So what the hell is all the hype you hear around this time about "NOT FISHING OVER TROUT REDDS!?!?"
Every year throughout the country, once the floating leaves of fall drop and mornings get that crisp feel, water temperatures begin to drop and the trout take notice. Brown and Brook Trout wait all year for these few weeks because they're triggered to begin what we call their spawn, or mating ritual. Once water temps drop to a comfortable level, female and male trout get to work in a sexual way.
The females find an area in the stream that's usually shallow with smaller sized river rock and cobble. Once they find a suitable area thats shallow, has a rotating current, and can be slightly warmed by the sun, the begin to clear an ovular shape in the cobble. The cleared oval shaped 'bed' as we call it can be anywhere from a 1x1ft oval or even up to 6x6ft oval. Femal trout clear the rocks by using a method called fanning, meaning they take their caudal fin (tail fin), and wipe the rocks clear of debri. This usually scrapes their fins up pretty bad. Once the female clears the cobble/rock, she digs an indention in the river bed to lay her eggs. As the female lays her eggs the male will come alongside her and release sperm on the eggs to fertilize them. He'll also swim around and aggressively chase off other smaller males.
Once they have finished their mating dance, the female will cover the bed back up with more cleared cobble, and the male will continue to patrol the bed for a few more days. Once the female is finished she will be the first to swim off and begin feeding again. The male will stay. Becaue females exert so much energy laying their eggs, they need to begin feeding heavily to regain their strength.
When male and female trout (whether it be brown and brook trout in the fall or rainbow trout in the spring) begin their spawn they are very vulnerable to the elements. Birds of prey seek them out because they are in clear view and in shallow water, along with animals such as racoons, otters,and even some mink. I have seen plenty of ripped apart trout that racoons have clawed up while they were in the shallow water. The other animal we have to worry about is the ignorant human! I can't begin to tell you how many people try to catch fish from their redds, usually through snagging them in the face or side. As cruel as it is, most people that do this are just uneducated on the fact. Like so many disrespectful environmental issues, lack of education on the matter is the cause.
Now, it's perfectly fine to fish during the fall. It's actually a wonderful time of the year to fish. It's even perfectly fine to fish while trout are spawning, whether it be spring or fall. However, it's not okay to fish for trout while they are on their spawning beds and in the mating process.
One good approach I like to take while fishing during the spawn is to stick with the larger, deeper pools. Not every fish in the river spawns every year. So, by fishing the larger pools you can catch healthy fish that are tucked away, still eating eggs as they float through the current from up river beds. Fish love to eat eggs this time of year and fishing them appropriately can be extremely effective. Also, just smaller nymphs such as your common hares ears and princ nymphs can work great. A favorite fall pattern of mine is a hot spot stone fly, meaning a stonefly with a bright thread to finish the fly. It's a winner!
So, fishing in the fall while trout are spawning is totally an option, and I'm not discouraging fishing for a month during one of the most beautiful times of the year. However, there's a proper way to do it! The eggs that wild fish are laying are the future generations to our rivers and streams, and the only way in which fish and boat commissions around the country can compensate not stocking a river. The more wild fish there are, the less they'll stock and the healthier the stream will become.
Respect this wonderful time of year. Respect our fisheries future generations!