Brook Trout

Fresh Water
The "brookie" or brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) was introduced to Montana from eastern North America in 1889. It too, was extensively propagated and stocked in the early half of this century, although seldom so today. Brook trout favor small, cold, headwaters streams and ponds, particularly those that are spring-fed. Brook trout are common throughout most of the western two-thirds of the state in all major drainages. Many an angler learned to fish for brookies as a kid. Spawning occurs in typical trout-like fashion with eggs deposited in a gravel redd during the fall. Brook trout are frequently able to spawn successfully in ponds which have upwelling springs. Brook trout will eat nearly any living organism, and larger fish can be voracious predators on other fish and even their own young. Brook trout are a handsome game fish in their own right, but indiscriminate stocking in mountain lakes has resulted in irreversibly stunted populations in many cases. Trophy brook trout up to 9 pounds have been taken in Montana waters.
Fishing Waters
Famous for its rainbow trout, the Crowsnest River begins at Crowsnest Lake in the Canadian Rockies near the border with British Columbia. It weaves past Crowsnest Mountain and through ... moreseveral towns before cascading over Lundbreck Falls and flowing into the Oldman Reservoir. The upper river above Blairmore meanders through beautiful alpine meadows with solid, grassy banks and predictable flows.

Below Blairmore there is a short stint of Stillwater created by what was to be a “temporary” blockage built in 1903. Anglers here will spot highly educated, big fish that tease you with a glance and disappear between Turtle Mountain boulders the size of trucks.

The most prized water on this blue ribbon, spring fed, freestone river, is between the towns of Bellvue and Lundbreck Falls. Here the river lies in a valley walled off by tall stands of evergreen, aspen and willow trees. From Lundbreck Falls to the Oldman Reservoir the landscape opens, the river widens and strong winds from the Crowsnest Pass register their mark on misshapen trees. In addition to rainbows, large numbers of cutthroat and bull trout appear on this stretch.

Observers and guides account for the river’s productivity by its proliferous hatches. Especially worth noting is the Salmon fly hatch in the last week of May. Named for their orange colored throats, these salmon flies migrate to the river before entering dry land, creating a wonderful opportunity for anglers.
It must be evident that the Clearwater River gets its name from the clarity and beauty of its water. Located entirely within the Canadian Rockies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains ... moreof Alberta, this glacier fed river is a tributary of the North Saskatchewan River.

The river originates within the borders of the legendary Banff National Park on the southern slope of Mount Wellington. From Mount Wellington it flows into Devon Lakes at Clearwater Pass, then drops down 1,300 feet to Clearwater Lake. At Trident Lake, about a mile down from Clearwater Lake, the water becomes navigable by a small craft or canoe. After exiting the park, the river changes direction several times before it approaches Rocky Mountain House and empties into the North Saskatchewan River.
New Yorkers can be thankful to the Neversink River for providing a good portion of its pristine water supply. Anglers, in turn, can thank the city slickers for building the Neversink ... moreDam and Reservoir and creating a fantastic tailwater. Beginning high in the Catskills, the river flows in two parallel branches until it reaches the town of Claryville and becomes one large stem. The two branches remain mostly private as are other sections of the upper river. Some easements have been granted and are posted.

Famous for its storied past, the Neversink is thought to be where dry fly fishing came into being. In the late 1800’s Theodore Gordon established a home in the area and is credited with creating imitation flies that appeared so real, the fish jumped for them. Considered the “father of fly fishing” his Blue Quills, Red Quills and Quill Gordons are still in use. Other luminaries fished this river including Edward Ringwood Hewitt, George M.L. La Branche, Justin Askins and Phil Chase to name a few. Ironically, both the Gordon and La Branche properties were flooded over when the reservoir was completed.

The tailwater below the reservoir provides cold water and the water remains cool throughout most of the year. Shade trees along its banks also aid in maintaining a temperature friendly, trout habitat. Brookies tend to dominate the upper river although the river also supports browns, rainbows and the rare tiger trout. The tailwater section is managed as catch-and-release-only and restricted to artificial lures.

There is good public access at the Neversink Preserve, land set aside by the Nature Conservancy to protect the area’s intact, floodplain forest. Designed to protect migratory fish, the floodplain is also home to important wildlife including bobcats, bald eagles and black bears.
Game Fish Opportunities:
People have been drawn to these waters for over 100 years. Both the river and the Roscoe area of the Catskill Mountains were among the nation’s earliest resort destinations, a tradition ... morethat carries through today. Famous fishermen spent time on this river including Theodore Gordon, A. E. Hendrickson, Joan and Lee Wuff, Harry and Elsie Darbee and many more.

Fed from fresh water springs, this freestone river flows for over 40 miles before it joins the East Branch of the Delaware. Its upper section is narrow, rugged and steep. Surrounded by trees, this part of the river remains shaded and cool throughout most of the year. From Balsam Lake to Shin Creek the river widens out and forms numerous pools and riffles. Hikers as well as anglers come here to see Jones Falls, a 40 foot drop into the river. From Shin Creek to the famous Junction pool, the river keeps widening and reaches over 70 feet across at many points.

