This is the time of year when most of us die-hards grasp on to any hunting-related activities we can find. We grunt as we look at the calendar, just counting down the days until fall hunting seasons come back into full swing. Hunting TV shows, websites and local sporting goods stores temporarily occupy our dreams, but we're not tied over very long until we begin to seek something "real."
Chances are, if you dig hunting, then you're probably a fan of fishing as well. If you're looking for one type of fishing that will deliver a thrill similar to the heart-pounding action of hunting, then look no further than stream trout.
Stream trout (typically brown, brook or rainbow trout) are like whitetails of the water. They can see, smell and "hear," and like a whitetail, they use those senses to avoid predators. At the same time, like humans, they are efficient predators. It's a widely accepted fact that trout typically won't expend energy to pursue an underwater meal unless the reward outweighs the effort. Wouldn't it be nice if we had such an internal calculator for those trips to the local all-you-can-eat buffet?
The bottom line is that targeting stream trout can be as exciting, challenging and thrilling as running around in blaze orange with a rifle. Troutin' lets you snap into your hunter mindset and put your skills to use against worthy prey.
For those of you who don't want to mess with learning the ins and outs of fly fishing, no worries. All you need for a successful day on the trout stream is a regular old fishing rod (spinning, closed-face or baitcasting) and some in-line spinners.
Here are some tips for hunting stream trout:
Lures: Pick up a few in-line spinners. I recommend those from Panther Martin, Worden's or Mepps. Mix up colors and sizes. Start small and colorful. Work your way up in size, and if nothing is biting the bright stuff, go to more natural colors. Stick with what's working; don't switch when they start hittin'. (If you were shooting sub-MOA groups, you probably wouldn't switch rifle cartridges.)
Line: Use light line (4- to 6-pound test). You don't need anything fancy. Basic monofilament will work fine. Avoid tying a swivel or snap on between your line and lure; the more realistic looking lure, the better. (You wear camo that blends in with your surroundings when you hunt, right?)
Location: Find a stretch of water that's known for holding trout. If you're unsure, ask around at local bait shops or sporting goods stores, or search your state's wildlife agency online. Once you've found a likely spot, go there. Once there, search for stretches of shallow- to medium-depth moving water, which usually flow into slow-moving, often deep "pools." Watch the water for surface disturbance (i.e. feasting trout exploding out of the water). When you discover the area you want to fish, start downstream and work your way upstream. (You sure wouldn't hunt in an area devoid of game.)
Technique/Strategy: Like hunting, this is the most important part (besides luck).
- Always try to cast upstream. Instantly begin reeling downstream (toward yourself) when your spinner hits the water. (Think "approaching a deer from downwind.")
- Wear camo and sneak up to the stream banks. Stay low, and even crawl if necessary. Seriously, trout are highly spooky and their line of sight goes upward at an angle to eye flying predators ... and humans with treble hooks. (Think "spot-and-stalk hunting.")
- Look for overhanging trees or sunken logs—likely ambush areas for hungry trout—and cast next to them. (You'll often get a strike within the first 1 or 2 seconds). Also, focus casts to the "outside" bank of the stream (where there is the most friction from the stream flow). This is also referred to as a "cut bank," because the water will cut a ledge into the bank—another trout hideout. (Think "secret haunts of trophy whitetails.")
- When you get a bite, typically you only have a split second to set the hook. Trout have rigid jaws, so your reaction must be quick and strong to get a solid hookset. (Think "squeezing the trigger on a rifle at exactly the right moment, aiming directly for the kill zone.")
- If you're planning to throw the trout back, avoid bringing it out of the water. You've heard the term "like a fish out of water" ... enough said. And touch the fish as little as possible. Trout have a protective slime coat that covers their bodies. (Think ... sorry, once you shoot a game animal, there's no throwing it back.)
Enjoy some stream trout hunting. Be sure to check back in and let me know how it goes.