The most brilliant hues of red, yellow, orange, blue—and even flecks of gold—are all assembled on the perfect green palette that is the brook trout.
Their beauty is comparable only to others in their genus of char. Salvelinus fontinalis, or brook trout—also called speckled trout, brookies and square-tails—are a prized Ontario gem. Quite literally. The world record brook trout was, after all, caught in the famous (because of the record) waters of the Nipigon system in 1915 by Dr. JW Cook—a whopping 14 pounds 8 ounces of purely native brook trout.
Although there’ve been contenders for the title, none have officially been weighed on certified scales. In other words, those anglers were good sportsmen and women who returned the astonishingly large fish back to the water.
My first experience with brook trout was as modest as they come, but exhilarating nonetheless. I had just picked up fly fishing at the time and my feeble attempts were gratefully rewarded.
On a journey back from Eagle Lake in Ontario’s northwest, my friend Sam Thompson and I stopped along one of Lake Superior’s tributaries to see if we could shake a stick at some of the lower water levels.
It was Canada Day and, after chasing muskie on a 10-weight rod for a week, my 5-weight with a size 19 fly felt like a wisp-ful feather in my hand.
Sam is an avid fly angler who grew up fishing the streams and rivers of Washington state. When we walked down to the banks, I watched in awe as Sam cast his line, seemingly weightless, and waited for permission to come down to the water. He promptly told me to use a tattered Royal Wulff and start casting at eddies. Lo and behold, a few minutes in I had my very first brook trout on the line.
My wonderment for these fish only grew when I began targeting them through the ice. It might also be that fishing with the right people makes the species of fish you're after even more special just from the memories.
This was a drastically different circumstance from my first brook trout—it was -28 °C and we were on eight inches of ice in the middle of nowhere. We had the whole lake to ourselves and we used it wisely. Ashley was the most experienced in our group when it came to hard water trout. She had no trouble at all putting us on the sassy little spitfires straight away. Another beautiful fish with more beautiful souls.
Now that I’ve moved to the northwestern region of Ontario, I’ve made it my mission to target more brook trout, both native and stocked.
Hopefully, those fish will be shared with wonderful new friends, making me grow even fonder of the brilliant brookie.