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The leaves are changing colors, the air is getting crisper, the elk are bugling, and the brown trout are feeding. These are the signs that fall has arrived in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. At an elevation of 7500 feet, Estes Park lies at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, and every fall this location becomes a hotspot for both tourists and anglers alike. Tourists travel from across the country to witness the huge herds of elk beginning the rut with their howling bugles echoing across the valleys. Meanwhile, the Brown Trout are in a pre-spawn phase, setting the scene for an adventure unlike any other.

I began my adventure traveling up the Big Thompson Canyon on an early Saturday morning, trying to beat the rush of tourists that flock to the mountains every weekend. I arrived at beautiful Lake Estes just before sunset, giving myself ample time to prepare my Jackson Big Rig FD for a day of trout fishing. Lake Estes is home to a variety of fish: Rainbow Trout, Sucker Minnows, Tiger Muskie, Perch, and Brown Trout. However, in the fall your chances of hooking into a big brown are much higher, so that is the species I was focused on.

When it comes to fall tactics for big browns, I have three favorite presentations: tubes, jerkbaits, and wakebaits. During the lowlight periods of the day, baitfish such as shad and shiners tend to gravitate towards the shallows. This means that sub-surface wakebaits and shallow running jerkbaits are good choices during these times. Tube jigs are also a great choice because they mimic crawfish dwelling in rocky areas on the lake bottom.
I began my day throwing a wakebait with no success. Taking the hint, I switched up to throwing a jerkbait and got on the board with my first brown trout. I continued with the jerkbait for some time without another bite. I began to wonder if I arrived to the lake a little early in the year, or if the full harvest moon was throwing off the daytime bite. I tried a few other presentations to tempt more trout into biting but was unsuccessful. I decided to switch back to a jerkbait but went to a smaller size in a perch pattern. On my first cast I hooked into my second brown of the day and was hopeful I was onto something. A few minutes later I hooked into another brown that quickly came unbuttoned.

I pressed on for a while without any more hits when the unpredictable mountain wind kicked in. Not wanting to risk anything I made my way back to the boat ramp and called it a morning. Only a couple browns to show for my effort, but you can’t beat kayak fishing a beautiful lake surrounded by the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The bite should only improve over the next few weeks as we get further into fall, and I will definitely be back to take advantage of the hungry browns.