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IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

 

I have to say, many of my fishing trips for Brookies turn out to be adventures. I often find myself searching for that out of the way lake that requires a hike in and possibly the aid of a GPS. I’m trying to find the Holy Grail of fishing, a lake stuffed full of football sized Brook Trout. It seems that a good number of our Brookie lakes have that potential, and many are backcountry affairs; little ponds nestled in the boreal or hiding in the shadows of the Rockies. Some are smaller than a football field, yet have this amazing ability to grow tremendously large fish.

Searching for the Brookie lakes
Searching for the Brookie lakes

I have been fortunate enough to find a few. Not many, but I’ve found three fantastic lakes that are forever in my back pocket. Each has produced whopping big trout, each is tiny and not well known. In fact, there isn’t a single roadside sign directing you to any of them. You either know they exist, or you don’t. The only way you find them is to check stocking reports, become good friends with someone who knows something about brook trout lakes, or consult the Alberta Fishing Guide. A chat with the local fisheries biologist also might get you pointed in the right direction. After that, the rest is up to you and it’ll then be time to wear out some shoe leather proving out your research.

Wearing out some shoe leather proving research
Wearing out some shoe leather proving research

I remember my first ever wild Brookie chase, and it wasn’t even on a lake that I would remotely call backcountry. I was fishing Edith Lake, near Swan Hills. It’s just a few klicks down a gravel road and you can drive right up to the boat launch. The road can get sketchy when it rains, but the great thing about Brookies is that they are a fish of the winter. Ice fishing is just about as productive as open water fishing, and the dead of winter was exactly when I first visited the lake.

An ice auger comes in handy
An ice auger comes in handy

My plan was to chop a hole in the ice and drown some worms, but it turned out the ice was deeper than I could reasonably chop. Fortunately, a kind hearted man came by with ice auger in hand and drilled several holes for me. I thanked him for his generosity and got about the job of fishing. Rather than get rigged up with the maggots or worms I had on hand, I pulled out a small plastic, sorry looking excuse for an ice fishing rod. It had a plastic circular reel with one, or perhaps two eyes on the end and a supply of fishing line of unknown breaking strength. It had a big quarter ounce yellow jig with a matching yellow curl tail and somehow it called out to me.

You can catch dozens of Brookies with bait
You can catch dozens of Brookies with bait

As foolish as it sounds, I dropped that big jig and curly tail to the bottom, lifted once, and then just about got the rod ripped from my hands. The line was being violently taken from the reel and I just held on. I remember being completely stunned and in total disbelief. The thrill lasted perhaps 5 to 10 seconds and the very, very big fish was gone and that was that. I’d hooked one of the Edith Lake monsters I had heard about, but that was as close as I got. For the rest of the day I switched to bait and did myself proud, catching dozens of colorful Brookies. Nothing too big, but a lot of fun and the action was steady. This one day, however, was all it took and I’ve been chasing Brookies ever since.


These trout are both wonderful and at the same time capable of creating lasting heartache. You need to know this going in, or you simply won’t be prepared when your favourite lake that produced whopping big Brookies the winter before, is now a total bust. The fickle nature of Brookie lakes is that most are small and many are susceptible to winter kill. Practically every single ‘gem’ I’ve ever found goes through this cycle of bounty and bust. I’ve come to look at these backcountry fishing excursions as an adventure, where catching is truly a bonus. I always bring along hot dogs, a thermos of hot chocolate, other snacks, and a camera. That way it’s a great day outdoors regardless of the fishing success.

Once you get a taste for catching Brookies you will not let it go
Once you get a taste for catching Brookies you will not let it go

If the water is clear I’ll look down the hole watching while I jig, but if its stain coloured, I’ll be the first to put on some bait and prop a rod up in a mound of snow and just let the rig sit there. Many, many a Brookie has fallen to the old set line. Generally I find that they are not too fussy about bait. Typically if I have worms and maggots, they will bite on one or the other, or both. That being said, I’ve also seen them eat chunks of cheese slices, pieces of pineapple, and the odd marshmallow of all things.

