Anglers tend to place an aura of mystery on trout. Perhaps it's because these fish are believed to be smarter and more discerning than other game fish.
But what many perceive as intelligence in the species is simply their strong instincts and conditioning to flee from predators.
To be a successful trout fisherman, whether still-water or river fishing, you must recognize their basic needs for food and cover, and learn their behavior for achieving these needs. Then you will locate the fish.
But approaching the fish with the stealthiness of a predator is key in preventing them from fleeing for cover. Their wariness is a result of natural selection.
WHERE TO CAST?
"Foam is home." This simple phrase has stuck with me since I first heard it from a fishing guide on a mountain stream years ago. The foam line, or current seam where floating debris has concentrated, is often the first thing I look for when scouting moving water for my first cast. Foam occurs naturally in nutrient-rich streams and is a good indicator of where insects and other foods have collected to make an easy meal for a waiting trout.
Understanding how moving water shapes a stream channel helps us to know where trout tend to hold. Most streams meander, and current on the outside of a bend becomes swifter, eroding the streambed and sometimes creating an undercut bank. Look to these outside bends and to undercut banks for big trout.
Casting to an eddy below a rock or other obstruction is also a favorite place to find fish.
However, there are other places that would be wise to target and are often missed by anglers. For instance, many anglers don't realize there is also an eddy upstream of a rock.
Another place that trout often hold, but is frequently overlooked by anglers, is at the base of a waterfall. Most know to cast to the lower end or along the current seam below a falls, but many don't realize that cascading water usually forms a dugout at the bottom of the plunge pool. This dugout area provides a slow-moving current for trout, where they can hold and wait for insects and food to plummet down to them.
The average stream fisherman seldom catches a trophy-sized trout. Many times anglers don't even realize that the big ones are there, but stream-shocking surveys repeatedly show they are. You can improve your chances of catching a big trout by using different techniques in these situations. Big trout eat little trout, so if a likely holding spot fails to produce even a small fish, that may be a clue that a very large one is holding there.
A trophy fish is more likely to be near the bottom. Deep-running lures or sinking streamers may be more effective. Fish-imitating lures like plugs, jerkbaits, spinners and large streamers will usually out-produce dry flies or shallow-running lures.
CATCH SUMMER TROUT
So, now it's summer. The long hours of sunlight have heated the trout water well beyond prime feeding temperature. Trout need dissolved oxygen to survive, and cool water holds more dissolved oxygen than warm water. Find the cool water, and you find the dissolved oxygen, and that's where you'll locate the fish.
The cool incoming water may also infuse nutrients into the system, attracting fish food and drawing even more fish to the site.
Before you cast a line, spend a few minutes probing with a thermometer. Once cool spots are located, make a mental or GPS note. Carry a thermometer that is encased in unbreakable plastic and has an attachment ring. Knot several feet of light cord or fishing line so you can probe for those colder-water sources.
For less than $20 bucks, you now have an excellent fish-finding tool.
We all know eddies swirl where fast current meets slack water. But don't overlook vertical eddies. They form when fast water hits deeper water slowed by an obstruction. You can't see these eddies because they're below the surface. But the fish know they are there, and now so do you.
BEST ADVICE EVER
I used to clean all my fly lines with Armor All, thinking that the slick lubricant and preservative would help me cast father and prolong the life of my fly lines. But Bruce Richards, a masterful caster and a fly-line designer, told me the practice was not only unnecessary but likely damaging the fly lines. Now I clean my lines with a soft damp cloth. That's all you really need. Chemicals can degrade your fly lines very quickly. I have Bruce to thank for many landed trout since!
— Ross Purnell, editor Fly-Fisherman magazine
TROUT FISHING: DID YOU KNOW?
Trout aren't always found in the slower-moving water. They are adept at holding and feeding in faster currents while expending very little energy.
The trout's fusiform shape and pectoral fins jut out like wings. It's the same aerodynamic principle that birds employ to stay motionless and hover in high winds.
Trout stay in a relaxed state while the waters stir up the food.
Have you noticed a trend in fishing gear in recent years? High-quality rods and reels that once demanded a premium price are much more affordable today. It's welcome news for all anglers, whether you throw flies or use conventional gear.
ST. CROIX TROUT SERIES
The Trout Series by St. Croix is an ultra-light and light power spinning rod series featuring innovative blank design and impressive attention to detail. They are designed for small, brush-covered trout streams like those in the Northeast and upper Midwest. MSRP, $100-$130. Stcroixrods.com.
ABU GARCIA VENERATE SERIES
The new Venerate Series from Abu Garcia is engineered for anglers looking for the fastest actions with the lightest tips. Constructed from 36-ton graphite blanks and high-grade cork handles, the Venerate series blends toughness and sensitivity into a single package. MSRP, $129.95. Abugarcia.com.
FENWICK WORLD CLASS
The new Fenwick World Class spinning and baitcast bass rods maintain the Fenwick look and feel while incorporating the latest technology to give anglers a trusted fishing tool for years. MSRP, $299-$329. Fenwickfishing.com.
These lightweight fiberglass rods retain the retro look of the original rods. Fenglass rods are designed for casting accuracy and sensitivity for subtle presentations. MSRP, $199-$249. Fenwickfishing.com.
