By Indrek Kongats
Opening day of trout season is just a few short weeks away on April 1. That gives you just enough time to dig out your fishing rod, waders and vest and dust them off. Opening day of trout fishing isn’t any different than the opening day of deer or turkey season— it’s the anticipation that gets us all excited and worked up, chomping at the bit to go out and catch a trout or two.
The trout are hungry and abundant after all of our local streams are restocked with hatchery fish that expect a regular meal time. The DEC posts all of its stocking details on its website http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7739.html.
Opening day is a time to get you kids involved in fishing as well. The excitement is contagious and with the kids along, it is a great outdoor family moment that is unequalled.
The easiest way to catch a fish is with live bait like small earthworms. Keep an eye on the weather and grab a shovel and start digging around stream banks and compost piles as soon as the ground has thawed. Digging for these squirming critters is like digging for gold itself, and a big part of the anticipation-building process. Of course, you can go buy your worms from a bait shop or one of those gas station bait machines or even order them online, but it is not the same thing, especially for kids.
Once a sufficient amount of bait is gathered, it’s time to make sure you have the right terminal tackle. Don’t forget these fish have tiny mouths and the smaller the hook, the better. But, if it’s too small, it gets too deep into the trout’s throat and is hard to remove in case you wish to release your fish.
A size #10 hook is the ideal size. Don’t use the traditional bait holder hooks— those are best for bigger dew worms used for bass and pan fish. Get yourself a pack of razor sharp Gamakatsu single egg hooks. These hooks come in different colors. Get both the red and gold versions, as this will help attract the trout much like a flashy lure or fly.
Depending where you are fishing, shallow stream or deeper pools of larger creeks, you’ll need to weight your line to get your bait at the right depth. Small split shot are the ideal choice and the Dinsmores split shot dispensers has the assortment of sizes that you’ll need from dust to BB. The trick in weighting your line is not to put too much shot on your line and not to close to the hook. Keep your shot at least 12 inches from your hook and instead of using one large one, use several smaller ones spaced a few inches apart with the smallest size first. If you are worried about snagging your weight on the bottom, use blood knots to hang your shot on the tag ends so if snagged, they will simply slip off. The idea is to let your worm float off the bottom, not sit on the bottom.
Next we need a good line for these feisty trout that, although small, will find the only root or tree branch on the creek to wrap your line around and break off. With this in mind, use at least 8 lb. test as your main line. but drop down to a 4-pound transparent fluorocarbon tippet around 3-feet long, again attached by a blood knot or a surgeons knot. (Learn to tie both of these knots as they will serve you a life-time of fishing.) Fluorocarbon tippet material, like Rio or Airflo, is sold in small spools and may be labeled 4X, which actually refers to diameter rather than breaking strength.
Finally, the rod and reel: A 5’ ultra light outfit is the best choice and the unbreakable classic Ugly Stick by Shakespeare is the ultimate choice. Combine it with a Daiwa D-Spin ultra light reel. Remember, you don’t need a lot of line on your reel and you won’t need to make long cast, so the expensive long cast style reels are not necessary. Spool on your 8-lb. test line, but don’t over spool— that will just cause line to spill off and cause tangles.
Waders or hip boots are essential as the water will still be very cold. Hip waders don’t make much sense for small kids as they don’t go high enough and chest waders can be expensive. A smart alternative is the Hodgman Gamewade chest packable wader for only $14.99. Although sold only in adult sizes, you can tailor them to fit kids. Remember a belt is required around the waist, essential to hold your pants up, but more importantly to keep water out in the event you go for a spill. These stocking foot type waders can be used with an old pair of sneakers.
Complete your outfit with a cheap fly-fishing vest with plenty of pockets for everything from worm containers to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Don’t forget your hat, sunglasses and maybe something to carry your catch in, like a Ziploc freezer bag. If you need a landing net, a small trout net will serve well, small enough to hang off the back of your vest.
Start your countdown, prepare your tackle, plan your attack and go dig up some worms, tight lines and good fishing!