Many a Brookie has fallen to the old set line
Many a Brookie has fallen to the old set line

One interesting observation I’ve made over the years has been the location of winter Brookies. I rarely find them deep. I’ve fished the deep holes, but for the most part I’d have to say at least 90 percent or more of the ones I’ve caught, have been in water under 12 feet deep. While this is not conclusive evidence that these are a shallow water fish once the ice appears, I can tell you without doubt, that they do a lot of their feeding in shallow water at this time of year.

I hop from hole to hole jigging as I go
I hop from hole to hole jigging as I go

One thing that I’ve come to realize is that Brookies in lakes with little pressure are very aggressive and on many days I can get away with bouncing a jig off bottom. I can tip it with bait or fish it as is, but the cool thing is that in these circumstances they are very quick to strike. So the jig is an excellent searching tool for Brookies and I hop from hole to hole jigging as I go. If I get a strike I’ll settle in, given that they often travel in schools and I often end up getting into some great fishing.


I’d love to tell you the names of all these cool Brookie lakes I visit, but it wouldn’t be fair to only highlight the half dozen or so backcountry lakes I happened to discover. There’s a bunch more of them out there, and it’s up to each of us to find these great fishin’ holes. In fact, I’ve heard many rumours about chunky speckles the size of footballs swimming around freely without any significant fishing pressure. Let the games begin!


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Fly Selection for Beginners

(2) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(3) New Waters

(4) Big Bad Burbot

(5) Looking Back

(6) Out of Africa

(7) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(8) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(9) The Browns of Autumn

(10) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(11) Walleye Town

(12) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(13) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(14) Going With The Flow

(15) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(16) Swinging The Fences

(17) A View From The Aerie

(18) Dixieland Delight

(19) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(20) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(21) Montana's Cool Missouri

(22) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(23) Toothy Critters

(24) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(25) Top Ten Flies

(26) Northern Exposure

(27) Home Water Lessons

(28) Chicken Of The Sea

(29) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(30) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(31) Keep It Up!

(32) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(33) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(34) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(35) Hawg Holes

(36) Saltwater Salmon

(37) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(38) Down a Lazy River –
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(39) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(40) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(41) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(42) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(43) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(44) Fall Walleye

(45) Wet Flies

(46) Versatility the Key to Success

(47) Grayling of the Boreal

(48) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(49) Size Matters

(50) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(51) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(52) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(53) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(54) The Point Of It All

(55) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(56) Fall Fly Fishing

(57) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(58) Big River, Big Fish

(59) Bottom Bonanza

(60) Fishing Small Flies

(61) So Many Choices, So Little Time

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(63) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(64) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(65) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(66) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
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(68) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(69) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(70) Four Corners – Four Waters

(71) Chasing Pothole Trout

(72) Springtime Stoneflies

(73) The Torrents of Spring

(74) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(75) Bust Them With Bait

(76) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(77) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(78) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(79) Terrestrials

(80) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(81) Rocky Mountain High

(82) Reading the clues

(83) Where the Trout Are
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(84) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(85) Fly Fishing 101

(86) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(87) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(88) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(89) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(90) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(91) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(92) Trust Your Electronics

(93) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(94) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(95) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(96) Walleye can be Humbling

(97) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(98) Winter Flyfishing

(99) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(100) Hot Fall Pike Action

(101) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(102) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(103) Frequently Asked Questions

(104) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(105) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(106) Deep Water Perch

(107) Post Spawn Brookies

(108) A Fisher's Life

(109) The River's Last Stand

(110) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(111) Coho on the Coast

(112) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(113) Summer in the Mountains

(114) Peak Walleye Season

(115) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(116) Last Ice Rainbows

(117) The Burbot Event

(118) Tackle Matching

(119) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(120) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(121) The Lure of Brook Trout

(122) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

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(128) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(129) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(130) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

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(133) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

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(138) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

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(143) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

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(146) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

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