If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go to Chile or Alaska, you’ll notice the fish behave differently. In Chile, you throw a grasshopper fly in the middle of the river and twitch it so the brown trout will run over from the bank and eat it. In Alaska, rainbow trout cannot resist mouse flies. I once caught 18 bows on a mouse pattern in one bright afternoon. Try either of those tricks on the Delaware or the Henry’s Fork and see how far you get.
I cannot help but imagine that our Lower 48 trout are so wary, that they prefer itty bitty bugs most often (in most places) because they’ve had the snot pounded out of them so hard by way of people pressure. Pressured trout are binge feeders (not opportunistic predators), and it takes an epic event (e.g. a salmonfly hatch) to trigger the binge. Other than that, they feed to subsist, and that’s why you have to spoon feed size #20 black beauties to the trout in Cheesman Canyon (CO), for example. Remove the pressure, and trout lose inhibition. That’s why 18-inch cutthroats eat Humpies and Royal Wulffs in the backcountry.
Not a leading-edge theory, to be sure. But it does make me wonder if indeed closing rivers, for certain days … or weeks … or even months might be a way to affect more “authentic” trout fishing. I wonder how many anglers would prefer fewer, but better days. I’d trade 10 strike indicator and RS2 fly days for one big dry fly day. No question.