Long regarded as a wary fish which respond to subtle retrieves, it now appears trout like lures with a bit of rip and tear action! ROB PAXEVANOS reports.
THE benefits of the drought-breaking rains of the past year or so are now being fully realized by freshwater anglers across much of the southern half of Australia.
Trout are growing big and fat in double quick time as they gorge themselves on flooded margins loaded with food. It’s a time of plenty – know what to do and the fishing is awesome.
In recent times I’ve been involved in presenting a series of seminars on lure fishing for trout across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. While talking with lots of fishos along the way I realized that some of the skills I’ve refined over the years are not as widely understood as I thought.
Now of course I don’t know everything about every scenario, but I have some unique approaches up my sleeve that often help me get runs on the board. Let’s run through some of the techniques I’ve been using on trout recently.
Knowing how much “energy” to give your lure when you twitch it is extremely important. The right amount varies immensely, depending on the scenario.
For a start, try trolling four identical hard-bodied shallow running minnows the usual 75m behind your boat. Place three of the rods in the holder as per usual. Manipulate the fourth rod with some serious rod action – really “crack” it, just like the barra guys do up north – and you’ll find that the “worked” lure will catch more than the other three lures combined.
This is because in deeper lake edges where most trolling is done, the lure that sends out the most pulse will attract trout from further away.
Not only can you cover more water with a properly “cracked” lure, you will also automatically hook the shyer fish that are just mouthing the lure to see what it is.
As said before, I’m talking about really “cracking” or “working” that lure strongly – you’ll need to hold the rod so it’s pointing back along the line and then send a short but violent pulse down the line almost as hard you possibly can. The lure obviously needs to be a quality one so that it doesn’t spin out or foul up.
Polaroding, particularly off higher vantage points like dam walls or steep banks, is where I initially made observations in the cracking lure/energy puzzle.
When leading a cruising trout with a hard-body, most guides advise to cast two to three metres ahead and two to three metres beyond its line of travel. This gives you room to pull the lure into the sight of the trout without the splash spooking the fish in the first place. This technique is time proven and works well.
I’ve been casting slightly away from sighted fish and then watching what really working the lure does. As expected, most of the time the extra pulse in the lure grabs the trout’s attention and they swim over – sometimes from a fair way off – with their dinner bib on.
This is the guts of this technique. When you can’t polaroid fish, such as when it’s windy, overcast, trolling or when loch style spinning (stay tuned for more on this) – you simply “crack” the lure and confidently assume that nearby trout will investigate.
Start thinking about the vibrations and water energy each time you fish and you will become a much better angler.
As a rough general rule, in lakes we give the lure a good crack at least every five or so metres followed by the more standard twitching retrieve or even a straight crank to further tease any fish drawn over for a look.
When to ease up
If you spot a trout, know exactly where it lives, have watched it patrol a defined beat, or if the water is more confined and quiet (a small slow river pool, for example), always start with a much more subtle retrieve – try a slow roll, fast burn or some subtle twitches.
If all the “quieter” retrieves fail, you can get more aggressive later – a big crack first up in these scenarios might only work by having a spooked trout beach itself out of fright!
Bigger bodies of water – namely lakes – is where the aggressive cracking technique works best.
Loch & load
You can catch good trout by trolling your shallow running lures a long way back and cracking them hard. But loch style fishing can work much better.
Developed by competition fly anglers, the technique involves casting directly ahead of a drift and pulling the flies back slightly faster than the boat is drifting towards them. It works because each cast is into new water where the shadow and noise of the boat has not yet reached the shallow sitting trout. It’s deadly, and goes hand in hand with when trout fishing is best – such as when the fish are up high or in the edges feeding.
This technique proved to be good right from the first time I used it with lures. A 1-3 kilo spin stick with equally rated braid and leader is essential, but advances in purpose built super long casting hard-bodied minnows is what has really launched this technique into a new era.
I’ve had good success with Rapala X Raps and Flat Raps, but my favourite at the moment is the 5cm and 7cm Rapala Max Rap. They weigh a mere two and five grams respectively, but the thin profile and sliding internal casting weight that forces the lure to travel aerodynamically “tail first” rather than spin or tangle sees these little gems cast a mile compared to any similarly weighted minnow currently on the market.
This extra distance means many more fish – but one question I often get is can you tie on a heavy trout spoon or plastic instead? Well, these do work, but the minnows are much better, in my opinion. They dive to a pre-set depth between 0.3 and 0.9m, which makes them perfect for targeting active fish. And they’re much easier to keep out of the weed and snags you are often fishing through.
Also, with a hard-bodied minnow you can more easily stay in close touch with the lure (which is essential), no matter how the drift varies with the breeze.
These suspending hard-bodies work particularly well when you employ a barra-like crack in your retrieve. Attract trout by working your lure and then hover it and it play dead – it’s these two extremes and everything in between you can use to your advantage.
Importantly, this technique is not about waiting and setting the trap for a single localized fish – it is about staying on the move and actively searching for willing fish.
Retro-fitting single hooks to your lures is a good idea to facilitate an easier release.
On the drift
I’ve loch style fished out of kayaks, bass boats and even larger half cabin trailer boats – once you’ve lined up a drift and turned the motors off, you are sneaking up on any trout that lies in your path. Sure, it’s quieter and better to re-align the drift with a kayak or a from a small boat with an electric motor, but you’ll get started without it.
During a drift, you can cast to the sides, especially into timber or rocks. But once you’ve located broad, fertile flats, long drop offs, yabby beds or productive bays or edges it’s often the long downwind casts that produce the most fish.
Keep drifting through new spots. Once you find a patch of fish, give it a wide berth on the way back up for the next drift. It’s similar to using soft plastics for snapper – you don’t want to motor over the fish.
You can even walk suitable banks and cast forward along the edge. It also works on large long deep river stretches.
I use a lot of effective techniques on trout in a wide variety of scenarios, but combining the “cracking” retrieve with the forward casting loch style approach is as fun as trout fishing gets and well worth learning.
Perhaps you too should get cracking?
IN this video from NT Fisheries, the effects of barotrauma on golden snapper (fingermark) caught and released in depths of 10m and deeper are clearly visible...