Top ten trout tips, try saying that 5 times really fast!
Finally, the dull gloomy skies are about to move over to make way for one of the greatest seasons of the year, spring. I love spring as the days get longer and warmer and all species of fish become more active.
I look especially forward to the first Saturday in spring when the Victorian trout season opens each year. This year opening is on Saturday 6 September, and I will be out there pumped full of excitement and anticipation with my annual trout opening mate/companion/competitor/nemesis Wayne Gardner for what is becoming somewhat of a trout opening tradition.
Here are 10 tips to help you catch more trout this September:
Make sure you carry a punnet of worms and some small hooks and split shot sinkers with you. Even if you are one of those strange lure tossing elitists that turns your nose up at bait fishers. Following this very wet winter we have had a well presented bunch of worms might make all the difference in the world to your early season success.
As I write this feature the main rivers have just dipped below minor flood level after spending a few days there. The ground is saturated and there is water everywhere. Worms will be getting washed into the system en masse at the moment and the opportunistic trout will be making the most of this worm banquet that is being delivered to them on a platter in the form of swollen creeks and rivers.
Lures and fly will no doubt work effectively as well, but lure selection may be important. Any worm will do after all of this rain.
If you are planning on bait fishing with worms it is very important that you use the right size hook and sinker. For trout you want something that is not too big, yet not too small. A size 6 or 8 hook is usually ideal. Smaller hooks make for a better hook-up rate, but they are also more prone to ‘letting go’ resulting in the fish getting off. Larger hooks, however, can make it harder to hook the fish, but if you do hook up they generally stay on the line.
Sinker selection is probably more critical as trout like things to look as natural as possible. A bunch of worms sitting stationary swaying from side to side in a raging current is not natural; neither is a worm floating on the water's surface. So I like to use as small a split shot sinker as I can get away with. In most streams something around 2-3g is usually a good starting point.
Many people prefer to drift their worms totally natural using no weight whatsoever. This is a great technique as the hook will very slowly assist the worm to sink. In fast flowing water I like the split shot to help the worm sink, and also to assist with casting.
I will usually cast my bunch of worms upstream, and then turn the handle of my reel slowly so that the worms float back downstream at a similar speed to which the current is flowing. Using a size 6 or 8 hook and a small split shot, this is a deadly way to catch trout, particularly in rain affected waterways.
Make sure you monitor river levels via the Bureau of Meteorology website (www.bom.gov.au). Keep an eye on weather maps and rainfall figures, and very importantly, have a back up plan in case your chosen destination is not fishable due to unforeseen circumstances such as flooding.
This is particularly important on opening morning as there will no doubt be a lot of people on the waterways eager to catch their first trout for the season. I have no doubt that I am not the only person in Victoria counting down the days at the moment.
As mentioned above, I have no doubt that lures will work this September. They work well early in the season each year. Lure selection may be a bit more critical though. From my experiences, shiny metallic bladed spinners tend to work well in spring. The old faithful Celta has always been a decent spring bladed spinner. I have always preferred the green and gold ones in spring and the red and silver, or red and gold in autumn. Metallic Super Vibrax spinners are another great spinner, particularly the gold and copper ones with a few colourful spots on their blades.
Success with small minnows and soft plastics seems to have many more variables during spring than bladed spinners do. Some years, minnows will clean up in spring and some years they won't. What I have noticed is that the small Rapala type minnows seem to work best in streams with a bit less flow. Maybe smaller creeks, or catchments that have not received as much rain. No doubt other people will disagree, but as I said this is just an observation that I have made.
Whether it is the current effecting the lure’s action, or the fact that small minnows are not seen swimming around in raging torrents of water making the lure look unnatural, I could not tell you.
Most people who fish for trout understand that light gear is essential. A light rod of 1-2kg, or 2-4kg rigged with a small spinning reel of 1000-2500 size is usually ideal. One thing that people often overlook though is the gear ratio on the spinning reel. So many people get caught up in the ‘bells and whistles’ that many reel manufacturers offer these days that they pay no attention to the most important thing...the gear ratio!
I have seen fishing reel boxes stating that they have 7 ball bearings, you beaut drag systems, twin handles, anti twist, gold plated handles bla bla bla.....but not actually state what the great ratio is anywhere on the box. To me the gear ratio of the reel is the most important part of any trout fishing outfit.
I like a 6:1 gear ratio as it is nice and fast. I use Shimano Stradic reels. They are expensive but the quality is great for my needs and most of all they have a 6:1 gear ratio.