Arguably it’s at Junction Pool, the place where the Beaverkill and the Willowemoc join, that the real action starts. Doubling in size, the river acquires a colloquial name – The Big River – and the water fills with churning riffles and deep pools. Within a 2 mile long catch-and-release-only section, Horse Brook Run is considered to be the finest pocket water on the river and one of the best in the region. Carin’s Pool, a deep, fish laden, pool of water, is a favorite among locals and visitors.

Last but not least, the remaining 10-miles of the river are comprised of long, shallow riffles and pools. Desirable areas to fish here include Painter’s Bend, Cooks Falls and a section known as the Flats. Below Cooks Falls is a no-kill section with several well marked areas to fish. The last six miles of the river are largely shallow and slow moving although the Beaverkill stops at Keener’s Pool with a happy ending, since Keener’s is chuck full of luscious, big trout.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Undammed, pristine, freestone rivers tend to be rare these days, and may help account for the Willowemoc’s increasing popularity. Located in the southern Catskills and a tributary ... moreof the better known Beaverkill River, the Willowemoc is now often favored for its easier access, numerous cold water tributaries and less educated, easier to catch fish. A large stream that runs over 26 miles, this creek has continuously been a fly fishing destination since the 1870’s.

Anglers divide the river into three distinct sections. Similar to many other rivers, its upper section from Fir Brook to the village of Willowemoc, is narrow (15-20 feet wide) and is characterized by clear pools and a silted bottom. Wild brook trout can be found here in large numbers but the fish are typically rather small, from 6 to 12 inches. Its tributaries are slow and gentle, providing scores of wade worthy pools. Spring fed tributaries contribute to keeping the water cold throughout most of the year. Public access in the upper stretch is good although some tributaries are restricted.

From the Village of Willowemoc to Livingston Manor, the river opens up, reaching 50 feet across at many points. The bottom becomes rockier and boulders begin to rise out of the water. In the faster moving water and larger pools, brown trout start appearing in large numbers and soon equal the number of brook trout. Both fish remain small, staying in the 8-10 inch range. There is one, six-mile private segment and a catch-and-release-only section.

Beginning at Bascom Brook, the lower section grows even wider, opening at some points to over 100 feet. Riffles and deep pools are common and here the creek begins to mirror the larger Catskill rivers in the region. Stocked brown trout, ranging from 10-15 inches, inhabit this section.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Many anglers consider the West Branch of the Delaware host to the best trout fishing in the Catskills, and some of the finest wild trout fishing east of the Rocky Mountains. And, most ... morealso agree that action in the West Branch really begins at the Cannonsville Reservoir and continues on the 11-mile tailwater that follows. The dam controls most of the Delaware releases and typically sends enough cold water into the stem to support year round fishing. This constant water flow gives the trout an extended growing season, which may account for their large size, population density and ability to sustain a challenging fight.

Below the dam the river first flows through a few rapids, then around a series of small islands and eventually opens to a wide main channel with long pools and short sections of rifles. One of the river’s main attractions is that it can be easily waded (at times from shore to shore) and has a relatively level bottom. 

While most of the fish in the West Branch are brown trout, there are also brookies and rainbows. All of the fish are wild although a two of its tributaries are occasionally stocked, and in theory it’s possible for these fish to enter the main channel. What’s most important to anglers is that the West Branch has more trout per acre than either the East Branch or the Delaware proper.

Access to the river is excellent with over a dozen well marked public points of entry and parking. One word of caution –sections of the riverbed are privately owned and may need to be floated to fish. On the upper river there is a 2-mile section limited to catch and release. Trout here average over 12 inches although fish up to 18-20 inches are not uncommon. Browns over 20 inches are plentiful and locals will be the first to tell you that many trout over 30 inches have been pulled from these waters.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Originating from an unnamed pond northeast of Hancock, New York, the East Branch runs for 75 miles. What matters though to anglers is stretch below the Pepacton Reservoir, a cold, ... morerich tailwater that provides great habitat for trout. From the Downsville Dam to its confluence with the Delaware, enthusiasts can enjoy 33 miles of truly great fishing.

Like many rivers, the East Branch is thought of in two sections, the upper and lower. Small and narrow, the upper water is cold and clear, assuming many characteristics of a freshwater stream. It winds through a tree lined, scenic valley with long flat pools and braided channels formed by a series of small islands. Remaining cold throughout the summer season, both wild and hatchery born brown trout thrive. Less abundant are wild rainbow and native brook although they are there to be found and taken.

Near the town of East Branch and its junction with the Beaverkill River, the lower section begins. At this point the river widens out, varying from 75 to over 150 feet across. Flows become slower with the appearance of deep pools and limited riffles. During the warm summer months the river tends to heat up, forcing the fish to flee to the cooler, upper Branch waters or the main stem Delaware.

