Do you know how to catch trout? The old saying that 10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish, is true. Mull that for a minute. Those of you who catch a lot of trout each year are probably nodding knowingly. You suspected that most fishermen don’t catch many trout. You could tell by watching them fish. Statistics show that nine out of 10 trout anglers you meet on your favorite water next week will consider themselves fortunate to put something in their creel.
Actually, most fishermen don’t catch any trout, not one. In this day of graphite rods, thin, super-strong monofilament lines, high tech lures and smooth-operating reels, that’s hard to believe.
So, if you don’t catch a lot of trout, or as many as you would like next week, don’t feel like you are alone. Most people don’t. If you are among the vast majority that catches few trout, and would like to be among the 10 percent who catch many, perhaps some of the following advice will be helpful.
But the best tip for learning to catch trout is pure common sense – fish often. You’ve got to pay your dues. The people who catch lots of trout – be they fly fishers, hardware slingers or bait draggers, or some combination – all have one thing in common. They have, at one time or another, spent a lot of time fishing and thinking about fishing. They have learned how trout feed, where they live and eat and which baits, flies or lures to use and when.
They spend hours sharpening hooks, tying flies and building lures or fussing with tackle. They don’t look at trout fishing as just a pasttime to be pursued half-heartedly on weekends. They view angling as something between a hobby and a religion.
Now, you don’t have to become a fanatic to catch trout. In fact, it might be better for your marriage, job and social life if you don’t get too involved. It can be a sickness.
But on the other hand, if catching trout has become important to you, and so far you just haven’t developed a knack for it, it might be time to take up a few habits of the blessed 10 percent who catch most of the fish, like getting out of bed at dawn or before to go trout fishing.
Here’s a few tips that might help you catch more trout in your area. But do us all a favor, in case you get real good at it, let a few go. Resist the temptation to fill your creel just to impress your friends and family. Take a few hatchery trout to eat without guilt. They’re good, although not as tasty as crappies or walleye. But discover how satisfying it feels to watch a decent-sized trout, swim away after you release it. Cherish wild trout. They are a valuable resource. And keep in mind that famous line, “There is more to fishing than to fish.” No matter how deeply you delve into the sport, no matter how obsessed you become with trout fishing.
Trout fishing tips
• Buy a stream thermometer and use it. Find water that ranges from 40 degrees to the mid 60s. In cold water, fish slow and deep.
• If you are after stocked fish, buy an in-season stocking guide so you know which streams get fish when. Be aware of what waters are stocked and when.
• Fish upstream, and drift your bait naturally. Keep the slack out of your line and use small hooks, 10s or 12s work best when fishing with bait. Use split shot to bounce your offering off the bottom.
If you don’t get hung up once in a while, you probably aren’t fishing deep enough, especially early in the season. Conversely, if you are catching suckers, you are probably using too much weight.
• Leave the crowds at the roadside pools where the hatchery trout were dumped in and look for a nearby riffle. The fish will move after entering a stream. Trout like to feed in riffles and you won’t get into a fight with some nitwit who keeps casting over your line.
• Carry a variety of baits. Worms are hard to beat if the water is muddy. Salmon eggs are convenient and deadly where a lot of rainbows were stocked, although browns like them too. Live or dead minnows are lethal baits in the hands of someone who knows how to rig and fish them. A jar of cheese balls and those ridiculous little fluorescent marshmallows don’t take up much room in your vest, and seem to be irresistible to stocked trout at times.
• Fish with sharp hooks. You can judge a fisherman right away by asking to borrow his hook hone. If he doesn’t have one or has to rumble around to find it, indicating he doesn’t use it often, he probably doesn’t catch a lot of trout.
• Don’t buy cheap tackle. Stick to quality name brands that have been proven and change your monofilament often. Use the lightest line you can get away with for trout, 4 or 6-pound test. But leave the 2-pound test to experienced anglers who won’t panic if they hook a 4-pounder.