ST. CROIX AVID SERIES
The Avid Series specializes in shorter, lighter line weights trout anglers prefer when fishing small, difficult-to-fish creeks and streams. St. Croix offers eight models in 2-, 3- and 4-line weights, all under 8 feet long. MSRP, $270. Stcroixrods.com.
Sage's newest fast-action rods offer graphite technology for power and durability. There's a rod in the Pulse family for every application, whether single-hand, switch or spey. MSRP, $450. Sageflyfish.com.
Hardy's unique silica nano process gives the Zephrus strength throughout the rod. The highly refined medium-fast action blank has reserve power and gives anglers good line feel. REC black pearl recoil guides with Fuji titanium stripper align the Zephrus blank for optimum casting distance. MSRP, $649. Hardyflyfishing.com.
SPIN, FLY REELS
PFLUEGER PRESIDENT LIMITED EDITION
If you like a classic reel feel, this one is for you. With red accents covering a sleek navy blue canvas, this President has a carbon handle with rosewood knob. The drag system is sealed. MSRP, $79. Pfluegerfishing.com.
MITCHELL MAGPRO R
Mitchell's new MagPro R spinning reel maintains the company standard with many angler-friendly features like instant anti-reverse, carbon-infused body and a drag system that lasts through the fight. MSRP, $89. Fishmitchell.com.
ABU GARCIA REVO
Advancements such as a line-management system means longer casts. New gears make it a lightweight, strong reel. MSRP, $129. Abugarcia.com.
SHIMANO CATANA 2500fc
Lightweight aluminum frame with an aluminum bail. Super Stopper II gives instant hooking power. MSRP, $50. Fish.shimano.com.
Die-cast construction creates a light fly reel, with an all-new,
durable clicker drag system. MSRP, $89. Redington.com.
The Medalist is made for high-country trout or managing hard-pulling steelhead. This fly reel is built to be light with backing capability for big fish. MSRP, $119. Pfluegerfishing.com.
HARDY ULTRALITE CA DD
This freshwater, large-arbor fly reel features aesthetic and structural improvements for serious anglers. The body is made from aerospace-grade anodized aluminum for superior strength, yet it has a lightweight feel on the rod. MSRP, $275-$419. Hardyfishing.com.
REBEL LURES TRACDOWN MICROS
Featuring single, barbless hooks for use in special regulation trout streams, they measure 1 1/2 inches or less and weigh 1/16 ounce. MSRP, $4. Rebellures.com.
Six new finishes give this classic stunning holographic colors. The Rainbow Trout finish is a necessity for trout anglers, especially those on the hunt for large brown trout. MSRP, $7. Luhrjensen.com.
The Mepps Aglia-e combines the proven, fish-attracting properties of the classic Aglia with the look and feel of a single egg, a favorite meal of trout. Six sizes, six colors, single or treble hook. MSRP, $6. Mepps.com.
RAPALA SHADOW RAP SHAD DEEP
An all-season jerkbait that's made to trigger fish in three ways: on the kick, on the slow rise and with a snap back to life. A shad-shaped body with textured scales, the Shadow Rap Shad Deep targets the 5- to 6-foot range. MSRP, $10. Rapala.com.
PLANO COMPACT SIDE-BY-SIDE
The two-sided 107000 case is great for small jigs and flies. Customize with 11 to 32 compartments to organize small tackle. MSRP, $10. Planomolding.com.
PLANO WEEKEND SERIES
Built of 600 denier polyester in three color schemes and in three sizes. Zippered compartments provide storage for phones, keys and other gear. A large mesh pocket spans the back. MSRP, $30-$35. Planomolding.com.
FISHPOND THUNDERHEAD SLING
Carries all necessary fishing equipment, and keeps it dry. It has a spacious interior and a quick-access exterior pocket with a water-resistant zipper. Cyclepond fabric is made from recycled commercial fishing nets. MSRP, $200. Fishpondusa.com.
BASS PRO OSPREY
Five-layer, reinforced knees work with attached gravel guards to increase durability. Criss-cross suspenders, inside chest pocket, and three water-resistant, zippered pockets. MSRP, $90. Basspro.com.
HODGMAN H5 WADERS
The new H5 breathable waders have a five-layer, waterproof-breathable shell fabric in the seat and legs and no inside seam. Stitched and taped waterproof seams seal out water. MSRP, $230. Hodgman.com.
REDINGTON PALIX RIVER PANTS
While waders aren't always necessary, Palix River Pants are just enough to keep dry but not overheat. Three-layer, waterproof-breathable DWR coated fabric, high-density neoprene booties and strategically-placed seams far removed from high-wear areas. MSRP, $140. Redington.com.
L.L. BEAN KENNEBEC
The double-ripstop nylon shell, coated with thermoplastic polyurethane, is both durable and quick-drying. The BOA-closure affords seemingly infinite adjustments for the perfect fit for shoe sizes 7 through 14. MSRP, $179. Llbean.com.
The boot upper is durable synthetic microfiber. The BOA-closure eliminates floppy laces. They will accept studs and come in sizes 7-14. MSRP, $199. Orvis.com.
Quick-drying, quick-draining synthetic uppers and a molded polyurethane midsole added for comfort. Wide sole for stability and non-corrosive metal hardware. Sizes 9-13. MSRP, $150. Redington.com.