Appalachian Brooke Trout

By Ronnie Parris

Where I live, if you say, “Appalachian Brooke Trout,” the locals are gonna give you a funny look then say, “Oh, you mean specks?” These little trout typically don’t grow much over 13 inches, with the average being between 5” and 8” in most streams. No other trout can compare when it comes to color, to a fall, speckled trout. For years, these were the only true natives in our North Carolina Mountain streams. There’s some debate, but most agree that brown and rainbow trout were introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Both the brown and rainbow flourished in our streams and, with their systems being able to stand warmer water and water with more sediment than the Brooke trout, they now outnumber the Brooke in all but the highest, more remote stretches of our creeks. I have seen the Brooke pushed back higher every year, due to development. Seems like it doesn’t have any effect on rainbow or brown trout. I’ve always felt like if the water was clean enough to sustain good numbers of wild Brooke, it was safe to drink.

Years of exploring remote backcountry park streams sure make me appreciate these gorgeous trout. I wonder if, in a couple hundred years, they will still be around for our descendants to enjoy. I can remember as far back as when I was just a small boy, barely able to keep up with dad, walking behind him carrying a forked stick with a mess of specs mom would fry up for supper. If you want to go for a day of speckled trout fishing, you’re in the right place. Almost all of our park streams, if you’re willing to walk far enough back, have good numbers and you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on gear. Any lite weight rod in 3 or 4 weight will do. As for flies, they’re not really picky. It’s hard to beat a Parachute Adams or Royal Wolf and, as I mentioned, they’re great eating fish, but only take what you need as they are a vanishing commodity.

If you’re headed way back, let someone know where you will be in case of an accident. Better yet, take your best buddy and get away from hustle and bustle for a day. As always, stay safe and take a kid fishing.

Ronnie Parris is owner and head guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, N.C., heart of the Great Smoky Mountains; (828) 488-9711.