This fast gear ratio makes it easier to retrieve the lure fast enough to keep up with the current. For example, if you are retrieving a Celta with a 4:1 gear ratio reel in a set of rapids on the Kiewa River in spring, chances are that you won't be able to reel the spinner in fast enough for the blade to turn. A 5:1 gear ratio will keep up, but you will have to turn that handle like a man possessed. A 6:1 gear ratio will do it easily. It is much easier to turn a fast reel slowly than it is to turn a slow reel quickly!
As for the rod choice, well the market is now flooded with light spin gear. I love the ultra light N.S.Hurricane rods. I broke mine last season through my own stupidity, so went into Adventure Camping and Fishing in Wangaratta and replaced it with a Shimano Ballistix 5’6” spin rod. It's a bloody riper of a rod for trout and redfin.
The best advice I can give for choosing a rod is to pop into your local tackle store and get the person working there to help you out. As for the reel, whatever brand you choose is your personal choice, but I highly recommend you look for a fast reel with a 6:1 gear ratio.
Mono all the way for me. I have written before and will write it again, light braided line on a spinning reel is over-rated. If it tangles it is harder to untangle, you don't gain any casting distance like you do with heavy line and it has no stretch, which can come in handy when trout fishing, especially when you hook a trout that likes to jump from the water and shake it's head.
I use and recommend Maxima Ultragreen. The 4lb is best but can be hard to find; 6lb works very well also. I love braided line, but prefer it on my heavier cod fishing gear.
Use this article as a guide, or a starting point but don't take it as Gospel. For example, you might start with a shiny metallic Celta on opening morning, as I have suggested, and find that it is not working. Don't quit, try something that may not usually work in September like a black spinner of some kind, which I find usually work best after Christmas. It may turn your luck around.
There are so many variables in fishing, particularly pertaining to the weather. If a small minnow isn't working, try a large minnow. If a bunch of worms is not working, try threading on a single worm, or changing your sinker size, etc...
This is the trickiest part for me to write for a few reasons, one of which has been the recent state wide decline in trout fishing. The extreme heat of recent summers has really knocked the trout fishing around in many waterways.
One thing I do know is that the Kiewa River has a reasonable number of trout in it. Nothing too exciting, but enough to warrant a trip there.
The Ovens River was very slow last season as it has been for a couple of seasons due to natural disasters, such as bush fires and flash flooding. I am hoping to see an improvement in that waterway this season. Pretty much the best advice I can give on locations is to head upstream into the hills as far as you can to areas that may not have been as effected by severe heat waves in recent years.
Have a great time. Don't take it all too seriously. I see so many photos shared on social media of magnificent fish being caught, where the angler is not even smiling, and the negative comments along with it are a clear indication that so many people have forgotten why it is that they actually go fishing. Have fun and enjoy the fact that you are not at work.
Trip your mate over or push him in the water, take a photo and enjoy a cut lunch in the sun. Sit and chat with your fishing mate. It's all about enjoyment and relaxation. I can come home from a full day of fishing on trout opening having not caught a single fish and not be disappointed.
Remember, it's fishing. It's there to be enjoyed not taken too seriously. I catch my fair share of fish, but I am by no means an expert. I am however, an expert at having a great time and a lot of fun on every single fishing trip.
A metallic Super Vibrax bladed spinner accounted for this Kiewa River brown trout caught by Brenton Richardson last season. Metallic spinners are a great starting point early in the season.
The author’s annual trout opening fishing partner, Wayne Gardner caught this lovely rainbow trout on a fluorescent orange Super Vibrax bladed spinner on opening day last year.
It's only a small trout, but it was the author’s first fish of the season last year. Wayne Gardner couldn't take the photo, he was too busy in the background trying to level the score, which he did and outfished Robbie!
Pre-dawn last trout opening and Wayne Gardner is casting a lightly weighted bunch of worms into a backwater creek that is high and off colour.
Small minnows are effective early in the season, but they are more effective in waterways that are a little bit lower, or smaller creeks and rivers.
Think outside the square. If you are using a metallic bladed spinner and it's not working for you, try something dark. Sometimes a change can bring instant results.
A small rainbow trout from a small waterway on a minnow. Early in the season rainbow trout can be very hungry as they finish spawning and start eating. Rainbow can still be spawning as late as late September in some waterways.
A beautifully coloured brown trout that fell to a metallic Super Vibrax.
Early in the season the lower reaches of streams fish their best. This season the fishing in these areas could be a little bit touch and go depending on each individual waterway and how it coped with the relentless heat of last summer.
An early season rainbow trout caught last September on a cheap $2.50 bladed spinner. As long as it is metallic and it spins, you're in with a chance.
Towards the end of last season the Kiewa River really turned it on. These trout won't have disappeared during the closed season. In fact, they will have been feeding like mad and will be bigger and fatter when the season opens.
Another Kiewa River brown trout caught late last season. This fish will be an absolute beauty by the time the season opens this year if you can find it.Reads: 1746