I kissed my wife on the cheek after being home for only one day. I was headed back up north……again.  Sometimes I think she understands.

This three day outing would be the second chance to chase Wild Brule River Steelhead. The conditions had not changed from 4 days earlier and the bit of rain That the Brule received last Wednesday was not enough to make a difference. The Brule today flows low and clear which is not the conditions steelheaders look for in order to have successful outings. Who knows? The fish have to venture into the river at some point, and under record low flows in 2007 we had fine success.

To hit the high points for the no-nonsense anglers, here is what we found besides the low, clear,  water conditions.

There are some fish in the river but most all that we caught in the last three days were beginning to color up. Brule river steelhead will begin to change from silver bullets(1/4 steel colored dorsal section and 3/4 silver/white middle and ventral (belly) section) to the traditional “rainbow trout look” when they enter the river. No one had the exact answer to how fast they change color. If anyone knows for sure please shoot a comment on this post. Our theory was that they change rather fast since this color change is a response to avoid predation from above. On Sunday an eagle flew about 10 feet over our heads with a 12″rainbow in its talons. The eagle sat in a tree about 50 yards down stream from us and ate its lunch. It was cool! The final thought  on this observation was that fresh fish were not caught by us. Possibly meaning that few fresh fish have entered the system recently. The “catching” from anglers we talked to was tough. You may go two days without a bite. That is hard work. Some anglers hooked or caught fish each day. The catching was highly variable, like usual.

A higher number of Skipjacks were caught by our group. These fish are around 14-16″ and are not consider to be considered the bonafide Mack-Daddy steelhead yet. They still have another year to survive, grow and return to the river to count. This is good thing, and may say something about the continuing health of the river, lake, and for a future class of steelhead. There were a bunch of smolt(immature fish 4-8″) caught as well, another good sign.


Fish that were caught by our group we mostly taken on the lead fly(usually a larger, heavier fly) in a two fly, indicator rig. This is a bit odd because in the past the majority of steelhead had eaten the smaller trail fly or egg fly. Brule theory to explain this was that the fish were on the bottom and were looking for calories. A number of fish were hooked at 8 to 10 feet deep. Many anglers were using too much or too little weight. Adjustment of weight, depth, fly pattern, angle of cast as always was important. Early in the day was a bit better than afternoon with a small bight window before dusk.


Conjecture about the movements and behaviors of these steelhead is MOSTLY THEORY(with a bit of science and a dash of common sense mixed in). From time to time you will see me quote Brule Theory along with a number. Here’s how it works.

Eample: Brule Theory #119 – All the steelhead are still in the lake. One of my friends was asked by an angler leaving the stream if he had any luck catching. Doug responded kindly that he had hooked two fish and landed one today. After a moment of silence the other angler responded by asking Doug if he was sure that the fish he caught were steelhead and not possibly brook trout or salmon. Perplexed at the inquiry about his ability to identify his fish, Doug responded that he was certain that they were steelhead. The gentleman then told Doug he had been informed by another angler that Charter Captian Skip Skipjack said that the steelhead were not in yet, they were still in the lake. It made perfect sense to the this angler since he had not hooked a fish all day and neither had anyone else he had talked to. Apprently there were no fish in the river. He was leaving for the day when he met my friend.

Things to remember about Brule Theory;

No theory can be or should be completely discounted. As stories are passed from angler to angler they almost invariably change. Information gets added, deleted or enhanced in some way. A super fat 18″ brown trout I caught ten years ago is now 8 pounds as the story goes. Now, I like this because it is a good story about a fish that I caught, but you get the point. Some information(theory) you hear may have some truth to it, or it may all be true. From the example above, the bulk of the fish may still be in the lake but there are fish in the river. Brule theory #11- All the steelhead don’t come up the river at once, is true.

Random numbers are assigned to the theory’s. Over the years we have heard so many different thoughts and theories about the Brule river steelhead. They are in the hundreds now.  There is no actual list (although someday I will make one). We just put a number on them somewhere over 100. 

There are Brule River Gnomes spreading disinformation. I believe some anglers make stuff up. Like in Brule Theory #119, why was the charter captain or whoever told this poor guy who was leaving the river, that all the fish were in the lake. Wasen’t that person fishing the river? You get the jist.

In summary we caught some fish. Will it get better, I think so. There is no rain predicted in the near future which is a trigger that many feel brings a push of fish up stream. This Brule Theory #17


Once again many different patterns hooked steelhead. Most of them were nymph or woolly worm patterns containing peacock as one of the main ingredients. Hares ear patterns in 10 -16 also worked. Lead flies were the same patterns in 6, 8, and 10, some weighted some not. Patterns like the PM stone in 6 or 8 and half backs are examples. Eggs in clown, pink, and orange also worked. If the pattern was reasonable and it is on their nose, it might work.

Snag monster were thick. Many who fish the Brule purposely do not want to know how many flies they lost. The reason is the amount of money and/or time it takes to buy/tie will be astronomical. Make sure you have gobs of flies if you go. You have to appease the snag monsters to catch fish if you are indicator fishing.

The last picture was taken after a piece of a tree snag monster broke off the bottom of a hole I was fishing and I got my rig back. The stone fly that was on the branch was as scarry as the snag monster itself. This giant stone was almost 4″ long. It is pictured with an x-legs p.tail I was fishing that does not even come remotely close in size. The picture does not quite do it justice. That bug was so cool! Have fun, Fish hard, Grab the bull by the horns and consider every moment standing in the moving water a gift.