Took my new Rad Power Bikes Rad Rover 6 Plus out into the woods in search of trout and here’s what happened…
Spend enough time on the water, and you’re gonna see some interesting stuff!
From the amazingly cool to the hilarious to totally the bizarre, I’ve seen it all. This time around, let’s take a look at some of the creepier stuff I’ve encountered while out on the creek.
A few years ago, I was rowing my drift boat down a riffle in the American River near Sacramento, CA when I spotted a very odd skull (above and below pix) in about a foot of water.
The current was just fast enough to keep me from rowing back up to it, but I was able to snap a quick pic as we drifted by…
As you can imagine, I stared at this photo for a long time that evening and couldn’t figure out what the heck I was looking at.
The next day, I drifted the same stretch and made a point of getting the anchor down early enough so that I could stop the boat in time to scoop the skull with my net.
It was the craziest looking thing…horns and huge fangs. We were perplexed as to the origin until I flipped it over and saw this on the bottom:
“Made in China.”
My clients and I got a good laugh out of that one — and had even more fun showing it to other boats that we passed that day.
One Early November, a buddy and I were hiking the West Fork Carson River, chasing late season trout. The terrain was pretty steep and we were having to do some serious booney-crashing to get to the next hole.
To keep from stumbling over the rocks and brush, I spent most of my time looking down at my feet and, at one point looked up just in time to come face to face with this…
Let’s just say I may or may not have made a sound similar to that of a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert…
Halloween gag…or way to scare people away from the best fishing hole…or???? Who knows…but I can tell ya it took about 20 minutes for my heart rate to come back down to normal…and about the same time for my fishing pal to stop laughing.
I had a boat load of clients boonedoggin’ roe for king salmon on the Sacramento River several years back when one of the guys reeled this up…
You can see our hook and glob of eggs on the right side of the “meat.” There was no way I was gonna touch the thing, so I cut the line and let it go…but not before snapping the pic.
As you can imagine, this unusual catch led to lots of speculation the rest of the day. Who or what was it? Who chucked in to the river and why? And perhaps most creepy, why was the bone sawed off?
I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical answer to all of these questions…right? Right?
I launched my boat on a gravel bar on a remote river one morning and then, in the afternoon, came back to find this creepy-ass doll head and some unidentifiable fluids under my truck…
Im not a big fan of weird stuff like clowns and dolls and this one looked particularly evil. How it got there or why remains a mystery.
Nobody messed with my truck and there were no signs of other weirdness…just a creepy baby’s head and some odd fluids where there hadn’t been before. Hmmmmm….
As my buddy Reilly and I walked down a small creek deep in the in the Alaskan bush, casting for silver salmon, we noticed this humpy carcass on the bank…it was notable because it wasn’t a pink salmon year (they run every other year).
About 5 minutes later, we reached an impassible section of the creek and turned around and headed back upstream. The humpy was still there…only this time he was sporting grizzly bear bites — and was missing his very tasty brain.
Apparently, we just missed crossing paths with Mr. Brown…who may have thought a couple of slow two-footed critters may have been a breed meal.
ABANDONED FISH CAMP
In remote Southwest Alaska, there’s an old abandoned fishing camp that’s largely intact.
The structures are all still there and there are still half-empty cans of soda and unwashed dishes on the tables.
While it looks as if the camp’s visitors were suddenly overtaken by a zombie apocalypse…it was really a lease issue between the lodge owner and the land owner that couldn’t be resolved that resulted in the facility being abandoned.
It’s a really eerie place to visit…especially if you don’t know the whole story!
Speaking of zombies, take a look at my finger here. This is what happens when a little line cut (you can see the vertical slit running horizontally in the middle of all that gross purpleness) gets infected with salmon slime.
I woke up to it being very stiff and I kinda just ignored it. The next day, I had red veins running up my arm…a sure sign of “salmon poisoning,” which is really a bad infection that, if left for too long can result in loss of limbs or even life!
A bunch of antibiotics later, I was ok!
In the winter of 2017, we had record rainfall in California and because of that, I got a gig ferrying engineers out to a TV tower that was on a flooded island in the Delta.
I’d tie the boat off to the tower while the guys worked on the platform above. My job was to simply be a taxi driver — and to repel unwanted borders like snakes!
