It’s just about time for autumn's great colors, and I’m seeing redd. Fall in Colorado means spawning brown trout — and it means a new conviction to treat the fish right. This issue is just black and white: stay off the redds.
So what does that mean — stay off the redds — and why is it important?
The trout spawning process (for browns in the fall and rainbow in the spring) begins with the female building her nest — the redd. The redd is a a slight depression in a shallow, gravel- covered section of a riverbed. The female fans her tail against the small rocks in order to clean the debris from the era. You can spot the redds relatively easily; they look like a nicely cleaned area in a shallow spot along a bank or even toward the middle of the river. The bed with gravel or small stones is lighter in color, and it may stretch for several feet, even a few yards.
When the redd is made, the female moves upstream and lays her eggs in the gravelly bed. A male brown trout (sometimes two) then fertilizes the eggs by covering them with his milt. Once the male is done, the female covers them with more gravel and small rocks. They then head off downstream.
During the spawning time, the redds are vulnerable for two reasons. First, the female’s energy is being used to lay her eggs. She’s weaker. Similarly, the male is involved in his part of the reproductive cycle. The fish are vulnerable — and not a challenging catch at this time. Some anglers stoop to the level of merely snagging or foul hooking the spawning fish. Anglers who choose to target spawning fish are out for the trophy and not the challenge.
Their tools? Minimal technique and questionable ethics.
The redds are also vulnerable to anglers wading on top of them. In some ways, the redds are quite inviting; they are in shallow water in an area that is free of large rocks. All of that is nature’s plan! It’s a fragile area, though.
Imagine walking in a huge robin’s nest smashing the light blue eggs with your big ol Simms boot. Imagine sloshing through that nest and watching cracked and smashed eggs being tossed to the wind. Unimaginable? When an angler walks on the redds, he is obliterating and scattering the next generation of the very trout he would like to catch. He is suffocating the fish by stirring up the silt that then covers the eggs, depriving them of clean, oxygenated water.
If you consider fly fishing an art …
if you consider fly fishing a sport …
if you consider fly fishing a science…
if, like the characters in A River Runs Through It, you consider fly fishing a religion …
… there is no room for casting to spawning fish or wading on the redds.
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Women's Fly Tying class series: Class 3, Advanced tying techniques, Dry flies