The Real Secret to Trout Fishing
I’ve Caught a Lot of Trout Over the Years
I am 58 years old and I have caught thousands of trout in my life. I’ve been able to do that because I have lived in places where they are naturally abundant or abundantly stocked: Alaska, South Dakota, Michigan, Idaho, among others. I’ve also been able to do that for three other very important reasons:
1. My dad took me fishing when I was a boy.
2. My dad still took me fishing when I was a grown man.
I have learned to love fishing, and though I do have a small boat, I catch most of my fish from the shore or from the dock. During my most recent outing, I fished while standing on a concrete slab jutting out into the reservoir. My catch looked like this:
Six trout is the possession limit in Idaho, so six is how many fish I caught. Well, I actually caught seven but threw one little guy back so he could grow some more and make a better meal for someone in the future.
What Bait Do You Use?
When friends, acquaintances or passersby ask me what kind of bait I use or what kinds of lures I use to catch trout, I am always honest with them. I believe there is joy to be had in going fishing, but there is great joy to be had in catching fish. And the only greater joy I can think of than that is helping others catch fish.
On a normal day, the secret to catching trout is not really a secret: you use a sinker, hook and worm—specifically a nightcrawler or a small section of a nightcrawler—or you use a lure. With the former, it’s pretty straight forward:
- Tie a small hook onto the end of your line
- Place a split shot or two about 6-8 inches up the line from the hook
- Bait the hook
- Cast the line
- Sit and wait patiently until you see, feel, sense that old familiar tug
- Reel in your fish!
With the latter, well…that’s where many folks have lots and lots of different opinions, and some can get pretty uptight holding on for dear life to their secrets.
Catching Trout With Worms
1. Tie a small hook onto the end of your line
2. Place a split shot or two about 6-8 inches up the line from the hook
3. Bait the hook
4. Cast the line
5. Sit and wait patiently until you see, feel, sense that old familiar tug
6. Reel in your fish!
I Prefer to Cast the “Wyoming Wonder” (Jake’s Spin-A-Lure)
On arrival at the reservoir during my recent outing, I could see other folks occasionally pulling one in here and there (from afar, of course, as even at the lake our social distancing rules apply in these weird and somewhat scary times), and it looked to me like most of them were fishing on the bottom, probably using crawlers. So, I started my day fishing with a hook and worm setup as described above.
After a protracted period—probably ten minutes or more!—and no bites, I lost patience with bottom fishing and broke out my very favorite lure, what my dad used to call the Wyoming Wonder. The Wonder is actually a Jake’s Spin-A-Lure, manufactured in Sheridan, Wyoming, but back in the late 70s when Dad coined the term, Jake’s lures were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now.
I think I remember the original packaging of a new Jake’s lure was somewhat generic compared to the fancy, colorful designs used on the ‘big name’ lures you could buy like Mepps, Rapala, Daredevle and so forth. Back then, the brand new Jake’s lure was attached to a plain white card with green lettering. And that’s it. The first one I ever got was gifted to me by my father not long after he caught these monsters at an “unnamed lake” in Wyoming (those damn fishermen and their secret spots, am I right?).
Anyway, living in western South Dakota in the 70s, we could buy them pretty easily at the local mom and pop bait shops in the Black Hills (if they still had any on the shelf, that is). Still, I never knew they were called Jake’s Spin-A-Lures until many, many years after I had caught hundreds (and probably thousands, really) of fish with them. The lures worked wonders, it seems, and were manufactured (and worked well while fishing) in Wyoming, so the nickname my dad used for them was apt and always worked for me. Still does, in fact. I think the only reason I ever had to learn the real name of the lure was so I could pass it along. I have been asked by many folks after turning them on to the lure's special trout-catching ability. Still, even knowing what I know today I continue to call it the Wyoming Wonder, or just the Wonder.
The Fishing Was Good…for the Most Part, Anyway
So back to that recent fishing adventure: when I finally broke out the Wyoming Wonder after ten long minutes of no bites in prime fishing waters that had been recently stocked, I didn’t have to wait past my first cast to get a hit. And while I didn’t catch that first fish, the fact that I got some action right away was encouraging in the extreme.
I cast again and immediately hooked into a very nice rainbow, which I was able to land successfully. That first real fish fight of the day was pleasurable and memorable, the insistent tug, tug, tug coming some number of seconds after the lure hit the water and began its wobbling, spinning descent.