Let me clarify something: I don’t do snakes in any way — they creep me out and I stay as far away from them as I can.
So, when this guy and a few of his buddies who were displaced by the floods decided that my boat looked like a nice place to hang out, I had to take action. I nearly started looking to Sell a boat with GraysOnline or somewhere likewise online, I told you, I do not do snakes!
It still makes my skin crawl thinking about the sight of these slithery devils trying to climb the sides of my boat. Luckily, I had a long pole onboard with which I was able to keep the serpents at bay. I was hoping for a nice relaxing day napping on the boat but the thought of snakes out there kept me wide awake!
One morning I was walking the beach, fishing for surf perch in Humboldt County when I spotted something about 40 yards off that looked like strawberry-blonde hair sticking up from the sand…
I really didn’t want to walk over and discover a body, but I decided it was the right thing to do. I got a chill as I got closer because I was certain I could see a hair braid (bottom right corner of the photo). That could only mean one thing: it was a corpse buried in the sand.
Only a few feet away, it still looked all the world like a head of hair…but I was relieved to see that it was just be a ball of twine or sea veg. Pheeeeew!
To catch a big trout the next time you go stream fishing, ditch all the usual stuff — salmon eggs, small spinners and worms — and give the fish something meatier: Jerk Baits!
While aquatic invertebrates account for the bulk of the average stream trout’s diet, the largest fish in the creek prefer to dine on smaller fish. Jerk baits imitate forage fish extremely well and by using them you will see the average size of your catch go way up.
Jerk Bait is a term that refers to a wide array of minnow shaped plugs that are designed to be retrieved with a JERK-JERK-JERK-PAUSE type of retrieve. In my early days of throwing minnow baits for trout, we had a few basic ones from which to choose — chief among them were Rapalas and Rebels. Thanks to the explosion in the popularity of this technique among bass anglers, there are now more plastic baits than you could hope to try in ten trout seasons. In the warm-water world they’re often called “rip baits” and are pretty slick tools designed to solicit reaction strikes from bass. It just so happens that big trout love ‘em too!
The old balsa and plastic baits I used as a kid were basically cast out and crank-in types of lures. The modern ripbait’s function is to be tossed out and retrieved with an aggressive popping (ripping) of the rod trip and cranking of the reel, punctuated with frequent pauses.
These new baits feature all kinds of fancy technology like tungsten rattles and weight transfer systems for bomb-like casting (remember the way a light wood plug would pinwheel when you’d throw it?), but the most important feature is their neutral buoyancy.
How far down these lures dive is governed by the size of the bill, but once you’ve cranked it down to its working depth and pause it, a jerk bait will hold its place in the water column. There’s no sinking or rising up like the baits of yesteryear and that’s one of the things that make these things so deadly.
The new generation of minnow baits is designed to be fished fast (though they also work well in cold water on a painfully slow retrieve), which allows you to quickly cover lots of water. Additionally, they’re adorned with some extremely sexy laser finishes and super realistic paint jobs. When you look at all the attractive attributes of rip baits, it’s easy to see why bass of all persuasions love ‘em – and it doesn’t take much critical thinking to understand why big trout also fall all over themselves for them too!
The Best of the Best
As I noted earlier, there are dozens of companies making ripbaits – and there are a lot of really good lures out there. In fact, if you wander the aisles of your local tackle shop or flip through the pages of one of the big tackle catalogs, there’s a good chance you’ll get a little overwhelmed by all the choices. I’ve fished a bunch of different models and brands of rip baits for trout and have pretty much settled on one for most stream fishing situations: Lucky Craft’s Pointer 65.
They’re a bit pricey (typically around $14 to $16 a pop), but the little Pointer 65’s will get straight up medieval on rainbows, browns, cutties, dollies and brookies. They’ve got an erratic side-to-side darting action that I just don’t think any other lure can touch. I actually started fishing the larger versions for stripers and eventually added Pointers to my trout kit. Now, I hardly throw anything else – spinners, spoons and crawlers included.
