Ok trollers pay close attention: You think you know what’s going on down around your downrigger? Think again! I shot this video last summer and fall while chasing rainbows, king salmon and kokanee in various lakes around Nor Cal. Interesting stuff…
While California’s ocean salmon stocks were down in the dumps the past few years, it was an entirely different story inland. Thanks to the efforts of the DFG and organizations like Project Kokanee and Kokanee Power, landlocked salmon are thriving in more Golden State waters than ever before. Of course, they’ll never be able to outgrow or taste better than their ocean-going cousins, but these pint-sized inland salmon provide anglers with plenty of good action throughout the year.
While there are similarities between the three, each species has its own attractive qualities – and unique fishing techniques attributed to it. Let’s take a closer look at California’s Inland Salmon Slam and get to know landlocked kings, kokanee and coho a little better. Click here to read more…
In autumn, when the weather and water temperatures start cooling, big trout begin to shake off their summer lethargy and become active. The dropping water temperatures get the fish salivating like Pavlov’s dogs and they move in close to shore to feast before the onset of winter.?? That’s exactly what makes the upcoming several weeks the most productive time of year to hook a monster.
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Fly fishing with spinning gear may sound a bit funky at first, but it’s one deadly trout technique!
And what’s really cool is you can take just about any popular fly fishing technique – be it floating dries, indicator nymphing or stripping leeches and streamers – and you can get it done with spinning tackle. In some cases, you can do it in a much more efficient and accurate fashion, too. That’s right, you can do just as well – or better – tossing little wads of feathers and glue on light spinning gear. Welcome to the brave new world of fluff chucking with the short rod.
When a hatch is coming off, trout can get single-mindedly dialed into those particular bugs and won’t eat anything that doesn’t match that exact size and color profile. In those circumstances, you could toss every piece of hardware in your box until you turned blue and not get so much as a sniff from a fish.
The good news is you can get to those surface sippers with spinning gear and the right setup. First off, figure out what pattern the fish are feeding on and then tie on a clear float (the ball point pen-shaped Crystal Cast is the best I’ve found). From the other end of the float, run as much leader as you can comfortably cast – usually 3 to 5 feet – and then tie on your fly. As with any sort of dry fly fishing, you’ll greatly enhance your effective fishing time by liberally coating your bug in floatant to keep it riding high and dry. In moving water, cast upstream of the fish, pick up the slack between the fly and float and allow it to drift with the current naturally.
Now, you can also catch trout on dries on lakes. When using this rig to target rising trout on stillwater, you actually have the advantage over traditional fly gear because you can cast farther and require less room for back casts. Toss out beyond the fish and work your offering back through the feeding zone with a steady, molasses-slow retrieve. If fish start blowing up around you, stop cranking and let the fly sit.
When the trout are feeding below the surface, many Western fly fishers turn to indicator nymphing, which just may be the deadliest of all trout techniques. With a few slight modifications, the spinning crowd can also get in on the fun. To rig up for spindicator nymphing, slide a cigar-shaped sliding or slip float to your mainline. Every float has a weight rating and you need to pick one that will handle the amount of lead you’ll be using. I generally only use a splitshot or two and maybe a bead-head nymph, so small bobbers like the Shy Bite and Mini Stealth by Thill work great.
Next, tie a nymph to the business end of your main line and add just enough splitshot 12 to 18 inches above the fly to keep it near the bottom and your bobber riding straight up and down. Fly selection, of course, is a day-to-day and water-by-water type of deal. However, there are several bugs like AP nymphs, stoneflies, Birdsnests, Hare’s Ears, Glo Bugs and Zug Bugs that fish will eat in a wide array of conditions.
You can start with some of those patterns until you figure out what the trout are onto on a given day. The key to making the whole deal work lies in your ability to make a drag-free presentation. In other words, your rig needs to drift naturally downstream at the speed of the current. If a belly forms in your line between the rod tip and the float, the current will grab it and drag your line downstream too quickly.
So maybe you want to target larger trout with streamers and leechy-type stuff. No problem! There are several ways to throw big bugs on spinning tackle.
One of my favorite stream trout methods for browns is to cast Muddler Minnows, smolt patterns and dark bunny leeches. I’ll use just enough splitshot 12 to 15 inches above the fly to get it down near the bottom and then cast slightly downstream and across. As the fly sinks and begins its downstream arc, I’ll twitch it along with subtle pops of the rod tip. Most strikes occur right at the end of the swing, and believe me brother when I say hang on to your rod!
There’s nothing subtle about the way salmo trutta slams a swung fly. A variation on this theme also works well in lakes. Instead of running the weight up the line, I will crimp a single splitshot onto the leader just ahead of the eye of the hook, making my own “poor man’s” beadhead. I’ve had some days for the record books in the High Sierra, hopping buggers right along the bottom. When the trout are near the surface in the spring and fall, the old school Bug and Bubble is the ticket.
