People often ask me how I catch so many big trout … so I decided to start writing down my big trout tips. A large part of my success is having some amazing water to fish. Contrary to what many people suspect, all the photos I have are of trout caught in publicly accessible water, either by drift boat or walk-wading public easements.
My first tip involves what to do once you have hooked the trout of your dreams. These tips were gained through experience and through losing a great many big trout. It took me over a year of fly fishing to land my first really sizable trout. I still lose some of the monsters I hook, most of which are hooked on small flies and light tippet, but my success rate has increased exponentially with experience. My tips will mainly apply to fishing rivers and streams which is where I do the majority of my fly fishing.
Once you hook that big trout, especially using small flies and light tippet, you better be ready to MOVE. The quickest way to lose a big trout is to stand in one place, hold your fly line tight and let him break you off. Move your feet and stay parallel to the fish as much as possible. Letting him get too far up or downstream of you will often result in losing your fish. Keep you rod tip up and let your rod absorb some of the weight and pressure of the fish. Set the drag on your reel according to the tippet size you are using so the trout can take line without breaking you off. In other words if you have 4lb tippet running to your fly, set the drag on your reel so the trout can pull line out after the pressure it’s exerting exceeds 4lbs. This takes some practice, so experiment and get to know your equipment.
If you have excess line out and do not have the trout on you reel, you can feed line out to the fish when it is swimming away from you and pulling hard. I often land big trout without ever getting them on my reel but this also takes practice. NEVER give the fish so much line that there is slack in your line and keep your rod tip up. I cannot emphasize this enough. When your trout turns and runs back toward you, strip line in quickly by holding your line against the rod with you index finger and pull line in quickly behind your index finger with your free hand. Reeling line in is much slower than stripping, and keeping pressure on a big trout is paramount to landing it.
Watch for underwater obstacles; big trout are wily and will use rocks and debris to break you off. Having a buddy standing above you and spotting helps, but there is no replacement for really getting to know the underwater topography of the area you are fishing.
This brings me to my next point, steering your fish. This also takes some practice and can sometimes result in popping your fly off your fish, but it is often necessary. To steer a large trout that is fair hooked (hooked in the mouth), give your rod tip a quick back and forth motion. This will usually turn his head and get him moving in the direction you want him to go. Don’t use this move more than once or twice, because you can wiggle your fly out this way. If you have fouled the fish (hooked him anywhere but in the face), unhook him or break him off (if you are using a small fly) as quickly as possible and avoid taking him out of the water, even for a photo. Hooking a fish fair should be your goal and it also makes fish easier to land. I usually aim to land a trout within two minutes – so fight your fish long enough to get him to you and land him but not so long to exhaust him. The biggest killer of large trout is exhaustion.
I have seen people fighting trout for upwards of 10 minutes and that is way too long. It also gives the trout a lot more opportunity to get away. Have faith in your equipment and let your rod absorb the weight and energy of the fish you are fighting. I show clients that are hesitant to keep their rod tip up how their rods can bend fully over and the rod tip can touch the handle without breaking.
Finally, once you land you big trout take a quick photo then RELEASE IT. Don’t think I am giving you these tips to land, kill and eat that big trout. Release him for the health of the fishery and so you can catch that trout another day. It is amazing to catch the same fish again sometimes years apart and see its growth and development. If you must keep a fish, keep on in the 12 to 18 inch range, as they are tastier anyway. Tight lines and stay tuned for more BIG Trout Tips!
Katherine Browne resides in Gunnison, Colo., where she is the Dealer Relations and Pro-staff Coordinator for Prois Hunting Apparel. She is also fly fishing guide for Willowfly Anglers in Almont Colorado, an outdoor writer, and photographer. She is an avid falconer, hunter, fly fisher, and enjoys almost all outdoor activities.
The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women. View all posts by The WON
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