When humans romance trout, we sit patiently to watch for the telltale signs of a rainbow rising to sip tiny bugs from the surface of a calm slick under a cottonwood tree. And somehow, envisioning this green-silver fish covered with black dots from head to tail and a crimson ribbon pouring from its gill covers down its laterals like spilled ink, we become a guy named Norman who casts in ritualistic motion as if to mesmerize the fish into striking.
Sometimes people can be silly. Fly-fishing certainly has its place and its eloquence, but don't believe for a second all of that hogwash about how trout fishing embraces concepts much more important than catching fish. Hey, it's about catching fish, that's the name of the game.
The fact is, scenes of dappling rainbows perform before human eyes only during relatively limited time frames in the right seasons and during specific daylight hours. And contrary to popular belief among our fly-fishing brethren, trout eat more than adult aquatic insects, which means that rainbow, brown and brook trout readily consume meals with meat attached to them. This suggests that anglers can match a very different type of hatch than insects alone. This calls for worms, eggs and other such things that fly-fishermen refer to as garden hackle.
If you are fly-fishing impaired, or simply want to maximize your fishing time, here are some of the most practical ways to catch trout.
The first order of business is to locate trout fisheries where spin fishing with bait is allowed. Worms, eggs, maggots and manmade floating baits such as Berkley Power Bait are usually authorized for hatchery-supported fisheries. (Although Power Bait and other dough baits are manmade, they are legally defined as bait.) Check your state's regulations for restrictions on trout fisheries you'd like to target. Those supported by hatcheries are typically open to statewide general fishing, which entails the use of bait without restrictions on the style of hook that may be used.
TERMINAL TACKLE TIPS
Eggs are about the most natural food a trout could ever ask for, especially in our western states. Watch over a collection of salmon redds in known spawning areas, and you're sure to find trout nearby. Why? Salmon aren't exactly tidy egg layers, and trout are one of the first in line downstream to pick off eggs that fail to stay in redds.
Rigging to fish with salmon eggs in either lakes or moving water is a relatively simple affair. Here's one example that's adaptable in a variety of ways: Using 6- to 8-pound-test monofilament on a medium-light spinning rod, tie a three-way swivel to its end. Off one of the swivel's eyes you'll tie an 8- to 12-inch dropper line of 4-pound monofilament, and then tie a snap to the end of the dropper line and attach a weight. Cabela's Walking Sinkers work quite well in river environments; the weight's shape is not as critical in lakes. The snap allows you to change weight sizes as necessary and prevents the weight from cutting into the line. The 4-pound-test allows you to break off a weight that becomes snagged without losing the entire rig.
On the remaining swivel eye, tie a leader of a strength that either matches or is slightly lighter than your main line, about 18 to 36 inches in length. At the end, you can either tie on a No. 8 baitholder hook or put a snap there to affix a snelled egg leader, such as those manufactured by Mustad (brass) or Gamakatsu (pink and chartreuse). Pierce one to three eggs or a portion of Power Bait onto your hook and you have a functional rig.
In a river, you'll want to slowly swim such a concoction downstream through feeding lines, under cut banks, and along breaks between slow and fast water. In small streams, go with a single egg and a smaller hook, say a No. 10 or 12, on an ultralight rod/reel combination. You may even forego using weight by simply attaching the hook to the main line and let the egg tumble. Attach a tiny split shot 14 to 18 inches up the main line and you can walk this single egg downstream quite effectively.
For the heavier rigging, go with the weight size that allows your eggs to slowly slip downstream in the current; you may need to give your rod tip a slight lift every now and then to keep the weight from sticking between rocks or other structure. Keep your line taut so you can feel strikes.
Eggs are best fished in lakes and reservoirs during coldwater months, when trout will be dispersed and high in the water column looking for easy morsels to eat in relatively shallow areas that are near deep-water access points. Because of the lack of current, you won't be walking baits downstream. Most anglers leave their bait in one place and wait for the trout to find it; keep your line taut, stick your rod in a holder, and watch the tip for nibbles. If you aren't sure of which depth to fish, try casting to deep water and then slowly - 6 to 12 inches per minute - crawl your bait into shallower water.
Pencil-thick night crawlers as well as red wigglers have endured through generations of trout anglers because they too are a favorite natural food of trout. While you may need to go with a hook sporting a longer shank than you use for fishing salmon eggs, the basic bait-fishing setup remains similar to what you would use for fishing salmon eggs.
Depending on where you fish, you will see a variety of terminal tackle setups. There's the infamous Shasta fly, in which a miniature marshmallow is combined with a chunk of night crawler and a salmon egg or two. The marshmallow not only milks into the water as it deteriorates but also provides buoyancy so you can fish just above a weedline.
Some anglers prefer to gob their night crawler onto their hooks, repeatedly sticking the hook point across the body of the worm, while working toward its end. Others wrap the worm around the hook's shank before piercing its side with the hook point, wrapping more and piercing again until the entire worm is on the hook. Others like to run the hook shank up through the length of the worm's body and then pierce what remains of the worm cross-wise and bundled near the hook's point. It's all a matter of personal preference.
Want another wrinkle? Substitute meal worms, or grubs, for any of the above baits. Grubs are especially effective when fished in moving water, fly-lined (no weight) to swim between boulders in a creek or to pull slowly along a freestone gravel bottom.
While eggs, worms, and grubs all work well, trout also forage on natural terrestrial insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, both of which can easily be caught along the stream bank, rigged on a size 10 bait hook, and fished like a worm.
The well versed fishing writer, Joe Brooks, once commented that any trout over about 15" is capable of eating smaller fish. Live minnows, where legal, can be deadly. Spoons and spinners can either be cast out and quickly retrieved, (both in still and moving water), or in the case of moving water, can be swung in the current on a taut line.
FISHING WITH BOBBERS
Trout fishing's quintessential trademark shows a bare-footed kid hunched expectedly atop a grassy cut bank, holding a cane pole over the water with its line drooping down to a cork or some other type of float. While it's getting harder to find grassy cut banks to fish from, bobber-style fishing will still be around when our grandchildren have children of their own.
If you want to spend quality time with your kids, take them to a place you can both toss a bobber rig into the water, then sit and talk, and watch the clouds in the sky, and look at the bark on nearby trees, and tell a few jokes, and when either of the bobbers disappears, let your kid real in the catch.
Bobber fishing entails the easiest rigging in all of fishing: Run a bobber onto your main line and tie a No. 8 baitholder hook to the end of the line. Put a bobber stop on the main line to regulate how deep your bait sinks from the bobber, put bait on the hook and cast to a likely hole.
Fishing bait under a bobber is no different than fishing bait on the bottom, except you don't need a taut line (to watch for bites), and you'll need to set your bait's depth by stopping the bobber at a pre-determined point on your main line. Use a small rubber piece or string that attaches to the main line; once you cast your bait and bobber, the bait sinks in the water column until the bobber contacts the stop, thus regulating the depth of your bait. Typical depths range from 4 to 10 feet, depending on fish activity and the structure in the lake.
Regardless of what method you choose, you will find bait fishing for trout to be as fun as it is productive!
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