While some folks think that fishing for trout is best in the spring, I am of the opinion that the best time to go fishing is whenever you can. Just like bears preparing for hibernation, fish often go on a fall feeding binge to fatten up so they can survive the coming winter. Thus fall can be a great time to catch monster trout.
Even though I am an unrepentant fly fisher, I figure there’s a lot I can learn from my fellow anglers who choose to pursue trout with bait. I suspect that like everything else, the 10% rule holds true for bait fishing. In case you havn’t run across it before, the 10% rule goes something like this: 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the really big fish.
Another rule to catching big fish also is almost universally true, you’ll catch bigger fish in bigger water. The beautiful overhead canopy of the small creeks is truly a delightful place to spend ones time angling, but for consistently bigger fish, concentrate on the big rivers, especially where they enter a large lake. You’ll be glad you did.
lt’s my opinion that there are darned few really good bait fishermen. The average angler you find astream doesn’t know a stonefly from a cheese flavored marshmallow. When you finally do find a real expert, it’s really an education just to watch him fish. Back when the trout limit was 10 fish per person, I’ve seen a father and son who were experts with night crawlers; bring back 20 trout, not one of which was less than 16 inches long. One of the best bait fishers I ever knew was convinced that year-in and year-out, nothing will produce big trout as consistently as stoneflies.
There are three groups of aquatic insects which, combined, account for about 80 percent of a trouts diet. They are: Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies. The remaining portion of a trout’s diet consists of a potpourri of; other aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, minnows, crayfish, and even an occasional baby mouse. Mayflies are usually very tiny and delicate. They cannot tolerate warm temperatures or even the slightest pollution. Consequently, Mayflies are becoming less and less important as a trout food source. However, when a specific species of Mayfly is hatching, trout can become very selective and eat only that species, When you hear flyfishers talk of “Matching the Hatch,” they are trying to find an artificial fly which resembles the natural insect sufficiently to fool the fish. It can be extremely frustrating when you see fish feeding all around you and you can’t catch them.
Caddisflies are similar to Mayflies but are much hardier and can tolerate greater temperature extremes and more pollution. Caddis nymphs are case builders and you can often see their cases in the ‘bottom of the stream. They build their cases from
natural materials such as grains of sand or pine needle fragments and are usually less than an inch long. If you break open a caddis case you’Il find a white bodied nymph with a dark head. Caddis nymphs make great bait with or without their cases. Good bait fishers have known about Caddis nymphs all along, but flyfishers are finally catching
on, and a fly called a latex caddis fly is currently the rage.
Finally, and most importantly here in the West, are the Stoneflies. While Mayflies and Caddisflies are like hors d’oeuvres and dessert to trout, Stoneflies are their meat and potatoes. They grow larger, live longer, and are much more tolerant of adverse conditions. Stoneflies prefer the faster, tumbling, waters commonly found here in the West. The grandaddy of all Stoneflies is even named after California, (Pteronarcys Californica), although it is commonly called a Salmonfly or a Giant Black Stonefly.
They grow as large as three inches and are loaded with protein. Since they are continuously present in most streams, Stonefly nymphs are consistently great producers for large trout. Bait fishers use the live nymphs while flyfishers use assorted fur and feather imitations. Whichever you choose, fish it right on the bottom and keep it moving, because that’s what the natural does.
No matter whether you’re a bait fisher, spin fisher, or fly fisher, take a few tips from the guys who specialize in really big fish. It might just pay off in the form of the biggest fish you’ve ever caught