Gravel covers much of the river bottom but there are boulders and ledges where fish can hide. A mix of wild and stocked fish run the river, with browns dominating the upper section, rainbows the lower.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Like other rivers in the Rangeley region, the Kennabago begins at Big Island Pond near the Maine/Quebec border and ends in a lake – in this case Mooselookmeguntic Lake – about a 25-mile ... morelong run. And, like other rivers in the area, it is chock full of wild brooks and landlocked Atlantic salmon. What’s different is that it is also home to wild brown trout. Ask anyone who has fished near Rangeley and they’ll tell you that the Kennabago is the third best brook trout river in the state and might rank higher if it were more accessible.

The upper Kennabago starts at Big Island Pond and flows for about 12 miles before flowing through the west end of Kennabago Lake. Described as scenic and remote, this section is mostly gated, although you may gain access through a guide or by paying a fee. It is possible to wade at the junction of Little Kennabago Lake and the river, as a substantial sandbar extends several yards into the lake. During the spring and fall seasons, the brook trout are ample and active every hour of the day.

While fish remain in the river all year long, each spring and fall large brook and landlocked salmon migrate out of the lake and into the lower river in great quantity. Here access is very good between Steep Pool Bank and Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Open from April through September, the entire river and its tributaries are available for fly fishing only. Limitations on fish are fairly strict – 2 trout with a minimum length of 10 inches and only 1 can be in excess of 12 inches. The limit on salmon is one. After August 15th the river becomes catch and release only, with its tributaries closed to fishing to safeguard spawning.

Anglers looking for another type of experience will find Kennabago Lake interesting. It is thought to be the first fly-fishing-only lake in Maine (since the 1920s) and is commonly assumed to be the largest east of the Mississippi. Getting there can be a challenge since there are no paved roads and access can be difficult. Deemed a Wilderness Gem Lake, it is one of a mere five in the state with that designation. Brooks range from 10-14 inches accompanied by a healthy population of salmon. Though not as common, wild brown trout, five pounds and greater, are found here as well.
Game Fish Opportunities:
A stones throw from the town of Rangley is what most anglers consider the second best, native brook trout fishery in the country – the Magalloway River. A tributary of the Androscoggin ... moreRiver, the Magalloway begins near the Canadian border and flows south for 30 miles (including distances over intervening lake water) through northwestern Maine and New Hampshire. Like other rivers in the Rangeley area, the Magalloway is interrupted first by Parmachenee Lake and then 2 1/2 miles later, by Aziscohos Lake, a narrow, 15-mile long body of water.

Privately owned property makes access difficult on the northern reaches of the river as it runs through harvested forestland. Where public access is available, it is best fished by wading or by canoe as this section is more of a small stream loaded with rifles and pools. Because pressure here is light, the fish are thought to be naïve and unaccustomed to seeing flies. Beginners in search of wild native brook or wild landlocked salmon should find this a great place to learn and gain confidence.

Magalloway’s mid section is rife with pools that drain into Parmachenee Lake, followed by a mile of deep pools and pocket water before reaching Aziscohos Lake. The dam at Aziscohos provides steady flows of cold water great for trout habitat. But what brings fishermen to the river section between the two lakes, are the extremely large lake fish that appear several times a year to take advantage of spring smelt or fall spawning.

The terrain after Aziscohos Lake is quite steep; the river descends over 250 feet in less than 2 miles, creating fast water, riffles and deep pools. Open from April through September, the entire river is fly fishing only and only barbless hooks can be used below the lake. South of the lake, fishing is restricted to catch-and-release for brook trout; north of the lake there is a 2 fish limit where fish less than 6 inches long and fish longer than 12 inches must be immediately set back into the water.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Short and swift is how many describe this freestone river - and they are not wrong. Although it’s only 6 miles long it is widely considered the best native Eastern brook trout river ... morein the US. Surrounded by dense forest and scores of lakes, the Rapid is part of the Androscoggin watershed and river system, an area known for outdoor sports and recreation. Aptly named, the river drops over 800 feet from its start in Lower Richardson Lake to its end at Umbago Lake, the steep incline accounting for its abundant whitewater.

Despite its short length, fishermen think of it in three sections – the Upper Dam, Middle Dam and Lower Dam. Getting to the Upper Dam requires a half-mile hike but the trek is worth it. Here there are large numbers of both brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon to be found in the deep water. Below Middle Dam (below Lower Richardson Lake) you’ll find fast pocket water that can be easily accessed by local roads and trails. At Lower Dam, water backs up into a 500-acre pool known as Pond in the River, providing access to the river’s finest fishing, the 2.5 miles between the Dam and Umbagog Lake.

Once stocked with Atlantic salmon, the salmon have successfully adapted and breed on their own, to the extent that now they are all wild. With the exception of Pond in the River where boats are necessary, the Rapid is a wading river. By New England measures, the season tends to start early, typically opening on April 1 and fully active by mid-May. September is considered the best time to fish. Brook trout in the 12 to 16 inch range are plentiful although 18 -20 inchers are not that uncommon. Salmon tend to average 12-14 inches. Fishing is restricted to barbless hooks and fly fishing only. Brook trout are restricted to catch–and-release only. Salmon is limited to 3 fish with a 12-inch minimum.
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