Brook trout: A love of little fish

No fish, at least in the Midwest, sports a better paint job than a native brook trout. (Photo by Tony Peterson)

Most of my time fishing this summer has been spent trying to get 7-year-old girls on big smallmouth and northern pike. That is fun, but I’m also afflicted with a perpetual case of the grass-is-always-greener mindset. With fishing, that mostly manifests itself in the desire to trout fish.

Having grown up in an area that was laced with trout streams and absent of lakes, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for cold, clear streams with picky fish in them. The trout of my youth were almost always browns, but the fish I think about most these days are brookies.

We find them in northern Wisconsin, and a good day on the water will yield plenty of them. They’ll measure, at most, about 11 inches, with the majority probably going no more than 8 inches tip to tail. That’s not much fish when you’re used to 20-inch smallies, but there’s an appeal to them I can’t shake.

Part of that is due to where they live. Tannic streams cut through true big woods and, lined by ferns, are the closest thing I’ve found to bringing select parts of Colorado to the Upper Midwest. If you could tip those Wisconsin streams up another 30 degrees or so, they could easily be found on the side of a mountain.

You can’t, but that doesn’t diminish their value. Neither does the reality that you might fish an entire summer and not catch a single fish that would measure a foot. Native brookies are a treasure, not because of their size, but because of where they call home and, of course, their paint job.

Good luck finding a fish in North America that is prettier, although I’ll admit that a few of the rarer trout species that do live in Colorado and a few other high-mountain states probably beat out the brook trout in a beauty contest. I don’t get to fish them, so I’m going to declare the brook trout the winner by default.

As we wind down the fishing season and get ready to transition to hunting, I find myself trying to plan one more trip to fish these trout. They’ll only get prettier from here until the season closes, and I can probably convince myself that I’ll be scouting deer while fishing, considering some of my favorite stretches flow through public land.

As if, for some reason, there needs to be a better excuse to be out there.

Categories: Blog Content, Tony Peterson

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