How to

If Trout Could Talk…

Finesse Lure Fishing

Like most forms of active sportfishing, success when casting lures at river trout will come if you look outside the circle. By ADAM ROYTER.

CATCHING river trout is one of the most demanding and exciting forms of freshwater sportfishing. It’s like an anglers’ storybook where every page turned is like looking around the next corner. There are so many “what if’s” and “what to do nows” that your brain is in a constant state of “on”!

It still astounds me, though, how many people have tunnel vision when it comes to choosing trout lures. It’s either a Rapala F5 RT or a size two green and gold Celta. Arrrrr … BORING!

I’m not saying that these are bad lures – quite the opposite, they are the most popular trout lures in this country. The fact is, however, you need to look outside the circle every now and then and see what’s new if you want consistent success, especially in hard-fished waters.

When I say “new”, I’m not necessarily speaking of a new colour in the same old range, or even a whole new brand of lures. What you really need to start looking for is the shape of the bib, whether it floats or sinks, does it rattle or not? Maybe consider a lure with a see-through paint job? What about UV paint?

It’s how the trout see, hear and feel your lure that will ultimately tip the fish over the edge and get them to bite.

So let’s pull on the scaly suit, jump on in and have a swim around with a typical (but very talkative) trout for a while so you can see (and hear) all they do as they make their way around their aqua playground. Ready? Let’s go!

“Ahh …. it’s good to be a trout. All the time in the world to swim around and look at this and that, swim over here, eat some of this and a little of that … LOOK OUT …. SWIM FOR YOUR LIVES! Did you see it? A huge bird shadow …. looked like a wedgie to me. Oh, hang on …. no it’s not … it’s just a leaf. Ooow, look a beetle, yum! LOOK OUT … oh, no sorry … another leaf!”

Most fish that swim close to the surface or start life in relatively shallow water will have an inherent fear of things from above. It can be anything at all, from a wedge tailed eagle to a leaf fluttering in the breeze. Any moving object can be constituted as danger. So where you stand, how fast you move and where you cast your lure are of the upmost importance. Do any of this wrong and you might as well not cast at all as you will have spooked the fish.

Using the right gear to send your lures out is critical. Making sure your lure is weighted sufficiently to go the distance is also important. Using the right outfit teamed up with the right lures is the only way to go.

Trout are intriguing fish. They seem to have it all together like they are king of the hill – or in this case the pool – but then they do some of the stupidest stuff you’ll ever see a fish do. So what’s going on in their heads that makes them so …. well … weird?

Unless you’re a spawning trout, you only have one thing on your mind – food. Trout will eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the right environment. It might be a little or it might be a lot but the fact is they are very greedy and quite territorial about the best feeding stations. Unfortunately, not all trout can feed 24 hours a day. The available food sources just aren’t up to it. Also, lighting conditions and fear play a big part as to whether a trout will feed or not. But there’s one thing that we as anglers have up our sleeves to help flip the table and twist the rules. Curiosity!

Trout can’t help being curious about their surroundings. It’s in the genetic blueprint of their brains. The average trout probably thinks (if a fish can actually think) like our mate does here:

“Look, if you’re gonna swim in my pool, then you gotta play by the rules! Ok, everything you can see is mine! That rock, and that stick … mine! See that leaf floating past there? It’s mine! Anything that is food in here is mine. If I go to eat it but don’t … then it’s yours. It was mine … but I gave to you so remember that!“

The trout will become aggressive as the food starts to increase in volume, and the largest of the trout will take up position in the best feeding lane or area. This is where your lure selection comes into play.

The formula you need to consider here goes like this:
Weight of lure x diameter of line = casting distance.

Get this equation wrong and you’ll find yourself standing on top of the trout you’re meant to be catching. Distance is king!

If the trout you’re trying to catch are in slowish, clear water and they start eating tiny bugs, then you need to think about what you’re going to deliver to them. Tiny bugs are easy to eat because they don’t swim far or fast. That being the case, the fish are going to be in a relaxed feeding mood and you don’t want to startle them by presenting them something that makes a hell of a racket. Choose a lure that’s silent – that’s going to be the biggest advantage to you. Next, choose a see-through colour that has natural tones. No need to be aggressive, the water is clear and the fish can see everything just fine. Floating is a preference to sinking just in case you need to stop your retrieve and tweak the fish into eating it. Then comes the retrieve. This is very important. A slow roll will do the job nicely. You want it so it’s just a little faster than the current you cast up into. This will give your lure a casual swagger and make it look like the imitation hasn’t seen the trout coming – giving the trout the upper hand and not rushing it to eat the lure.

