Brown Trout Blog

Brown Trout Guide Brown Hobson wins ORVIS Guide of the Year!

Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC guide Brown Hobson won ORVIS’s prestigous guide of the year award for 2015.  Brown was nominated in 2014 and finally won in 2015.  ORVIS has been awarding guide of the year honors for more than 20 years.  We are proud to have Brown as one of our team members, and while he was the guide recognized this year all of our guides deliver this kind of service on a day to day basis.  Check out our reviews if you don’t believe us.


Are You Using Enough Split Shot?

By Brown Hobson


What size split shot do you typically use when you are nymphing for trout?  A #1, or may be when the current is ripping do you go for the BB shot you never use?  I found myself using four AB weights on trip the other day.  I know that is crazy, 2.4 grams of weight if you are using the ORVIS assortment weights

Split Shot

from Anchor Tackle.  It was absolutely like casting a medieval flail, but it produced fish.  We were nymphing an egg with a small mayfly nymph and using a thingamabobber indicator.  We were fishing  a pool about 8 feet deep with a very swirly current, and I was adding weight until we started to get strikes.  The luxury of fishing an egg in semi clear water is that I can tell where my fly is floating in the rivers current.  As soon as added the fourth weight the egg started rolling across the rocks and bam, the first fish ate.   We caught eight fish out of that hole using the massive weights, and didn’t have a bite until we got our flies down deep enough.

I know that is an extreme example.  Deep pool and a giant fly that would rather float than sink, but I often find my clients on wade trips remarking on how much weight we are using.   The bottom line is, when fish are glued to the bottom, like they are in the winter, if the fly is now down there they won’t even look at it.  When the fishing is good as it will be this May fish will be suspended and moving all over the water column to chase flies.  Their metabolisms will be running full speed and they will be as well.  More fly fisherman fish during the spring when fishing is the best than during the winter and therefore when they decide to try winter fishing they often expect fish to be feeding in the middle of the column because that is where their experience tells them trout will be.  When I am fishing a pool with an indicator set up I continually add weight until I either start getting bites or my flies start to hang up on the bottom of the river.  If before I hit the bottom I get a few strikes and then they stop I assume I am almost into the pod of fish and start adding weight again.  Think of this approach as gridding your water vertically.  If you start with little weight and add more every few casts you will have covered all layers of the river’s water column.  While getting down when fish are on the bottom is critical conversely if they are suspended and you get below them you are still missing out.  Trout prefer food at their level, but will come up to take flies.  I almost never see them move down to feed.  Be sure not to go straight to the bottom.

I have included a photo of two different size weight assortment packs from ORVIS Asheville.  The small pack doesn’t have big enough weights to fish the deepest pools, or even shallow pools on a heavy flow day.  If you have not been using the AB or AAA weights go buy a large size shot assortment and fish every pool by adding weight until you find the bottom.  I have even found myself using the weights “you never use” size SSG and SA in extreme situations.  Keep this article and mind and try bigger shot if you aren’t getting strikes.  I even recommend tying on a brite pink egg just so you can see where your flies are going.

Brown Hobson is the owner and one of the guides at Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC.  Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC is based in Asheville, NC and is ORVIS Endorsed.  To ask questions about this article or to book a day of fishing with Brown call or E-mail.


Arabian Queens

By Brown Hobson, owner Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC


Over the Christmas Holiday my wife and I visited family of mine living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  For those of you who don’t know where in the world that is it is a small country on the south eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula with a coast line on the Arabian Gulf.  The UAE is best know for its famous city Dubai, and for the crazy amount of oil they produce.


(The UAE is bordered to the West by Saudi Arabia and to the East by Oman)

My family has been over there for three years so the region has been on my radar, and last winter I read about Jeff Currier’s experience fishing out of Dubai on his way to the Sudan.  Jeff fished with Nick Bowles of Ocean Active, and reading about his experience peaked my interest.  Once my wife and I planned our trip I contacted Nick to see about setting up a day of fly fishing.  We got the date worked out and he prepared me to fish for Talang Queenfish and Yellow Trevally.