At first glance, a 65-millimeter (2 ½ inches) lure seems kinda over-the-top in a small stream. It takes a little getting used to throwing them, but what you’re doing is targeting the biggest fish in the creek. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have to sacrifice quantity for quality as the smaller fish eat ‘em too. While the 65’s are my all-around favorites, bumping up to the Pointer 78 size is a good call on larger rivers. When fishing big browns and macks on lakes (a topic I’ll cover in a future article), Pointers as large as the 5-inch No. 128 can solicit some punishing strikes.
As far as colors go, the best advice I can give you is try to match the shades of the natural trout forage in the waters you fish. Some of my favorites include Rainbow Trout, Ghost Minnow and American Shad.
That being said, color isn’t as important in this style of fishing since the lures are moving through a trout’s territory so rapidly. The idea here is to present the bait quickly enough to a fish that he doesn’t have much time to think about things.
I run my rip baits stock out of the package with only one minor modification: I pinch the barbs, which makes releasing fish much easier. Also, be sure to tie your line direct to the bait – swivels and clips will compromise the lure’s action.
As the name “ripbait” implies, the basic technique is to “rip” the lure aggressively through the water with a combination of sharp pops of the rod tip and corresponding turns of the reel’s handle. Ideally, you fish these things from a position above the water (as in a bass boat), with the rod tip pointed down and across your body towards the water. Obviously, that’s not practical in most stream fishing situations, so a modified approach is in order. Depending on the water I’m fishing, I’ll hold the rod parallel to the water or with the tip slightly up.
I generally start out with a rip-rip-pause-rip-rip-rip-pause type of retrieve and then experiment from there. The fish will tell you how they want it on a given day – just keep varying your cadence until a pattern develops. And try to keep the speed up – remember, we’re looking for a reaction strike here.
When you’re tossing a ripbait in still water, the majority of the bites will come when the lure’s lying motionless on the pause. It’s a different deal, however, in moving water. You still want to throw pauses into your retrieve but they need to be a lot shorter in duration. Perhaps it’s better to think of them as “hesitations” instead, but they’re still extremely important. I think it’s that change from the darting action to the stop that really makes fish want to eat the lure.
Depending on the type of water you’re fishing, casts can be made directly up or downstream, though the down and across swing type of presentation seems to draw the most grabs.
As is the case with so many of the other “outside the box” methods I’ve written about in the past, nobody makes a technique-specific rod for throwing small rip baits for stream trout. Luckily, there are some light bass rods designed for drop-shotting and small darter heads that fit the bill pretty nicely (check out the Daiwa Aird, which is a nice stick for under $50).
Basically, you want a rod with a soft tip and a little bit of beef in the back end – something that won’t collapse on the hook set. Most of us are used to throwing hardware for trout on ultralight gear, but the standard 5 ½-foot ultralight stick is going to be way too soft for this style of fishing – and you’ll lose most of the fish you hook.
Pair the rod up with a quick-retrieve spinning reel. The Abu Garcia Revo S in a sweet reel in the $100 range, while the Orra S is still nice but a few bucks less. I usually run 6-pound mono when fishing smaller streams and then bump it up to 8- or even 10-pound on larger waters. Line with some stretch like P-Line CX is a good choice because you want a little “give” in your mono when a trout decides to try destroy your plug.
In addition to being a super-effective technique for catching trout in moving water, tossing ripbaits is a total blast. The strikes are awesome and the results can be, too! So, go ahead and feed those big fish what they want…give ‘em “meat for dinner.”
Perhaps the ghastly remains of the last angler who dared fish the Haunted Hole deep in the canyon…? New evidence that the Blair Witch really exists? Could there possibly be cannibals living in the Sierra Nevada mountains? Or maybe Sasquatch has been lurking in these parts?
Evil spirits aside, we went trout fishing anyway and caught a bunch of nice browns…
Sure, they’re great tools for fishing lakes in the Dog Days of Summer, when the trout and salmon are holding down deep. They allow you to present your lures at precise depths and then get back to that same section of the water column easily. Handy devices to be sure, but I also think there’s an inherent flaw in the system…
Think about it:
You see some fish on your meter, take note of their depth and then drop your gear down to that zone. Sometimes it’s as easy as that. But other times, you may see fish on the screen all day long and have to scratch and claw for a bite. In those cases, we’ll often blame the moon phase, barometric pressure, wind direction or a combination thereof.
But it may be something completely different. Let’s take a look at what’s really happening down there…Click here to read more…