The Secret Life of the Southern Brook Trout
The Southern Appalachian Strain of Brook Trout is a gem. Like any gem, you have to work hard to find them, trek deep in to the mountains to reach them, and risk your life to catch them.
Southern strain are the only native “trout” species that has been around these parts since the ice age. Brook trout are technically a species of char, but in the south they fit right along with the other species of trout, rainbows and browns. They differ from the larger northern strain that are native to the northern states and are now stocked all over the south, but only slightly.
Just one look at these little guys and you can immediately recognize the prehistoric like beauty. The brookie in the above photo was caught out of a relatively easy-access stream just below a large waterfall. Being early fall, the brookies were getting ready for spawning season by brightening up their colors and some males even getting a hooked jaw!
In addition to the beauty of the fish, the landscape is equally breath-taking.
Large waterfalls like this one is what keeps non-native rainbows and other stocked fish from reaching and interfering with the native brook trout. Waterfalls also add to the danger of the trek. The majority of wild speck streams have no trails, no safety rails, and no certain path to travel. To get above the falls requires a scramble and a climb on one side or the other, or maybe right up the middle. Add in high water flows to the slick rocks, and you can see why not everyone should be doing this! The waterfall in the above photo had an easy path up the side of the bank, avoiding any slick rocks.
So if the fishing is so great there, why do people keep it so secretive? I asked around online and talked to my buddy Jake who first got me in to wild trout fishing to find the answers.
The main reason was clear – people don’t like giving away their “secret” hole! There’s nothing worse than getting to somewhere you think is remote and hasn’t been touched for weeks, maybe months, and seeing beer cans and worm buckets on the ground. You go to cast in the stream and get nothing. You manage to get skunked all day long. Even one person fishing a small stream can catch 50 fish; keeping all those fish (illegally) will destroy a stream for everyone in the future. All the gems got mined out in a single day by a single angler.
Another reason that stream names are kept on the down low, especially online, is that once the information is out, there’s no controlling who can get it. Post a stream name and even a location online, and it will be there forever. Anyone searching around for a place to fish will see it and possibly go there themselves. This applies to any stream, not just brookie streams. Most of the time, I refrain from giving out stream names of any reports I post online. There are many public streams that people don’t mind sharing and encouraging people to fish because the fish are stocked for the people to use.
Even if people find out about your favorite spot and enjoy catch and release the same as you do, large numbers of anglers on a tiny stream can harm the sensitive species. All anglers, even those that are careful, are likely to leave trash that will litter up a stream. Even in places that you would NEVER expect to see a sign of a human being, there will be trash. Just telling one person, even face to face, can cause them to tell a few of their friends, then they all tell their friends, eventually leading to an influx of anglers heading to a hot spot to catch what others did. In reality fishing reports are only applicable to the day they are posted. Just because fishing is hot one day and a certain fly is working doesn’t mean you can repeat it the next day.
During the weeks the brookies may be laying eggs, anglers should avoid fishing for them because stepping on the eggs is easy and obviously harmful. Sure the fish may be extremely aggressive, making the fishing great, it’s really just not ethical to catch them while they are spawning.
What are the odds that your “secret” spot is actually so secret? Probably pretty low. Even the most remote streams have been explored by at least a few people other than you. Whether you know it or not, just the idea that you’ve never seen anyone or heard of anyone fishing it is enough to make it “yours”.
So next time you start asking online for someone to give you information about a stream that you want to fish, don’t be surprised that they won’t be willing and they just ask you to move on. Most people are more than nice enough to share a stream with you in person or privately in a message, but out in public is definitely frowned upon.
What do you think about keeping things secret? Leave a comment below with your opinions!
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