We landed in Abu Dhabi Christmas Eve at 3:00 am local time and enjoyed family and touring Abu Dhabi until December 27 when we headed to Dubai.  My Guide Cameron Mundy texted back and forth with me the night before to get everything set up. We switched our trip from a full day to a half day because the queen fish were disappearing after 12:00 and that was our primary target.  We met the next morning, 7:00 am, at the Jebel Ali Golf Course Marina and drank coffee while got acquainted with each other waited for the boat to be readied.  The marina was about 15 km south of Dubai and immediately north of the new Palm the Emirates are building.


(The Jebel Ali Golf Course Marina is between the palm and the Port)

Cameron is a native of South Africa, but spends 11 months a year in the UAE and Oman.  Ocean active mostly operates out of a couple of locations in Oman and the fishing looks spectacular.  They catch a wide variety of fish there including different pelagics and some large Giant Trevallys.  I would love to go back sometime and fish with them in Oman, but I didn’t have time on this trip.

Our boat was ready at 8:00 sharp.  Ocean Active isn’t currently running their own boats in Dubai so we had a captain from the marina and that freed Cameron up to guide me from the bow.  We left the marina and turned slightly east after we passed the palm.


(Leaving The Jebel Ali Marina)

The gulf around Dubai doesn’t have a ton of underwater structure so Cameron had us head for the shipping channel because it had a 5 m drop.  We cruised the edge of the channel looking for birds and didn’t see any for about an hour.  Our plan once we found birds and fish was for Cameron to cast a hook less top water plug and tease the school close enough for me to make a cast with my fly, bait and switch.  I had an 8 wt with an intermediate line and a size 6 pearl gotcha.  We cruised up the channel headed for a couple areas a few miles out that Cameron had been finding fish in.


(One of the many container ships we dodged during the trip)

About 9:30 we arrived at a spot in the channel where we saw dozens of fish trap buoys, a good sign.  We slowly cruised around watching the birds.  They were flying around in a manner that made us think they had seen bate moments earlier.  Cameron was blind casting his plug and I was warming up.  Suddenly we noticed a school of good sized queenies charging toward the boat.  One fish did look at Cameron’s plug, but they were gone very quickly.  I probably had a shot at the fish, but it was my first shot and happened in fewer than 5 seconds.  We spent another 10 minutes waiting for the school to surface again to no avail.  We continued up the channel and finally found another school of fish.  These queenies were pretty small.  We weren’t being picky at this point so I shot my cast in there and started a roly poly retrieve.  Nothing was following the plug, but because we were only 60’ from the school I kept shooting casts in there.  On the fourth cast I hooked up.  The fish instantly dove straight down.


 (The runs were short but pretty powerful, and after about 5 minutes I landed my first queenfish)

It was small and a little misshapen, but I was psyched.  By the time we finished the photos and resumed our hunt the fish were gone.  That would be the theme of the day.  The fish would not stay on the surface for very long at all.


About thirty minutes later we found another promising school of fish with lots of birds working.  No fish would follow the plug, but I was able to get my fly into the school and about halfway back to the boat a mediums sized queenie hit my gotcha.  I saw the fish nail the fly and even if I hadn’t I could tell he was a larger fish.  Instantly all my line was ripped of the bow of the boat and into the water.  This fight lasted closer to ten minutes and this fish’s power was pretty impressive.  Again no crazy long runs, but there was no turning or stopping when he did go.


(Queenfish #2)

My third queenfish followed quickly.  The school we were on only moved a few hundred yards and by the time we were set up again there were several hundred queenies busting bait simultaneously.  We stopped the boat and I made a cast, but because the boat was still moving I couldn’t strip fast enough to set the hook when the next fish ate.  Luckily they were so happy that my second cast into this school was a success.  It was a really cool sight and the third fish was on my fly within a second of it hitting the water.


