Fly Life Magazine

Brown Trout Are Predictable

Brown Trout Habits Revealed

By Craig Springer / Sportsman’s Guide

Craig Springer in a non-brown trout moment. Image Black Range Museum, taken by Terry Bierwirth.

According to a recent Clemson University study, brown trout show a strong tendency to come back to the same home pool after making feeding forays.

Researchers with the South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, implanted 22 brown trout with radio transmitters in the Chattooga River and followed them through all four seasons. They tracked individual browns every hour for 24 consecutive hours, noting distance and direction moved, and the habitats implanted browns occupied.

In general, brown trout moved limited distances over the course of the day. Nearly 95 percent of the browns strayed less than 200 feet over 24 hours, frequently choosing to remain in a single pool or run. Among the other 10 percent, at least one fish traveled up to 4,500 feet. The study results, however, varied depending upon the season.

In fall and winter, browns were most active just after sunrise. In summer, brown trout stayed put all day, probably due to stress brought on by high water temperature. During the spring, however, they were active at sunrise, sunset, and periodically during the night. And it was during this season that browns moved the farthest — they remained in pools during the day, and at sunset cruised upstream to riffles and fed on drifting aquatic insects. Movement during daylight hours was nearly non-existent across all seasons.

Although a Puget Sound steelhead, acoustic tag transmitters like this one were used on the Cahatooga Browns. Image credit Kitsap Sun.

Based on individual hourly trackings, researchers found 59 percent of the browns in pools, 32 percent in runs, and just 9 percent in riffles

For brown trout fishermen willing to brave the dark, fishing nymphs below riffles offers great promise. And if you ever release a big, brown trout in a nice pool, chances are it could still be there the next time you go back.

For more information. . .

Thom Glace, internationally acclaimed watercolorist’s “Study of a Brown Trout.” Original commisioned for the 2014 Virginia Fly Fishing Festival – prints are still available. Click on image to visit website.

NOTE: Featured Image is an Idaho caught brown trout. Image credit Ben Rogers’ Lostwater Fly. 


When not penning stories about the outdoors, Craig works in communications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is an outdoors’ columnist for the Albuquerque Journal and ESPN Outdoors, and a frequent contributor to Flyfisher and North American Fisherman magazines. He holds degrees in fisheries and wildlife management from Hocking College and New Mexico State University, and an M.Sc. in fisheries science from the University of New Mexico. He’s a candidate for an M.A. in rhetoric and writing at the University of New Mexico. He writes weekly for


Black Range Museum
Highway 152
Hillsboro,New Mexico
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