20 years experience
Your Trout and Steelhead Specialists.
Fishing for Brown Trout In Ontario
Brown Trout: Brown trout are also called browns by local anglers and are common in southern Ontario Rivers. Brown trout are not native to Ontario but where introduced from European strains around 1913.
Brown trout are considered naturalized which means they were introduced and now survive naturally in our rivers. Brown trout are a favorite of many trout anglers due to their bigger sizes and the challenge to catch one..
Unlike brook trout, catching brown trout over 20 inches is not that uncommon but their average size is 10 to 14 inches. They can be the most weary, cautious and most difficult of all the resident trout species in Ontario and therefore can be difficult and a real challenge for many anglers.
Brown Trout Food: Brown trout in rivers can feed on almost anything that is alive in the river but their main food sources include river insects, small fish, crawfish, leeches and worms.
Bigger brown trout sometimes prefer other fish as their main food source and have been known to even eat mice or small birds that have fallen into the river. Many people think of trout as the fish that gently eats small insects off the surface but brown trout can be very aggressive and smash a well presented lure or streamer fly. We’ve had brown trout try and eat other trout as we reel them in.
This little rainbow in the picture took the fly of an angler when a big 22″ brown trout grabbed and tried to eat the rainbow eventually letting the rainbow go.
Brown Trout Rivers: There are many brown trout rivers and creeks in southern Ontario for anglers to explore and because brown trout can survive in warmer water then brook trout brown trout can often be found in the larger middle sections of the rivers where brook trout cant survive.
Brown trout also like smaller creeks and tributaries where the water stays cold and clean year round.
The OMNR website says that there are 159 brown trout rivers and streams in Ontario.
Brown Trout Habitat: Brown trout can be found throughout the river, in the middle, off to the sides, in deeper slower water and in shallower faster water.
Brown trout require some flow to bring them cool oxygenated water, food, and cover or security where they can get away from any danger. Brown trout will hold in different sections of the river at different times and it’s not uncommon to see big brown trout feeding in water as shallow as 10 to 20 inches.
As with most trout they are often found in seams and current breaks where there is a concentration of food flowing past them.
They also like some depth or cover to offer them some security. Brown trout will also use rocks, logs and trees as cover and the biggest ones are usually found near log jams or deeper water.
Brown trout can also be found in slow moving sections of rivers as well sipping on floating bugs or chasing minnows or crawfish in the rocks.
They can also be in fast pocket water and anything in between. The rivers in the pictures below are all good examples brown trout water.
Ontario Trout Season and Regulations: Ontario’s resident trout fishing season is from the 4th Saturday in April to September 30th. There are a few exception to this but for the most part all brown trout sections are closed after September 30th. For more information and the full OMNR fishing regulations check out the OMNR website . At the time of writing this Southern Ontario is listed under zone 16. Some sections of some rivers may also have different open seasons or may have special regulations like being barbless hook areas or catch and release only so before going fishing be sure to look up the OMNR fishing regulations and look up the river you plan to fish first under the ” Exceptions to zone 16 or 17 regulations” section.
Prime Time: The best time to fish for brown trout on most rivers is from opening day in April or early May and throughout the month of June with sporadic to good fishing from July until the end of September depending on the water temperatures.
Migratory Brown Trout: A migratory brown trout is one that is born in the river and then after a year or two will migrate down the river to one of the great lakes where it will heavily feed on bait fish, grow large and fast and then return to the river to spawn and a large adult.
For migratory brown trout anglers can start targeting them in early September but on many rivers they peak later in October and early November. On some rivers the big brown trout will hold over and slowly drop back to the lake throughout the winter months and even through the spring.
Although migratory browns are not that plentiful if you get there on the right days it’s possible to catch a few. Migratory brown trout can also be very large with many averaging 4 to 7 pounds and some getting as big as 30 pounds.
Temperatures: Brown trout tend to be most active at certain temperatures. The optimal temperature range for feeding is Brown trout is about 55 to 67°F (12 to 19 °C) but they can survive and be active from 35 to 68 °F (2 to 20 °C). Even though the temperature may be in the perfect range there are times when a rising or lowering temperature may stop their activity and feeding. One word of caution is to not fish for brown trout or brook trout above 68°F / 19 °C because doing so can seriously stress the fish out or even kill them during the fight.
Fishing Methods: The most common methods of fishing for brown trout include fly fishing, spin fishing with lures or using floats and bait with a spinning reel or a bait caster or even a Centerpin reel.
Fly Fishing: When fly fishing for brown trout we recommend that you use rods from 7 feet to 9 feet in the 3 weight to 5 weight sizes with a suitably matched reel and a floating line that is either a weight forward or double taper style. I personally prefer the Airflow Ridge lines for their high floatability and durability.
Go Smaller: Because the rivers and creeks are often on the smaller side and so are the fish it makes sense to keep things on the smaller lighter side. Leaders in the 4x to 6x is recommended because brown trout can be line shy. I don’t recommend really heavy line either since many of the rivers and creeks where brown trout are found are very clear water and the brown trout may see a very thick line. Always go as heavy as possible in order to both get them to consistently bite but also prevent them from seeing the line but also large enough to enable you to get those bigger brown trout out of wooded areas once hooked. The tippet or leader diameter will also depend on the method I’m using at the time.
Dry Fly: Dry fly fishing for brown trout can be a lot of fun since they are sometimes quite eager to come to the surface.
When dry fly fishing for brown trout I use traditional dead drift methods but will sometimes have more success using skittering techniques or a dry dropper method.
It’s important to try and match the hatch and best as possible so you are using a fly that is similar to what they are already looking for.
There are some advanced dry fly methods that will improve your catch and we teach these on our dry fly guide trip. There are also some mistakes anglers often make that will prevent the bigger fish from biting. Dry fly fishing usually requires good and accurate casting.
For more information or to learn how to do all the various dry fly techniques consider booking a lesson or guided trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company.
Nymphing: It is said over 90% of the time trout feed on insects below the surface and this makes nymphing one of the most productive methods. The most common nymphing method often includes a strike indicator or float with some split shot/weights and a fly called a nymph or wet fly.
This picture is of a client holding one of three he landed over 20 inches using our modern nymphing methods.
Modern nymphing in our opinion is far superior then regular nymphing and is the reason that many of my clients and myself have hooked up to 7 brown trout over 20 inches in a day. For more information on nymphing go to our Nymphing page.
Wet Fly and Streamer Fishing: Another productive and fun fly fishing method is wet fly fishing or streamer fishing. Traditional wet fly fishing is using a swing style retrieve where you cast across and slightly down stream and with a tight line just let the fly swing across the pool until it’s directly below you or out of the main current or target zone. For more advanced wet fly fishing consider a lesson or guide trip with A Perfect Drift Guide Company.
Streamer fishing can be productive and may produce the largest brown trout in the river. Check out streamer fishing page for more detailed information.
Favorite Flies: Some of my favorite basic dry flies include: Royal Coachman dry fly and wet, The Humpy dry fly with yellow, orange or red belly, the Orange Raven dry fly.
Best Nymphs: Some of my favorite Nymphs include flies like a bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, a Hairs Ear Nymph, and a Prince nymph. Remember that bigger is not always better and when it comes to brown trout i would say 90% of the nymphs in my box are size 14, 16 and 18.