After landing my third fish the school disappeared and we spent another hour looking for more queenies to no avail.  We had about 45 minutes left so we decided to head back toward the marina and fish some of the rock jetties along the palm looking for yellow trevallies.  We set the boat up so we could drift down the rocks blind casting as we went.  I did get a bump from something, but no hook up.  A second species would have been cool, but I was totally content catching a few fish of a new species in a totally new place.  The UAE is a really neat place to visit and if you are there I highly recommend calling Cameron at Ocean Active.  He is a cool guy with a neat fishing background who will put you on fish.  If you have any questions about the trip I will be happy to go into further detail.

Loch Style Stripping in the Wind

By Brown Hobson

Strip speed is often confusing to anglers because there are very few rules that always hold true.  The possible retrieval styles are endless.  Are trout  eating flies best on a finger crawl(inches of movement at a time), rolly polly(feet per second) or one of the many speeds in between?    As a former conventional bass fisherman I view lake stripping as I always have fishing a plastic worm.  On any given day they might want any number of retrieves and there is no retrieve that won’t work in a specific situation.  I have found one big factor that limits retrieve options more than anything is wind.  For those not yet familiar with Loch Style Stillwater fishing, it is a method of lake fishing in which the boat is set up wind of a target area and a drogue(wind sock) is used to slow boat movement so anglers can methodically work the area infront of them.  Anglers refer to that area downwind as our drift.  In no or very mild wind a drogue is often kept in the boat so that movement down the drift is not totally stalled.  In moderate wind the drogue keeps the boat moving at a slow pace.  In a high wind the drogue slows the boat, but at some point the wind is so high that boat is flying down the drift even with the drogue out.  At the last two Americas Cups I have seen high winds on both Sylvan Lake and Dillon Reservoir.  On Sylvan in 2013 trout were eating my flies on a very slow retrieve with short burst of speed in between.  Winds were variable from dead flat calm to high.  When winds were dead flat calm I noticed my retrieve was catching more trout than my competition.  When the wind kicked up I was missing fish, while my fellow competitors were adding fish to their scorecards.  I am a head case when I start missing fish in a competition, so I went crazy for about 30 minutes.  Luckily when I go crazy on a lake my clouded brain’s defense strategy is to gomer strip hard.  Gomer stripping is long steady, but firm, strips in a rhythmic fashion.  While that strip doesn’t always work it did in that situation and I started to hook my fish at an improved percentage.  What I found was fish wanted a six inch movement with a short pause.  When the wind was dead I accomplished that with six inch strips and a pause.  When the wind kicked up the boat was moving at lets say a foot per second.  When the boat is moving towards the files at 12 inches per second a 6 inch strip allows 6 inches of slack to form in the line, almost no fly movement is created.  I was creating some movement, but when fish ate I couldn’t feel the strike early enough because of my slack.  Once I started the 2 foot gomer strips I was able to move my flies and keep slack out of the line.  I started catching fish, but it was too late to catch the field.  It was a hard lesson learned.

On Dylan Reservoir this year we experienced white caps.  I don’t know what wind speed was, but it was high enough we could barely move upwind to set a new drift.  We started drifting in an unproductive area.  I had a blank with an hour left.  We pulled the plug and ran out to some under water structure I had done well on the year before.  It was fully exposed to the wind, and I knew from my experience on sylvan that I was going to have to strip very fast to keep slack out of the line and move the flies.  The boat was moving several feel per second and I was making the longest cast I could and stripping 3 to 4 feet of line with no pauses.  I caught 3 rainbow trout on the first drift and another 2 on the second.  Time was up, and again I made adjustments too late to catch the field, but saved the blank and finished just a few places out of first.

When the wind is soft or moderate, finding the right retrieve can be very difficult and can drive you crazy.  I can quickly think of a couple dozen possibilities.  While high wind presents many challenges I believe it does simplify the strip.  Generally I strip long and fast, but anglers can really dial it in if you can find a way to time the speed of the boat.  Pick some bubbles out on the side of the boat and try to figure out how fast you are moving past it.  Then make sure your flies are moving at least slightly faster than the boat.  That will keep slack out of your line and ensure that you are moving your flies enough to produce the action needed to entice trout to strike.

