Striking With Live Bait

by Fly Fisherman

If you get a strike when fishing with live bait, do not try to set the hook right away. Let the trout take the bait in his mouth and start to make a run with it. Then strike by firmly raising the tip of the rod and tightening the line. Do not give a great yank or heave with your rod. Just a firm tightening up will set the hook. I’ve already told you something about playing and landing trout, so right now let’s concentrate on getting your trout hooked.
If you don’t get a strike after the pause at the lower end of your natural drift, then begin slowly working your bait upstream towards you with the hand twist retrieve . Continue until the bait is about 20 feet from you. At this point you make the pick-up for another cast. You fish a live minnow in these conditions in the same manner.
This method of fishing an under water live bait in such a stream set up is just the way you handle a wet fly, nymph, streamer or bucktail. In fact, if the water were clear and low, in this same temperature range of 40° to 50° F., a fly fished wet by this combination of the natural drift and the live, or action, method would be very liable to take trout—and be more fun than using worms or minnows.
When the water is under 50°, the best fishing time will be between mid-forenoon and mid-afternoon because it’s wanner then. For the same reason, warm days will be better than cold days, other things being equal. Later in the season, with warmer water, this will not be true.
If the current is so swift that your bait can’t be made to get down close to the bottom on a natural drift, you’ll have to put on a split shot to bring your bait down. Don’t use a sinker unless you have to, though sometimes you can’t get the bait deep enough in any other way.
In the under 50° bracket you’ll want to drift your bait into the deepest holes, in the deeper eddies and backwaters, in the pockets between big rocks, also the pools under falls and dams.

While we are on the subject of live bait for trout, here is one suggestion you should keep in mind. Trout feed on a lot of different things at various times; if you find the fish feeding heavily on something outside their regular diet, then be ready to take advantage of it. For instance, the way big trout will sometimes hide in tiny side pockets of streams watching for grasshoppers to fall into the water from the grass overhead.
Another instance is when the oak worm or leaf roller spins its cocoon in the leaves of hardwood trees over the water. Sometimes when these cocoons are swinging low over the water on long strands of silk, the trout will desert their usual feeding grounds and concentrate along the shore to make a meal of oak worms. If you will dap (alternately drop on and pull off the surface of the water) an imitation of the oak worm, or a real one, in these places you’ll get a surprising number of good trout.

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