter Browns - Photo Essay

Skyler, Tommy, and I had been planning a trip up north for several weeks to hunt large migratory browns. We scheduled time off from work and made our preparations. When the time came the forecast was looking a bit cold and snowy. No strangers to winter fishing in the Rockies, we packed a couple extra layers and hit the road.

We arrived noon on day 1, set up camp, ate a quick lunch, and cracked a cold one.


Stomachs full, we set off for one of our favorite holes. I was up first and decided to work the run with the nymph rig setup first.

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It wasn’t long before I was hooked up.

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This skinny spawned-out brown wasn’t exactly what we were looking for but it was a start.

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Skyler was up next.

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It wasn’t long before he was hooked up with a fish of his own.

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Another skinny post-spawn brown on the feed.

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Skyler going for the net on another brown.

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Skyler showing off another skinny brown.

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We decided to switch tactics and locations. I switched to a medium-sized white streamer. After awhile I was rewarded with the nicest brown of the day.

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Day 1 was a wrap. Time to take of the waders and sip on a cold cocktail. Skyler has incredible multi-tasking skills.

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Day 2 started with coffee at sunrise.

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Skyler a few casts in.

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With a decent little rainbow.

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A few casts later and I was slipping a fish into the net myself.

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A little brownie on Shea Gunkel’s Shot Glass Baetis.

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After that the fishing slowed down. Later on we moved locations, switched to streamers, and I stuck a few decent browns.

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That afternoon Tommy finally rolled into camp. He brought a couple spey rods along and we decided to give them a try.

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The two-handed rod was a first for Skyler and I. After 30 minutes or so of working the run I came tight to this beautiful Rocky Mountain Steelhead! Who says you have to travel to British Columbia to catch a steelhead? ;)

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As I celebrated with a cold beer I snapped a few photos of the sunset.

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Red sky at night, sailor’s delight…right?

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Guess not, as we woke up to 2-3 inches of snow and temps in the low-teens that had been forecast. Fortunately there was no wind.

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Also fortunate for Skyler was that I had put this towel in the back window to keep the snow out the night before.

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Skyler had recently taken his camper on his honeymoon. What he hadn’t told me was that this remained on his spare tire for our entire drive up…

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We bundled up and headed for the river. I was pretty jealous of Skyler’s hat.

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The fishing was slow but the snow was beautiful.

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Determined to perfect my snap-T cast, I decided to spend the day exclusively swinging streamers with the spey rod.

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The first hour went by without a bump or a tug.

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We decided to switch spots and on about my 7-10th cast at the new spot my line came tight and I set the hook. Immediately, I felt the weight on the end of my line and knew I was hooked up to something bigger than we had been catching the past 2 days. After a short battle (I was still fishing a 13’ steelhead rod), I slipped a nice male brown into the net.

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I was pretty stoked to catch a large, clean, wild brown trout like this on the spey rod after only about 2 total hours of practice. I’ve got to say, swinging streamers with a two-hander is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. It also happens to be a pretty effective method for covering lots of water on this particular tailwater. I may have to pick one up for myself here soon...

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The fishing the rest of the day went by pretty slowly. We caught several more fish but nothing particularly noteworthy. We just were not on the fish this trip. I don’t know if it was our technique, the water we were fishing, and/or the weather. Either way, we decided it wasn’t worth toughing out another single-digit temperature night in the camper with the heater not working and the roads getting worse by the hour. We packed up and headed off for a snowy drive home…

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Ben Bortner