Tiny Flies for Big Browns (Repost From the ORVIS Blog)

ORVIS Blog Post


Written by: Trey Oliver, Fishing Manager Orvis Charlotte


Mary Griffin shows off her 22-inch South Holsten brown, caught on a size 22 midge imitation.
All photos by Trey Oliver

It seems that streamers are all the rage these days—and let me preface this by saying I love fishing meaty flies—especially with all the cool patterns out there now! What’s not to love about tossing a 6-inch fly into the unknown with the anticipation that a monster brown will take a predacious swipe? But if I’m being honest, I’ve never really been all that successful with this strategy. Sure I’ve caught some nice fish with streamers, but they have been few and far between. However, some of my biggest trout have all consistently come on flies size 18 or smaller, with my personal-best fish caught on a size 22 Brassie.

A few days ago, Orvis Charlotte Store Manager Mary Griffin and I floated the South Holston River in Tennessee with guide Brown Hobson of Brown Trout Fly Fishing, a former Trout Bum of the Week. I went into this float with the mindset that it was going to be a good day to throw meat. The water was up, slightly stained, and we had a steady rain in the forecast: by most standards, the perfect conditions to fish streamers


The fight was long, and Mary was careful to protect her light tippet.

I decided to start the day with a basic tandem-nymph rig, just so I could get a few fish under my belt before switching to the big stuff. Once I got my fix, and caught a few fish, I was ready to serve up the meat. So I grabbed my 8-weight with a 350-grain full-sinking line and began pounding the banks with my streamer. Meanwhile, Mary was in the front of the boat catching fish after fish with her nymph rig!

“That’s okay,” I thought, “She might win the numbers game today, but I’m going to be the one that brings the fish of the day to the boat.” A few minutes after this thought crossed my mind, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mary cast her tiny nymph rig into a bubbly seam. Before she could even throw a mend into the line, her indicator vanished, and a large boil disrupted the calm surface. Mary set the hook, and all we saw was a yellow flash, followed by a massive, two-foot brown trout leaping two feet out of the water. This the kind of fish I though I’d catch with my streamer. After a long and careful battle by Mary, the fish was in the boat, and I stared at my “meat eater,” a beautiful, 22-inch male brown with a size 20 midge stuck in his mouth.


Guide Brown Hobson

It was humbling, to say the least, but this was not the first time this had appened to me on the South Holston River. More than once I’ve watched fellow anglers on the boat stick big fish with tiny flies, while I’ve stubbornly stuck to my guns with streamers.

Sure, nice fish are taken on the Soho with streamers, but my experience has been that fish are likely just as inclined to move on your streamer—simply to escort them out of their lies, without ever actually looking to eat it—only to return to gulping down midge after midge after midge. I’m sure I’ve ruffled the feathers of many die-hard streamer fisherman with this article, and I’ll admit big flies catch big fish. But on tailwaters such as the Soho, where the angling pressure is high, and the biomass of insect life is extraordinary, tiny flies catch big fish!


That is a healthy wild fish, feeding off the river’s productive food web.

Advantages of the ORVIS H2 10’ 3wt Fly Rod

By Brown Hobson

Last Year I purchased a ORIVS H2 10’ 3 wt. fly rod.  I absolutely love it, and I want to tell you why.  I own 14 fly rods, I think?  I counted this morning, but I am not positive I don’t have on in the rod shop or in a friend’s possession.  That sounds gluttonous, but fishing is the hobby/profession that I spend 95% of my time pursuing.  Just ask my wife.

I purchased the 10’ 3wt H2 to take with me to the 2013 Fly Fishing Team USA National Championships.  I tight line nymph a lot, not just in competition but that is why I started using the technique.  I also dry dropper fish while holding my line off the water.  I was fishing the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers in Basalt Colorado, and I knew that I needed hold my rod high all day for 2.5 days, and fish small flies on light tippet to finish well in the competition.  Stomach Pumps a month before the competition revealed bellies FULL of baetis nymphs (18-22).   To fish patterns that small I would need tippet in diameter .004”(7x).  The reason I list diameter is because in competition split shot is not allowed, and sinking a size 16 nymph with a bead diameter 3/32” is challenging to say the least.  The smaller diameter tippet slices through the water easier and allows the nymph to sink faster.   The problem with that diameter tippet is that the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan commonly produced 18-20” fish and the largest caught during the tournament was just over 25”.  That is a serious strain on tippet that breaks between 2.5 and 3 pounds of pressure.


