one in the boat
can be a challenge.
Presented from Issue 117, August 2015
For those of you who love to trout fish, there will have been a time, some stage during your fishing ‘career’, where you lucked out and didn’t catch anything! Most of you will also know that in the ‘fishing world’, this is what is commonly known as a ‘donut’! It is the same shape as a zero of course. Now while the usual ‘donut’ means that no fish were caught, it doesn’t mean that there were no missed takes or bites. While this might seem bad at the time, there is something worse. That something is the ‘big fat donut’. This is where you go a whole day and don’t even get a sniff!
Iwill be brave here and admit to having taken home many ‘donuts’ during my time as a trout angler. I have also done the same during a bream competition some time back; however, given that it is the start of a new season, our focus here will be on trout. There are many factors that can influence the feeding behaviour of trout, with weather a significant one. While rain, or any other form of precipitation such as snow or hail, does not make for enjoyable fishing, such weather events do require the presence of clouds, and cloudy conditions generally mean good fishing conditions.
Now while precipitation may have a ‘helpful side-sick’, there can also be a downside. There are other factors that contribute to the formation of precipitation, and these factors can outweigh the benefits of the cloud cover. Rain is generally formed where masses of cold and warm air meet. Such areas are referred to as ‘fronts’, and fronts also tend to be areas where atmospheric pressure changes, often dramatically. Generally speaking, a sudden change in atmospheric pressure will have a negative effect on trout behaviour. In contrast, a steady or gradual change in pressure will usually provide good fishing conditions. With this in mind, keeping a close eye on the weather map before venturing out on your trip may make all the difference.
Now while it might seem wise to only go fishing on days where the weather and conditions are favourable for good fishing, we don’t all have the luxury to be able to do this. Sometimes, we just want to go fishing, regardless of whether our chances of catching fish are good. So what can you do on those days when you do get out and the donut is beginning to look very likely? Here are a few suggestions of strategies that have worked for me:
Change of lure
Ever heard the saying ‘I chucked the kitchen sink at them?’ It is (almost) exactly as it sounds. Changing a lure is probably the first thing that we all do when the action is slow. It is probably the most logical thing to try first. The lure itself plays a considerable role in producing strikes. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle change of colour to entice takes. Try using brighter colours on brighter days and darker colours on darker or overcast days. And at night, jet-black lures produce a nice silhouette in the water and work particularly well!
Lure size can also be the difference between fishing and catching. If you think that small trout will only eat small lures, think again. Don’t limit yourself to small lures. I use 80 mm and, sometimes, 100 mm lures. Soft plastic or hard body – it doesn’t matter. Why not try both? Both types have produced some excellent results for me when the fishing was tough in the past. A larger lure will also act as an attractor. A lot of hard bodies also have fish-attracting rattles; however, it is the larger size that will give off more ‘flash’ from a distance, which will create interest in your offering - that’s my theory anyway.
Sometimes it is as simple as varying your retrieve speed. I discovered this on one particular trip to Arthurs Lake, with a good friend of mine. We arrived in the morning at around 8 am and by lunch we’d had no luck – a donut was in the making! By late afternoon, the donut was imminent. Our arms were beginning to ache from the ‘desperate’ casting of lures and plastics. We even tried our luck with the fly rod; however, that also did not generate any interest from the lake inhabitants.
As the day continued, and the frustration levels neared their peak, I decided to just retrieve my lure as fast as I could. Although, on this day, I was not expecting anything to make a difference, this change (happily) resulted in me getting on to the first trout of the day! The take was aggressive and sudden. I continued to fish this same way and caught more fish - eight as a matter of fact! My friend, who was using a hard body lure, then did the same, and presto! We had found the ‘magic’ and dodged the donut!
The retrieve is simple; cast either a hard body or t-tail soft plastic, and as soon as the lure hits the water, wind as fast as you can. If you are fishing from a boat, as we were, pause the lure a few metres before it gets back to the boat. This allows it to suspend for a second or so. It was on this pause that we were hooking up almost every time. We even had fish following the lures right up to the boat. Utilising a fast retrieve like this is often called ‘ripping’ – in other words, just rip the lure and pause. You will find that this works with wet flies too. Of course the other extreme can also work when the lure or fly is barely moving.
