Every fall as the nights get cooler, I relish the thought of putting on my waders and casting floating Rapalas around the inlets of my favorite reservoirs. While Brown Trout are spawning they will still hit a Rapala presented over their heads. I grew up without a boat and learned how and when to catch certain species from the shore.
It all started in the late 1970’s at the Delaney Buttes and Dillon Reservoir at night in the fall. We would go out just before dark and throw everything in our tackle boxes at them. Eventually we started putting together a pattern that just seemed to work. We have refined it over the years, so here are the basics of what we have been doing.
Starting in late September, Brown Trout stage at or near their spawning areas. We have always worn waders whether we needed them or not. Waders will keep you dry and warm and although we typically do not wade in the water, you never know when you’ll need to get wet. Even when the fish next to boat ramps it helps to land them when we got into the water a little bit.
We never fish sharp drop-offs. Over the years, we discovered that the largest fish are taken in inlet channels or shallow flats close by. Gravel is all-important to spawning fish; we could walk half a mile on a mud flat then start catching fish. The next day we could walk out and find that the spot where we were catching fish was generally a gravel bar. River channels wash away mud, leaving only gravel.
Weeds will help you find gravel bars during the day. During the day, walk around areas you plan to fish in the dark and look for large holes in the weeds meaning there is gravel or some other bottom composition change. These bottom changes can be your own little honey-hole where some of the larger fish reside this time of year, and they might use these areas throughout the year to feed.
I have always believed current plays a strong role, but not all fish swim to the inlets to spawn. Inlets draw a lot of attention during any spawn because of oxygenated water and there is always a food source. Inlets also draw a lot of fishing pressure on the more popular Brown Trout lakes.
A selection of # 9, 11 and 13 Floating Rapalas and the Firestick Minnow from Berkley, in an assortment of colors, works as good as anything out there. The key is being able to fish these lures SHALLOW. We have caught some fish on a variety of other lures but nothing seemed to be more effective than straight floating stick baits.
The tactics we used were very simple. Make a long cast down the shoreline in less then a foot of water, let the lure set still for a count of 30, then slowly reel the lure back in. The retrieve is very important. The lure should make a “v” wake on the surface. Then proceed to make casts from shallow to deep focusing on the shallow water. If you are on a shallow flat, you may decide to wade in and start a very slow deliberate walk down the bank. If possible, however, do not wade. Any unnatural commotion will spook those really large fish.
This leads to another lesson it took us a very long time to learn. If you know there are very large fish present do not make cast after cast. This will spook a large fish right out of the area. Instead, walk down to the water’s edge wait a couple of minutes and make a cast. Let the lure sit as long as you can stand it and then begin your retrieve. When you have finished this presentation, take a break, and I mean a big break. Sometimes I will rest an area for 15-20 minutes after making only one or two casts. It is a tedious and slow process requiring the utmost patience, but it will produce large fish that roam the area and are extremely spooky. You obviously need to have confidence that the fish are there.
Wind can help your night fishing but even better yet, it can set those fish up for a great daytime bite. Throw in some clouds and a little snow and the fish will generally eat all day long.
Try fishing the shorelines of your favorite lakes for fall browns. If you want a little solitude do it at night, there is no other feeling than the coyotes howling under a full moon and something thumping your lure in the middle of the night.
© 2023 Bernie Keefe
About the author, Bernie Keefe:
Bernie Keefe guides for lake trout, kokanee, rainbow trout and brown trout in the Lake Granby Area and is an expert in both fishing and teaching techniques for catching big lake trout in regional waters. Bernie is sponsored by Colorado Boat Center, Crestliner Boats, Mercury Motors, The Ice Team, Eagle Claw, Berkley Fishing,Minn Kota Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Habervision eyewear, Strikemaster, Lindy fishing tackle, Rapala, A&A Toppers.