Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana
mctroutTwo middle age female trout were hanging out along the edge of a nice riffle on a cloudy fall morning. Mrs. Bow said to Mrs. Brown, “Aren’t these Caramel Macchiato Baetis nymphs just delightful? It’s a shame they only serve them on cloudy days.” Mrs. Brown replied. “But I like cloudy days, I feel so much more comfortable and at home in the riffle when it’s cloudy, especially when there’s this almost limitless helpings of these delicious baetis.” “Well”, said Mrs. Bow, “It sure looks like you’ve been snacking when I wasn’t around as you’ve definitely put on some weight. But, it looks good, you’re carrying it well. Are you expecting?” “Of course, you know it’s that time of year where Milt comes around and does his thing. He’s pretty picky about the Redd and I’ve got to keep my energy up.” “When’s the blessed event?” “Well according to my biological clock, the national weather service, NOAA and mother nature, I suspect I’ll have the Redd done by mid-October. Milt’s been hanging around a lot lately, plus all the pretentious young browns have been bugging me as well.” Mrs. Bow remarked “Isn’t Milt jealous, doesn’t he chase the young ones away?” “Of course, but he doesn’t really get aggressive until I am on the Redd, then watch out, he’ll attack anything that comes close. He’s such a sweetheart.”

“Well Mrs. Brown, I’ve been meaning to ask you this question for some time now. I was reading the latest issue of Troutsmopolitan where some guy named Robert Behnke said Brown Trout are harder to catch than other trout. I was a little offended by this as it makes me think I might be, well you know, Easy. Well do you think you are harder to catch than I am?” “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way Mrs. Bow, but your kind can be a bit impetuous at times. Remember last summer, that was a close call for you. The Trico spinners were falling. It was a bright sunny morning and where were you? You were out in the middle of the pool feasting alongside a dozen gluttonous other rainbows. It was shameless, your backside was visible from high above and you weren’t paying attention to anything but the Trico buffet. Then it happened, from high above the Osprey dove down right next to you and off went the little rainbow kid from downstream. It could have been you.” “Yes Mrs. Brown, you are right my kind is a bit impetuous, but I’ve got to eat. But how do you do it, why are you harder to catch?”

“You know where I was born, it was pretty crowded and there wasn’t a lot of food for us young trout.” When I was two years old, I decided to move upstream into this neighborhood. Overall, it just seemed like a better place for a brown trout to grow up and survive. Before I left the river downstream from here, my instincts were honed. As the country and western star Miranda Lambert is fond to say: ‘I was always suspicious and looking over my shoulder because that’s how I was raised.’ More importantly, I’ve always taken the view of Benjamin Franklin. ‘Distrust and caution are the parents of security’.” “Mrs. Brown, was Ben Franklin a brown trout?” “No, I don’t think so, but his advice just comes naturally to our kind.” “What do you mean, comes naturally?”

branches“Well, take for instance this nice little riffle seam we are sitting in. If it was sunny, I wouldn’t be here. You would, but I wouldn’t. I’d be over along the shady bank tucked into the undercut. There might be a fewer Baetis there, but it overall it’s a safer lie. For some reason, my kind has as affinity for the safety of shadowy, dark places. Once the sun comes out, we get real spooky like, basically afraid of our shadows.” “That’s why I moved into this neighborhood. There’s lots of good cover in the food stream—log jams, undercuts, deep riffle corners. We both like the deep pools when the water is too cold or too warm, but honestly, your kind just heads right out into the shallow riffles and tail outs to feed no matter what the weather is like. It’s a wonder that any of you are left in the river with all these Ospreys, Eagles, Kingfishers and Anglers about.” Mrs. Brown, “This guy Behnke said something about Anglers. Something tells me I should be concerned.”

eagle“Indeed Mrs. Bow, Anglers are the worst because some of them are pretty smart. They do have a nice side as many of them let us go after they catch us. It can be a terrifying experience, so I employ everyone one of my instincts all the time just to avoid the experience. Last year during the Salmon Fly picnic in June, I woke up hungry and rushed up into the riffle to partake of the many Salmon Flies falling in the river. Before I knew it, something was tugging at my mouth and I couldn’t shake it. In a minute or so, I was in this net thing, flopping around like an impetuous rainbow. It was very embarrassing. But in an instant, a wet hand slid me from the net and I was back in the river. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the picnic sulking under my log. Had I paid a little bit more attention, I’d have realized there was an angler about. They are often very noisy, walk with heavy feet in the water and on the bank. The worst of them throw long shadows on the water or flail the water with indiscriminant, sloppy casts. The really smart anglers don’t do that and that’s why I guess I got caught.” “Mrs. Brown, Wow, I didn’t know you got caught last year by an angler. Maybe you aren’t harder to catch than I am.”

“Mrs. Bow, I don’t know about that, but I can only repeat what John Wayne once told my father. ‘Life is tough, it’s tougher if you are stupid’. I try not to be stupid, but it’s tough not to be when I am on the Redd. Both Milt and I tend to behave a little bit on the wild side when fall rolls around.”

I know it’s a fanciful and impossible conversation these two salmonids shared in the riffle, but the question as to whether brown trout are harder to catch than other trout is an interesting one. I won’t presume to know the answer as there are too many variables. On some of the rivers I fish, brown trout outnumber rainbows 3:1 thus easy to catch based on shear availability. Even on streams where the populations are about equal, browns are easy quarries in the longer low light periods of spring and fall while rainbows become easy prey during the prolific hatches of mid-summer. I catch enough of both to say, it’s not that hard.


  1. Mike, best thing I’ve read in very long time! Excellent teaching narrative. I even imagined their voices in my head as I read. Very humorous indeed. You should collaborate with an animator, but the photos kept it grounded in a teaching vein. Well done sir!!!!

  2. Fun piece Mike. Different characters and dialog but otherwise very similar to a short story I penned three or four years ago. Had lots of fun with it and I’m sure you did with this one too. The “Am I easy?” obsession cracked me up!

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