(Big Rainbow Caught by Author’s Wife on a H2 10′ 3 wt

The first problem is the easiest to counter.  The ORIS H2 10’ 3wt. is the lightest rod of its size in the world, period.  I am amazed how long I can high stick with it, and still never feel it in my arm or shoulder.  I have always been drawn to the Helios series for that reason.  The extra foot in the 10’ version gives me greater line control while holding line off the water.  It also gives me a steeper tippet/water entry angle which improves my ability to drive nymphs down if I need to.  The 7x tippet helps achieve greater depths as well, but as I outlined before doesn’t provide much leeway while fighting big fish.  The 10’ 3wt does an awesome job buffering shock to the small tippet.   It is amazing that a fast action rod like the H2 can be so forgiving in the top of the rod while still casting at the highest level.  I broke off only two fish in the Roaring Fork’s HEAVY current, and that was far fewer fish than I gained by going small on tippet.  The soft aspects of the rod also help with very small fish.  I also caught several fish in the 8.5”-10” range, and with stiff rods they often bounce off the barbless hooks.  The 10’ 3wt. kept those fish on the hook like they were glued on.  Lastly by dropping from a 10’ 4wt to a 10’ 3wt I gained a great amount of sensitivity.  Often while tight line nymphing, the angler feels, not sees, the fish eat, with  small flies the takes are very subtle.  The 10’3wt registers those take better than any rod I have ever fished.

If you have several rods already and are looking for the ultimate light line, small fly rod for wade fishing give the H2 10’3wt a try.  It is my new go to rod, and I have fished flies as large as size 8 streamers on it.  Try it with some light tippet and I think you will see your fish numbers go up.

Brown Hobson is the Owner/Guide at ORVIS Endorsed Guide Service Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC based in Asheville, NC.  He is also a member of the NC Fly Fishing Team and a 2014 Fly Fishing Team USA member.

Catching Suspended Trout

By Brown Hobson

Most fly anglers who have fished for trout a few times or more understand that most of trout’s diet is consumed sub surface.  I have heard stats that suggest trout consume over 90% of their food under water.  That means a Thingamabobber with split shot or a heavy Czech nymph rig dragging the flies to the bottom will work all the time right?  While nymphs on the bottom (we have a blog post on adding split shot coming out early in 2015) will often work that is not always true.  Fish in lakes suspend in the current why wouldn’t river trout?  The answer is they do and nymph fishermen often miss out on those fish that are in the middle of the water column.  I was guiding a few weeks ago and could see trout feeding and couldn’t catch them with my standard nymph rig (nymphs within 12 inches of the bottom).  I saw an occasional trout rising and more trout darting back and forth in the riffles feeding.  A long time ago I learned that I must change not just flies, but rigs whenever I am not finding success catching fish.  So we took the strike indicators off our leaders and switched to a Parachute Madam X Dry Fly with a Soft Hackle about three feet deep tied off the bend of the PMX Dry Fly.  Many of you know this rig as a hopper and a dropper or less specifically a dry dropper.  We instantly started catching trout on both the dry fly and our dropper nymph.  We had the exact same soft hackle on our nymph rig, but it wasn’t getting eaten.  I knew they were eating caddis pupae and that the soft hackle should work because I saw caddis pupae in a stomach sample I had taken earlier in the day.  Obviously we had the right fly in the wrong part of the water column.   As soon as we got the fly off the bottom and in the middle part of the column fish nailed it.  They also ate our dry fly.  There were no hoppers or stoneflies out, but the trout were only a few feet from the surface and were opportunistically taking our dry.  This great dry dropper action lasted a few weeks, but I still do catch most of my fish under strike indicators close to the bottom.  I do always remember to try dry dropper rigs if I get stumped nymph fishing, and usually have a couple extra dry dropper rods rigged in my boat so I can switch easily.  If you don’t have the luxury of carrying two rods try the ORVIS dropper box.  It lets you pre tie Dry fly and Droppers and carry them tangle free.  Below are links to an ORVIS Blog article from Cliff Weisse of Three Rivers Ranch on how to rig dry droppers and a link to the ORVIS Dropper Box.