To rig up, run a clear casting bubble or a Crystal Cast float up your mainline and then attach 3 to 5 feet of leader with a Wooly Bugger, Zonker or Matuka on the end. If you need to get down a bit, affix a small shot 18 inches up the line. The idea here is to whip the thing out there and work it back to you with a slow, steady grind punctuated with an occasional pop of the rod tip.
For general spin-fly purposes, I like a 5- to 6-foot stick for small overgrown streams and a7 to 8 footer on larger rivers and lakes. The 7 1/2-foot TSR 901-2 by GLoomis is pretty slick. This 5 1/2-foot St. Croix Trout Series rod is a bit cheaper.
On small waters, a 1- to 4-pound line rating is fine but I’ll usually bump that up to the 2- to 6-pound range when working areas where there may be bigger fish.
There are many quality spinning reels on the market these days and I’d look for one that has a a smooth drag system, like the Shimano SY500FL Symetre FL. Line choice is dictated by the style of fishing you plan to do. For fishing dries or dead-drifting nymphs, go with a light-gauge braid in the 4- to 8-pound class; for all else, 2- to 6-pound mono will do the trick.
Well, there you have it – trout fly fishing from a spinning point of view. It’s not just a novelty, either. I guarantee the techniques outline above help you improve you scores this spring and summer. And you don’t need to spend a fortune to get started.
Updated for 2015! Wireline trolling with heavy tackle has long been the staple for mackinaw anglers in deep water lakes like Tahoe, and while it’s extremely effective, the technique isn’t always the most exciting way to catch fish. I much prefer jigging on light bass gear.
Not only do you get to feel the grab, but you also get a lot more spot out of the fish.
Another cool thing about jigging is you don’t need a lot of sophisticated gear (besides good electronics). I like to fish with 6 1/2- to 7-foot casting rods rated for 8- to 15-pound line. You need enough backbone to be able to set the hook in deep water, but a sensitive tip so you can feel the bite – which, by the way, often come as the lure is falling. Some good ones to check out include the Fenwick HMG 7’2″ Medium and, if you want the nicest rod on the planet (be prepared to pay, however) the Douglas X-MATRIX DXC715F is so nice, light and sensitive it almost should be illegal!
Pair these rods up with a low-profile bait caster like the Shimano Curado 200 DHSV which has a 7:1 retrieve rate, which makes cranking up from 100+ feet all the faster. There are times, however, when a line counter reel will get you down to the right depth when the fish are suspended. It’s a little slower on the retrieve, but the Abu Garcia Ambasseduer 5500 LC is the way to go.
I run 20-pound PLine TCB braid on my reels – braid is a must when fishing deep because of its sensitivity and lack of stretch. Of course, you need a leader between the braided line and the lure. In off-color water, go with the heaviest line you can. In clear waters, I go with 12- to 20-pound PLine CFX Fluorocarbon. As far as leader length goes, run 3-4 feet in darker lakes and up to 15 feet in clean waters.
I like jigs in the 1- to 4-ounce range, depending on water depth and wind conditions. For mackinaw, my top three color patters have always been silver, white and chartreuse. I like to remove the stock hooks on most of my jigs and replace them with assist hooks. These babies have a better hook-up ratio, snag less and don’t wrap around the line when you drop your tip too quickly (like trebles tend to do). They also usually snare fish in the top of the jaw or the corner – nice safe hook placement if you plan on releasing fish.
There are tons of models to choose from out there. I like Crippled Herring, Hopkins Shorties, Bomber Slab Spoons and, when I have the time, I’ll make my own with a lead mold… which saves tons of cash.
Drop your lure down to the bottom (or just above suspended fish, if you see any) and then use your wrist to impart subtle hops — avoid jerking the rod towards the heavens.
All you need is a quick snap of the tip and it should only travel about 1 foot up. Be sure to keep some tension on the line on the drop so you can feel those bites. Like I said before, most fish eat the lure as it falls… and if you drop too quickly, you’ll miss out on a ton of grabs.
I run an electric motor on the bow of the boat to hold me in position over fish — and also to slow the drift down if the wind is blowing. A little breeze is a good thing…it allows you to cover some ground. Generally, I’ll start shallow and let the wind or motor push me out over the edge of a drop, working the bottom as we go.
A good graph is your best friend is this department. Look for macks to hang on or near the bottom most of the time. They’ll key in on structure: points, flats, rock piles and, most often, break lines where shelves drop off into deeper water. I start out in 50 feet of water early on and then progressively work out deeper as the sun comes up. You can get macks as deep as 400+ feet, but I rarely go below 200 just because I don’t like the time it takes to get down and back from the bottom.
It’s been my experience that mack jigging is typically best from first light until about 9 a.m. on sunny days. There are days that they bite better midday – especially during full moon periods and when the water is dark. If you mark a bunch of fish but can’t get bit in the a.m., give ‘er a rest and try again just before dark. I’ve had some great evenings of mack fishing on days when the morning bite was as dead.