It occurs to me I need to drop anchor here and also talk about two other things when it comes to the Wyoming Wonder lure:
- You can cast this thing a country mile. It is relatively heavy, as far as small trout lures go, and it does very well, goes very far even when casting directly into a stiff wind. I have always loved the lure for that feature, too.
- You only really need to pick between two colors: silver with red dots or gold with red dots. There are lots and lots of other choices nowadays, but these are the only two you really need. My dad always said you should use the silver one on a bright, sunny day and in clear water; use the gold one on cloudy days or in murky water.
My dad always said you should use the silver one on a bright, sunny day and in clear water; use the gold one on cloudy days or in murky water.
That second cast (which resulted in my first fish) was long, and when the lure splashed down, I let it begin its descent into the cool springtime water, pausing longer than I normally do before beginning to reel the line in. It’s a variation in technique I use at times, trying to do something slightly different with each cast—slower retrieval; faster retrieval; begin reeling immediately after the lure hits the water; stop and go retrieval—changes of pace on occasion to mix things up for both me and the fish until we both decide something's working for us. On this cast, too, the end result of the long toss and the quick strike was a lengthier than normal battle with a feisty fish who really didn’t want to come my way but was finding little choice in the matter. So. Much. Fun!
The skies were partly cloudy that day, the water somewhat dark and murky. I’d chosen the gold-with-red-dots Wonder for that reason, and it was definitely living up to its name. I caught three fish in pretty short order and was feeling good about my chances of catching a limit in under an hour.
After stringing fish number three, tossing the group into the lake and securing the stringer to the pad, I went to cast long and hard again, only to have the lure’s arcing trajectory end abruptly as a result of a huge rat’s nest in my spinning reel spool. I somehow refrained from spewing the first thing that came to mind and, as I looked up and around, was thankful I did. Just as I was beginning with hope the hopeless task of trying to untangle the matted ball of monofilament on my reel, a young man and his very young daughter were arriving and settling in on a similar concrete pad some 20-30 feet over from me. They would have heard me for sure, would have had that awkward conversation starting with, “Daddy, what does &^%$# mean?”
The young fellow nodded at me, we exchanged verbal greetings and I went back to my exercise in futility. After too long, because I am stubborn and always have to at least try, I finally, grudgingly, acknowledged that the rat had won, and decided I should just use my other pole. I can’t rightly say why I did, but I decided to tie the silver-with-red-dots Wonder onto my other fishing pole and give that a try. Maybe it was because the sun had peeked its head out from around the clouds, or perhaps because earlier I’d been able to see clearly in the water a shiny green- and black- and rainbow-colored trout following my lure closely as I reeled it in. Whatever the case, I decided to use the silver lure…
That first cast—that’s the way I counted it, anyway, since it felt like starting anew on a completely separate day—and after only a few turns of the crank on my spinning reel, I hooked into and landed the largest trout I caught all day long. As I added that fish to the stringer, I noticed I now had an interested audience nearby.
When I tossed the line out for cast number two, achieving similar results with a fish that was only slightly smaller, the audience member, the young fellow on the next-door dock, hollered over in my direction saying, “I should have brought my spinner box with me. I left the house in a hurry and forgot to bring it.”
Cast number last was a threepeat, and just like that I was done for the day, began packing up my gear. As I did so, I looked over at the young man and his daughter. He was intently watching poles and bobbers (fishing with nightcrawlers, I bet!), and the little girl was down on hands and skinny bare knees, one arm extended, stretching to reach some something deep underneath and inside a nearby bush. She seemed no longer interested in not catching fish.
Before I shouldered my backpack, picked up my poles, pulled my stringer out of the water, I cut with my teeth the line on the pole I’d just been using, the one with the silver-with-red-dots Jake's on it, leaving a length of monofilament attached to swivel snap and lure. I walked over near the young man, got his attention, tossed him what I am sure was the gift of his first Wyoming Wonder lure. I wished him the very best of luck. He grinned and thanked me as I walked away toward my pickup.
The Real Secret to Trout Fishing
It is no secret that there is joy to be had in going trout fishing. It is also common knowledge that there is great joy in the catching of trout, as well. Helping others catch fish, though, is easily the greatest joy of all...and that, quite honestly, is the only real secret to trout fishing.
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