Why Float Trips Are More Productive Than Wade Trips During The Summer

By Brown Hobson


We get a ton of requests for wade fly fishing trips during the summer months and it makes sense because many tourists flock to the mountains to escape the heat and the idea of standing in a cool mountain stream is very appealing to all human senses.  The problem is that what is cool to us as humans isn’t necessarily cool to trout.  The trout fishing world generally accepts that trout feeding slows down as the water temperatures climb into the mid 60s and drastically slows at 70.  There are exceptions to every rule and our guides find we can fool trout and successfully release them in these temperature ranges, but we don’t get the number of eats we would like to for our clients.  During the summer the small North Carolina trout streams that were teaming with insect life and feeding fish in May have temperatures approaching 70 every day.  We still catch fish, but generally %50 fewer fish than we do fall, winter, spring.  For some of our clients that is ok.  They really want a wade fishing experience and are happy to be out on the water in a beautiful place and catch a few fish in the process.  For those clients who want to see a trout river at the peak of its fishing potential the Watauga and South Holston tailwaters in Tennessee are the place to be during the summer.   A tailwater trout river is fed by a deep reservoir that supplies cold water from the bottom of the lake upstream.  That means even during the heat of the summer we have water temperatures that are in the optimum feeding range for trout and the insects they prey upon.  Many of our clients ask why Tennessee?  The answer is that the only tailwater river in North Carolina with cold summer temps is the Nantahala.  It is farther from Asheville than the Tennessee rivers and has a million whitewater rafters during the summer.   The Watauga and South Holston are big rivers that are most productively fished from a raft or drift boat.  That allows anglers and guide to move from spot to spot on the river efficiently and stealthily.   They also are wide open and allow easy casting with out worrying about constantly snagging trees.  We are now offering summer half day and full day fly fishing float trips.  Half Day trips are $350 and include 4 hours of fishing and a light lunch.  Full Day trips are $425 and include 7-8 hours of fishing and a shore lunch.

Land More Fish Using Your Trigger Finger

By Brown Hobson

At the end of every fishing trip, on my drive home, I think of ways I could have gotten my clients to catch more fish that day.  Should I have recognized a feeding pattern faster?  Could I have taught them a new angling technique?  At the end of the season I go through the same ritual only magnified.  I found many things last year that I can improve upon.  One of the areas of my improvement I thought would benefit a large portion of the angling community.  I noticed lots of days of good fishing (lots of eats) didn’t produce the number of fish in the net I wanted.  My clients were casting and mending well, but losing trout between the eat and the net due to slack line.

I always teach beginners to immediately put the line under their rod hand trigger finger the instant the fly hits the water.  Line Held Tightly Between the Cork and The Anglers Index FingerIt is often awkward at first, but becomes instinctive after a short time.  That is the most important tip I show them all day.  It often translates the first eat into a landed trout, and frequently can double the number of fish they land.  I see clients too often set the hook with the rod in one hand and the line in the other only to be stranded after the hook set with their hands five feet apart, and no way to retrieve the trout without creating a slack line.  I do see creative anglers use their teeth to hold line while they strip, but that only works occasionally.  The most effective way I’ve found to land fish after the set is to never remove the line from your rod hand trigger finger.  Once you set the hook you use your free hand to strip line from just below your trigger finger (see photo) and you can rapidly make subsequent strips while never taking your eye off the fish.  Constantly watching the fish and not your line allows you to react much quicker to any runs or direction changes.   Work this trigger finger tip into your angling routine and I guarantee you will land more fish and more of the larger smarter fish that have developed fighting skills to outwit anglers.

Brown Hobson is the owner and one of the guides at Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC.  Brown Trout Fly Fishing LLC is based in Asheville, NC and is ORVIS Endorsed.  To ask questions about this article or to book a day of fishing with Brown call or E-mail.