Here’s an imaginary conversation between a couple of trout who’ve just eaten a nice feed of bugs and are now cruising around looking for their next meal:

“Gee, those nymphs were nice! I’m going up to the head where the ripple comes in. Coming? And, hey, stick to the undercuts and bank side vegetation, right? ’Cause man, if you try to swim over that sand bar in the middle at this time of the day …. WHOOSH and tomorrow you’re eagle poo!”

Trout movement is generally governed by food movement. As one area of the river shuts down they will move to the next, sometimes swimming 100m or more. This can surprise you at any moment. There you are looking upstream for the next spot to fish and a big fish wonders right past your rod tip! You can bet that you’ll see each other at exactly the same moment and both be just as surprised. Never underestimate where a trout will be.

Moving upstream through the heat of the day to the head of a pool where a run, shoot or riffle comes is likely trout behaviour. They’ll appreciate the inflow of cool water and will also be on the look out of any food that washes by.

Here’s our talkative trout and his mate again.

“Did you say something? Ok, I’ll just talk ’cause I can see ya lips are moving but there ain’t nuthin coming out. Normally Frank’s up here somewhere, but I can’t see him because of all these bubbles and God knows I can’t hear him yelling at me to get the hell out of his spot because of all this water noise. So anyway, this is a good spot to stay for the better part of the day. Yeah, it’s cool, oxygenated, all the moving water gives us cover from eagles and you get a feed too! All sorts of stuff. Mostly drowned bugs and you can get some nymphs at times.

Trout in faster water will have to make quicker decisions as to whether or not they’re going to eat. They don’t have time or space to be choosy. These are great areas to fish. The fish move less because they generally sit in a small, largely invisible current seam or softer edge, so they don’t have to swim against the current as much. This does, however, bring about some dilemmas for the angler – mainly involving getting your lures to the fish. In any river situation the flow is lesser on the bottom than it is at the top because the rocks slow the water up. This means the trout are also going to be on the bottom in times of minimal food opportunity.

So, being that the water is faster on top you not only have to get your lure through this faster layer but also contend with water drag on your line. To do this you’ll need as skinny a line as you can find (this will also aid in casting distance) and a lure that has a deep bib. Something in the 1-1.5m depth is fine.

Add some rattles for that “I’m over here” effect. Bladed spinners and spoons are good for this type of work. Also because of their reasonable price you don’t mind losing a few – but what’s even better (and works better in my book) is a micro soft plastic, something like a one to two inch SP on a 1/24 – 1/16oz jighead.  

Colour choice for this type of water is limitless. The full spectrum is open. If you don’t have any luck with a natural then try getting in their face with an orange. Fact of the matter might be that they just didn’t see it in all that water and bubbles.

Here’s old mate back again:

“You know bro, I’m sure I saw Frank here yesterday from when I was half way up the pool, but he was jumping around like a crazy fish …. like he had a yabbie stuck in his gills or something …. and then gone! Oh well …. look beetles … they’re mine! Come on, it’s getting late and I want to make it to the tail out of the big pool and get into position for the arvo rise … tonight’s moth hatch … you know there are bogong moths tonight, don’t you?”

The tail-outs of pools are a very special area for trout to feed. They offer the entire length of the pool’s terrestrial bug fall and all of the aquatic insects to be funnelled into just a few choice areas for the fish to slurp up. These places are also notoriously difficult to fish. You’ll be coming up a run and casting over rocks and fast water as it tips out of the pool and into the riffle or shoot. It’s almost always glassy smooth as well, so making long casts with light-weight lures is the go. You really don’t want to cast anywhere near the fish in this situation.

You’ll need a very shallow running lure or a surface lure. Keep them smallish because the water is flat and clear, and the fish are close to the surface at this time of evening/night. When you see the rise of the fish, cast well up and try to bring the lure across to one side – not right over the rise as you might spook the fish. Also try not to get your line over the fish at any stage either.

Here’s our motor-mouth trout again:

“Strewth, I can hardly fit another thing in …. maybe one more … I’ve got wings and legs coming out the corners of my mouth. I think I can feel one of them trying to get out my gills. Hold the phone! What’s that? A frog! I’ll be right back!”

Ahh, trout. When will you learn?

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