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by Matt Barthels
Schmidt Outfitters

Come late August, salmon start to filter into our river systems, and by mid-September through October there are thousands of kings in the rivers. They are great sport fish when they are targeted early on in the run. However, the longer they’re in the river the moodier they get. By the time they get close to spawning gravel, they have very little interest in striking a fly and should be left alone to do their thing. These big fish get most of the attention, and people often forget about the opportunities to target our stream resident trout. Fall is one of my favorite times of year to target trout, especially in rivers such as the Pere Marquette and Manistee that get strong salmon runs. When the kings start working the beds, it is a sure bet that you will find trout sitting right behind them on the lip of the gravel bed or in the pockets and buckets, capitalizing on the continuous buffet provided by the spawning. As the females start dropping eggs, quite a few of them are swept downstream and are an easy and abundant food source for trout. Also, every time a female turns on her side to “fan” the gravel bed with her tail, she is kicking up nymphs. Again this is an easy meal for the hungry trout waiting behind. With all this food moving downstream and spawning just around the corner, egging is one of the best ways to hit good numbers of really good quality fish. Although the fish are keyed in on the food sources and gorging themselves, that doesn’t mean that they will accept sloppy presentations. Drag free drifts are a must. Often times in the low, clear water of the fall, you can spot fish and sight fish to them which I find much more exciting than blind fishing and hoping you’re getting close to a fish. Approach with caution as the combination of clear water and close proximity to territorial male salmon can make these trout quite spooky at times.

For rod selection, any standard trout rod will work just fine, but longer 10 to 11 foot rods are great for this type of fishing as the longer length allows for greater line control. Reels must have a smooth drag to protect the lighter tippets that are sometimes required to fool big trout. Any weight forward line should work just fine, and 4x-6x leaders and tippet should get the job done. I prefer to use an indicator rig for this type of fishing and your preferred indicator of choice should be just fine.

I like running a two-fly rig with an egg and a nymph. For eggs, small natural nukes, glo bugs, and estaz eggs work the best. If beads are your thing, you can absolutely clean house as they are about as natural looking as you can get. Nymph-wise, you don’t need to go crazy with fly selection. Carry caddis larva, stones, and any others that you prefer. You can use a variety of sizes, but lean towards smaller size such as 16’s and 18’s.

Covering water can be a big asset when egging, as not every area will be getting worked over by the salmon, and not every active bed will have bigger fish feeding behind it. Trying to steer your rig through a pod of kings can be a frustrating proposition and you will more than likely eventually find yourself attached to one. A pissed off king on a four weight is a problematic connection. Save your rod and just break him off. If kings just aren’t your thing or you want to add some variety into your fall fishing, give egging a try.