Wild Brook Trout Up to Eight Pounds. And That’s Before You Exaggerate.

Of all the places I’ve fished in North America, and of all the species I’ve pursued, nothing can compare to the giant eastern brook trout found in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. First of all, these fish represent one of Mother Nature’s most colourful engineering creations. The patterns of tiny road maps that cover this fish’s back, tail, head, and upper sides provide protection from predators as viewed from above; it blends with its surroundings to become nearly invisible. Later in the fall, as spawning time nears, the males take on a scarlet hue along their flanks, which are already flecked with tiny circles of red, yellow and blue. Its fins become dark scarlet, edged with a white band. It is a beautiful fish to behold.

The island portion of the province, Newfoundland, is blessed with numerous ponds and streams that hold smaller, pan-sized brook trout that locals refer to as their “mud trout.” These fish are relatively easy to catch and tasty in the frying pan. Now and then you may find some that weigh a few pounds or more, particularly in hard-to-reach watersheds that lie further into the island’s interior. But the real challenge comes when one ventures into the wilderness of Labrador to pursue the eastern brook trout that inhabit its several watersheds.

These fish are in a class of their own, tipping the scales at up to 10 pounds and more in many parts of the Big Land. The short summer season limits the time available for these fish to feed, and they gorge on the prolific insect hatches that emerge during the three months from June to September. Huge hordes of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies begin their short life cycles as ice retreats and water warms, and these brookies take full advantage of their proximity. Often quite selective, they challenge the angler to find the right combination of fly patterns that will entice them to the artificial fly which is presented to them.

These Labrador fish are not only beautiful to behold, they fight the pressure of the angler’s rod with great vigor and strength. Imagine a fish that can tow a small canoe containing two men around a lake for twenty minutes and still have enough stamina to battle on for another five. I have experienced that! And there’s no thrill greater than landing a dry fly along the foam line of a flowing stream and observing the rise of a large brookie as it gently accepts your offering.  There can also be frustration in seeing these fish cruise just below the surface, swallowing some unseen insects that may be rising from the bottom, and watching them ignore the fly you’ve just put on their nose!

While some interior lodges permit the use of lures, most opt for limiting their guests to fly fishing only. It is actually more productive to fish with flies, since that is the food base of these big brookies. Matching the hatch that is predominant has one searching through his fly boxes to see what comes close, and there are numerous visits to the fly bench to create a pattern that may work. It can be anything from a #22 Black Gnat to a huge deer hair mouse that brings action!

It is this challenge that draws me back to Labrador time and again.