Within every sportsman and woman lies the desire to seek wild places- to seek what is unseen. There also lies within each of us to re-discover the aloof persona of the ancient trappers and hunters who first transversed the contours of the newly discovered world.
In attempts to seek the wild places, we tread along the dangerous line between adventure and loneliness. This line can often take the form of 3x fly tippet.
Whether or not you are fishing after tradition, adventure, or for food, trout fishing in the winter and early spring time is near ritualistic for many individuals. With many states hosting strong stocking programs, the put-and-take allow many fishermen and women the chance at a different species of fish than they are used to chasing. For some, it is as if they are getting a chance to fish pristine alpine meadows high in the Rockies- it may be the closest they ever get.
Opening day of trout season brings the masses to the creek and river sides, even if the waters are dangerously high and running with more power than a team of Clydesdales. The most popular way it seems to catch these early spring fish are the classic giant bobber, hook and earthworm. Although often scoffed at by fly-fishing purists, it is hard to scoff at anyone who pulls out a 19 inch native brown trout through muddy waters. Regardless of your fishing orientation, after a few weeks of being hammered by the masses, it is no surprise, the fish become shy.
A few ideas.
I am by no means an expert, but through trial, error and observation, have learned a few things over the years.
Move from big holes:
Like in life, anything worth catching requires a little searching. Through observation, many of the early springtime crowds focus on the easy to reach holes. Granted, these tend to also be where the stocking occurs, however, hiking above or below the most fished holes, not even all that far, can result in less pressured pockets of water. Seems obvious but you would be amazed at the number of people I never see even 50 yards above a main hole.
One of my favorite childhood tributaries running off of Lake Ontario was a popular place for local anglers chasing big brown trout and steelhead. My best friend grew up directly across the street from the biggest and deepest hole on the creek. Yes, we always did well in that giant pool. Yet when the heat of the day would come, and everyone and their mother would line the banks, we would head down stream through neighbors backyards, jumping trash piles running past the occasional dog. Beyond the easiest pool we found untouched pools and we did quite well floating sponge through the small rapid which dumped into a seeming abyss lined by stone on the far bank and a large undercut bank on the right. We never saw another person on that hole.
Pay closer attention to the hatch and natural insects:
With the majority of anglers using the trusty worm, bobber and sinker- changing your approach can yield results. Even if you do not fly-fish, take a closer look at the bugs and minnows traversing the waters. even with spinning gear, you can “match the hatch” so to say, giving the fish a different presentation may be a key to your success. Even with spinning gear, I have caught plenty of fish floating a beaded wooly booger down the current.
Target native fish populations:
Native populations? What I mean is, target the creeks which hold naturally reproducing fish, not stocked populations. This is by far much more difficult however, there tends to be less crowds and thus less pressured fish. Targeting native fish requires even closer attention to detail. From lure and bait size, to knot neatness, presentation and approach to the stream all play into catching native fish.
Find a deep pool, drop a line, set the hook hard!