March 26, 2013 by Jason Reid
Here are tips for catching trout and salmon in spring creeks I have learned through years of trying.
Keep the line light. Using too heavy of line has been one of my biggest downfalls over the years. Often times I would just grab my bass rod from the summer before and go fishing. If trout are spooky normally, they are an entire different creature it seems during the winter and spring. For many years during my childhood I would be using 10 or twelve pound test line without really understanding my presentation was the equivalent to a human of a cheese burger with a giant rope sticking out the back. Nowadays I predominately use fly rods for these fish yet on occasion will toss my spin rod in the truck. For fly fishermen I would recommend 4x to 5x for tippet. For my spin fishing companions, You can get away with 10lb on a cloudy day yet for a clear day I would be looking 8 and 6 depending on what you are targeting, smaller trout or big steelhead.
Hooks: Another one of my downfalls was my hook selection. Far to often I was using long necked gold hooks in sizes better suited for catching bass. Years of failing have shown me, salmon egg hooks in sizes 6, 8 or 10 are the best sizes since you can hide them in the bait much better.
Patience: Trout are often pickier eaters than a 6 year old kid at a dinner table. Looking back on my years busting around the creeks I can only imagine the number of fish I did not catch because I failed to spend adequate time at each hole. As I have grown older, I have realized this and now spend as much time as needed trying to drift every angle of a hole. One time I casted around 20 times at a fish before it struck. Wether it was out of hunger or because it was simply pissed off I do not care, I caught him. Don’t be afraid to drift the same hole for extended periods of time, fish are probably just sizing up the presentation.
Approaching the stream: These spring fish are more skittish than deer on the second day of gun season. Realistically to increase your chances of catching fish, you must approach the stream stealthily. My friends and I used to sprint to the edge of the creek we grew up on. The thundering of our feet I am sure turned many fish off before we even put a line in the water. With age and the advice of older fishermen I have learned to 1) take it easy but more importantly 2) if at all possible approach from down stream. Reason, these trout and salmon live their lives facing into the current. You have a better chance of not alerting the fish to your presence by approaching them from their blind side.
Baits– Egg Sacs: These are the most well known of the baits for trout and salmon. The people I have talked to over the years talk about egg sacs as if they are some miracle worker. They can be if done right. What I have learned, is 1) make sure they are fresh. 2) smaller sacs often work better than huge ones. 3) make sure you bury your hook at best as possible to hide from the fish, this is where the smaller hook comes into play.
Cleaning up with sponge: Now egg sacs are great but they are a one time use. An old high school teammate of mine introduced me to using sponge, regular dish sponge you buy at the store, to hammer the fish. For years my brothers and I would buy up large packs of yellow, and red sponge cut them into small squares or balls then soak them in Berkley Trout Power Juice for a few days. My mother loved having these in the fridge. This gave us endless supplies of durable egg sac imitations which held the scent longer. Sponge often was my go to bait in a pinch coming through many times.
Earth Worms: Now If I could get my hands on fresh worms in the late winter early spring, I would. There is nothing a big fish likes more than a big night crawler floating past their face. When the temperatures start to thaw, this a perfect time to capitalize using worms. One of the first spring steelhead I haver caught was on a big nightcrawler drifting it along the bottom. What I really like about using night crawlers is, they allow you to really hide your hook well unlike egg sacs. To be honest, if I have to choose between the 3, I would put my dollar on big night crawlers.
Weight, Putting the appropriate amount of weight on your line all depends on the body and conditions of the water you are fishing. But remember this, keep it low.
Reading the stream:. Don’t overlook the rapids. In our minds, we want to find that large pool where a majestic fish is just waiting. However, in my experience, don’t pass up the rapids. fish often hang in or just outside the rapid’s waiting for food to be swept out. One time my brother and friends had fished right past a large rapid(for a creek at least) I had been fishing slower behind them. One pass through the rapids produced one of the best steelhead of my life.
You will never catch one if you are scared to go and fail, get out of the house and onto the stream, best of luck.