Figuring out the right depth can be tricky - and often frustrating! I think the key here is to experiment. To find fish, try fishing both deep and shallow, or even at a depth in between. Use deep diving hard bodies with long bibs to go that extra depth, or heavier weighted soft plastics. If fishing shallow, try shallow diving hard bodies with a short bib, or lightly weighted soft plastics. When you eventually find yourself some fish, stick at that depth.
Another no brainer – if you aren’t catching fish, then try another spot. As the sun gets higher, the fish will move to deeper water and your ‘honey hole’ is likely to run dry. Anglers with a boat can easily cruise around the lake, but anglers confined to the bank will obviously need to prospect around the shoreline. Look for deep pockets of water or structure that might provide cover for trout. A dozen casts without any hits normally sees me moving on to another area.
Add a flasher
A ‘flasher’ is essentially a fish attractor. While the lure itself will attract the attention of fish, a ‘flasher’ will work to catch the attention of fish located much further away. To a fish, the flash could represent a school of baitfish or even a fish in distress. The idea is that fish will initially be drawn to the flasher and, when closer, they will notice the lure swimming behind the ‘flasher’ and (hopefully) strike! This technique is certainly not a new one. Many mainland anglers regularly use attractors, like ‘cowbells’, to draw the fish in to their lures. This technique is also commonly used in places such as Canada and the USA. Although I am not sure why, it is not often seen here in Tasmania, so perhaps it is something to consider when your next donut is looming.
This is a great option for those of you who love trolling with lead line. If the action is slow, try adding a ‘flasher’ a maximum of one metre away from your Tassie Devil or Cobra. Be sure to use good quality monofilament line for your leader, as it will give a bit of stretch on any takes, and prevent fish from being lost.
Add a fly dropper
Fishing with a fly dropper is something that I have learnt from a friend who lives in New Zealand. He uses this technique in combination with a soft plastic to fish deep for monster trout. Using a fly dropper can be one of the most effective methods for catching trout. You don’t have to be a fly fisherman to do it either. Simply tie a short dropper (around 4 to 5 inches) at a distance of 30 cm to 50 cm up your leader. You might be using a hard body or soft plastic as your main lure, but, in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter.
Select a wet fly and tie it onto that dropper using a loop knot. A loop knot will give the fly the extra freedom of movement and a more natural swim action. For early season droppers, try wet fly patterns like woolly buggers, rabbit fur zonkers or yetis.
By using a dropper you provide the trout with a couple of choices. Some people even say that the dropper acts as an attractor. What I can say for sure is that the fly will have a different swimming action to that of any hard body or plastic you might be using. It might just be the thing to do to improve your results!
Remember: It is legal in Tasmania to use only one fly dropper in combination with one lure on a spinning rod. Check the IFS hand book before you go fishing.
Try jigging for trout
In some respects, jigging for trout is a bit like fishing for flathead. The rig is similar to a standard saltwater paternoster rig. A typical jigging rig consists of a sinker and a dropper tied 50 cm or so above the sinker. The dropper can be a soft plastic or even your favourite trout-catching spoon.
Since this technique is well suited to deeper waters, you will first need to find a suitable area that has some decent depth to it. Then, simply lower the rig to the bottom and, at a leisurely pace, raise and lower your rod. You can also try waving it from side to side. Vary the height and the timing to give the jig a genuinely erratic movement. This helps the lure to mimic, let’s say, a wounded galaxias. As you drop the rod back to the horizontal position, reel in the slack line.
Take it nice and easy with your lifts of the rod and anticipate any takes. You can also try some very sharp lifts and jerks if nothing is happening by fishing the jig slowly. Since you will most likely be jigging from a boat, look for underwater formations, vegetation, submerged trees and other structures that might hold fish. You will be at an advantage if your boat is equipped with a sounder.
Fishing for trout can be tough, and donuts will happen. In my opinion, it is the nature of any type of fishing. However, catching a trout against all odds is always a great reward for thinking outside the square. I hope that some of the strategies that I have described here today will help you during times when the fish are not cooperating. With this in mind, I wish you all a productive and safe trout opening for the new season.
Mic Rybka - Strike Tiger Lures