Salomone: My love affair with Brookie.￼
With warm days ahead, it's time to start planning a day to chase brook trout in the Colorado high country
Since the autumn of 1992, when I began to learn how to cast a fly, brook trout have been my favorite. A baptismal component to my Rocky Mountain relocation, brookies were willing to participate in the game. A huge factor in accelerating my fly-fishing learning curve perhaps was their gullible nature. It gave me the edge. Despite my plebeian presentation, they still ate my fly.
Another bonus given to me courtesy of the Colorado fishing brochure was learning that the number of brook trout anglers could keep was high. I liked that. Combined with the fact that they would eat my Walmart-purchased flies and I was left in awe. The little fish were my classmates in my early learning years carrying the fly rod. I had always been a fishy kid. Now fly fishing seemed to give my angling more purpose. I liked fooling them with a fly rather than feeding them with bait.
Brook trout were introduced into Colorado way back in the 1870s. Considered a nuisance by some as they outcompete cutthroat trout — a native species — keeping a few still weighs lightly on my conscience. Eager, abundant and edible, brookies quickly became my friends.
And I haven’t even started to speak of their beauty. Stunningly painted in fall spawning colors, my first look at these new fish left me tickled by their painted bodies. Bright orange bellies, white-tipped fins — and they have the most attractive spots on any trout I’ve seen. Scarlet red centers with crisp sky blue halos flank each brook trout in an unpredictable array. I still marvel at their colors.
That early gear I purchased after I arrived in Colorado, and found most anglers waving the fancy stick in the air, matched up well with the high country fish. My inaugural Pflueger medalist clicked with a resonance that wasn’t often tested by brookies. Click and pawl still go hand in hand with brook trout.
Support Local Journalism
Another aspect about fly fishing for brook trout: this is truly the realm of the dry fly. That fact, and the minute size of most brook trout, leads anglers to the fiberglass rod rack. The slow load and full flex of a fiberglass rod make brook trout feel like bottle rockets leashed to your line.
My brookie rods consist of an Echo 2wt. fiberglass, Redington ButterStick 2wt., an Echo Riverglass 3wt. and a cherry little E. F. Payne 3wt. All of these small-water fly rods are under seven feet in length. Tight quarters require technical casting around riverbank willows to prevent losing flies.
Brookies thrive by being wary. Employing a little stealth in your approach to the water pays huge benefits. Don’t expect to cast to spooked brookies huddled in a group at the bottom of the beaver pond and have them give chase to a fly easily. Brook trout that are unaware of your presence capitalize on the unexpected fly that just landed on the water.
I caught them up in the mountains, and it required a bit of work. They weren’t found regularly in the Eagle River with its bankside road paralleling the river from top to bottom. I had to drive off pavement to earn one. Or hike through spruce scented air to chase them in the Alpine valleys that had been choked into deep pools by beavers.
Not the type of trout associated with great size, the Colorado state record for brook trout was broken not once, not twice but three times in 2022. A record that stood since 1947, the first breaking came in May with a 7.84-pound beast that measured over 23-inches long.
Ironically, the second fish to break the record was well over 8 pounds. However, the angler chose not to enter it for the records but rather to serve it for dinner. The third fish and current state record weighed in at 8 pounds, 9 ounces with a length of over 26 inches.
I see the Eagle River slowly breaking free of winter’s grasp. It’s been a long, cold term and I yearn for our Colorado summertime. The blanket of sun that you feel on your skin, the pine scent that fills your lungs and the splash of brookies eating grasshoppers blown onto beaver ponds by the wind. Do yourself a favor and devote a day to chasing brook trout in the Colorado high country. The little, painted up, dry fly eaters will make you smile.