Blog Viewer

Tactics for Catching Larger Trout

By Paul Wehking posted 11-03-2014 01:40 PM


Tactics for Larger Trout

Early one summer I overheard a couple of guys talking about fly fishing. One of them said that fly fishing is more fun but you don't catch big trout on flies because they don't feed on small insects. Another guy came into our fly shop and looked at the tiny artificials on the counter and was amazed at their small size. "What do you catch on these, minnows?" he asked. Most of us progress through a natural evolution in fly fishing. We start as a beginner with low expectations. After gaining a little confidence by landing a few trout with consistency, we start to keep score. Some anglers take this to extreme keeping track of each and every trout they catch or release. Eventually most of us end up looking for a more quality experience, understanding that it isn't the number of fish caught but the degree of difficulty in catching them. The pursuit of big wild trout offers a greater challenge.

Some anglers spent thousands of dollars, traveling to the far corners of the world, in search of trophy sized trout. Alaska has the biggest resident rainbows. It isn't an exceptional trip, if you go there in September, unless you catch a double figure rainbow. There are brown trout that run into the rivers from the sea in Argentina, which average over ten pounds, with some fish over twenty. Normally, you must use heavy rods with fast sinking lines to catch the largest trout in Alaska and Argentina. In New Zealand you can catch big trout on dry flies. The rainbows and browns there average about four pounds and you have a good shot at getting one over ten.

Most of us don't have the money or the time for such exotic fishing on a regular basis. There are still big trout in our local waters. The definition of a trophy-sized trout can vary according to the water it lives and the techniques used to catch it. One of my most rewarding experiences was landing a 15 inch brown caught on a hopper pattern fished next to an undercut bank on Robinson Creek. A fish of that size isn't going to raise any eyebrows on the Henry's Fork or South Fork of the Snake, but it was an exceptional fish for the waters it was caught. I also get a lot more satisfaction from catching an eighteen inch trout with a size 20 dry fly on 6X tippet than dredging up a five pounder on a heavy nymph.

Big fish are harder to catch because they are instinctively more wary. Most of them have had several encounters with anglers during their lives which has imprinted a greater degree of caution and awareness. Large fish are also less common. In most trout streams it takes four or five years for a trout to reach twenty inches. The number of trout that live on continues to decline with each age class because of predation and other natural causes. Even in a healthy trout stream, the number of four or five-year-old trout is only a small fraction of the total population.

There are anglers who take catching big trout to the extreme. They don't seem to be satisfied unless they catch a monster. Most of us are happy just to be on the water but if there is an angler who isn't thrilled with catching an exceptional trout for the water he's fishing, I'd like to meet him. While luck plays the biggest role in catching a whopper trout, there are plenty of things you can do to increase your odds.

Timing is important. The warm days from June through August are the most popular times for fishing the waters of southeastern Idaho. While I've caught plenty of big fish during that period, I've had more consistent success early and later in the season. There is good water on the South Fork and the Henry's Fork which is open year round. The pre-runoff period from late February through the middle of April has produced some exceptional fishing for me. As the water temperature warms and the aquatic insect hatches start to emerge larger trout become more active. Since the fishing pressure is usually light the big trout are not as wary and are easier to catch.

Several years ago Bob Lamm and I went to Henry's Lake in hope of catching a trophy sized brook trout in September. We arrived well before dawn just after the beginning of legal fishing hours. We caught some exceptional brookies in brilliant spawning colors on bright wooly buggers. After the sun came up we continued to catch some nice cutthroats but no more brookies. We didn't catch another brook trout until the next morning before dawn. After the sun came up the brookies once again quit hitting.