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Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Friday, December 21, 2018
2018: Lessons learned
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The cookie-cutter Fred Hall Show excuse

Tough Love: trout edition
I wrote a good hunk of practical and next-level tactical intel for the special trout fishing section in the Jan. 25 edition of Western Outdoor News, and I may have just scratched the surface on some borderline-extreme, myth-busting, possibly untrue and definitely opinionated takes of mine that might fly in the face of plenty of stuff that’s generally accepted as common knowledge among trout anglers.

However, when you have a column with your mug shot on top, you can say pretty much whatever you want! So, as I do so often, here are some polarizing takes in quick-hitter form:

You give way too much credit to the intelligence of hatchery trout. When it comes down to it, they are hatched and raised in or around concrete and fed pelleted superfood before riding to your lake in a truck. I’m pretty sure if a glimmer of your gold treble hook is showing through your ball of power cheese, these fish are going to notice. You might check out the book, “ An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World .” I don’t agree with it all, but there were a lot of good points made.

The “best colors” aren’t necessarily so. If I asked 100 of you at the Fred Hall Show what the best color of Thomas Buoyant and Panther Martin are, I’d bet my favorite discontinued Kastmaster that 80 of you would blurt out, “red and gold!” and “black and yellow!” You know, they might be, but consider this. I love throwing Buoyants, and for a few years, I forced myself to throw ANYTHING BUT gold/red just to see, and I was convinced very early in the experiment that at least three of them out-produced the one that gets all the love: watermelon, both frog colors and brown trout. These days, I use those, and more, including red/gold, and those colors might not get you the same results. My point here is, take off your blinders. Often times, the “best colors” are just the result of them popping up in reports that land in the right places early in the game, and it just snowballs from there. Apply this consideration to everything.

Two-pound-test is not much different than four. Well, it is when you’re throwing minijigs because jigs weigh next to nothing, and if you need a long cast, 2-pound is going to get the job done. Let’s just take Trilene XL as a baseline example. The diameter of 2-pound is .005; the diameter of 4-pound is .008. Taking jigs out of the equation, if you’re going to try and tell me that a stocker rainbow is going to pass on that Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow or Rooster Tail you’re dragging on 4-pound, only to bite for the guy next to you because he’s flinging in on 2-pound because a trout is going to detect that THREE THOUSANDTHS of an inch difference, I have some oceanfront property in Lee’s Summit, Missouri to sell you.

I PROMISE, fishing for trout can still be fun if you aren’t a “made guy” in a trout-fishing “crew” with an edgy name (with Z’s in the place of S’s) that wears matching shirts and says “slay” a lot. Just trust me on this one.

I KNOW FOR MANY IT’S SACRILEGE, adding terminal tackle like a swivel to your lures, but, go ahead and add a small (but not so small it restricts motion) snap to all your Thomas Buoyants. I always found tying directly to drilled-out hole to be sketchy; light line against a tiny edge, so I bit the bullet and added a Duo-Lock Snap. Later, I read somewhere that the top brass at Thomas Lures also recommended it, so there’s that. It’s fine on Rapalas, too. I’ve noticed no drop-off in bites, and most of all, I’m not finding something to be sketchy.

POWERBAIT WORKS. Does it ever. But, if you find yourself in a cove lined with bait dunkers all deploying some variation of the stuff, try something different and/or new to set yourself apart from the gauntlet. BaitPro is an up-and-comer (but coming on strong) doing some exciting stuff in the doughbait space. Give them a Google for a good place to start. You can also add a Lil’ Corky Bait Floater to your rig to give it a different visual profile. That’s right, replace that bait ball with a bait snowman and hang on!

THAT $500 ROD AND REEL COMBO isn’t doing you as much good as you think. Yeah, it’s nice, fun to fish, and you can probably feel a trout exhale on your jig with all the space-aged materials and what not. But if I’m fishing nearby with my Daiwa Presso/Fuego combo (or one of several set-ups I own with an even lower street value) and you limit sooner than me, it’s not because of your $500 set-up. You’re just better.

THROW AWAY YOUR SWIVELS, unless you use them for trolling. The classic floating bait rig has always been a main line through an egg sinker, then tied to a swivel, then a leader tied to the other side of that swivel, then to a hook. Instead, swap the swivel out for a Carolina Keeper and eliminate two of the three knots (which are the weak points of any rig). So it’s just your 2- or 4-pound line coming off your reel running through the whole deal, and you can also change the “leader” length in seconds.

SINCE I’M ON THE SUBJECT, I never understood the whole 4-pound main line to 2-pound leader thing. If it’s going to break at 2 pounds, what purpose is the 4 serving? It all comes down to more knots to tie.

FOR AN ELEMENT OF COMPETITION resulting in glorious, tangible winnings, check out @STOCK_TRUCK_CHASERS_TOURNEY on Instagram. It’s new and growing, and each month of trout season is a new “online tournament” in which you can fish when and where (in SoCal) you want. At the very least you’ll get to keep tabs on the aforementioned trout slaying crews slugging it out.

HEY! GUYS ARE STARTING TO THROW JIGS ON FLY RODS! Norman MacLean and Rusty Kreh are watching from long-rodder’s Heaven. They would like you to stop.

THEN AGAIN, ERNEST HEMINGWAY threw garden worms on a fly rod, so, there’s your argument. He’s also your WMD if anyone suggests you’re not a man because you own a cat.

STILLWATER NYMPHING is starting to become more pre­valent in SoCal lakes on a semi-underground level. Norm and Rusty do approve of that.

THERE’S NO SHAME IN BAIT DUNKING. Not in trout truck country, anyway. I used to look down upon dunkers over 14 years of age, but now I’ll even mix it in if I just want to get bit when it’s high noon and slow. But you’ve got to wear it as dorkily as possible. I like to see how many consecutive times I can cast, hook and land a trout while lying flat on my back (my record is five), or if I’m upright, every hook-up is punctuated with a flawless Michael Jackson kick. “Serious-bait-angler-face-guys” need not apply.

I RAN ACROSS A DISCUSSION on the internet the other day where SoCal trout anglers were discussing which was a better fish — the Calaveras rainbow or Nebraska Tailwalker. One guy (who I do know and would agree with most of this list) apparently made a groundbreaking point with the group when he said “Calaveras fish bite right out of the truck.”

’Twas a line that will live in infamy.

I SUPPOSE I should have mentioned this at the beginning, but each of these points are best absorbed when read individually, then rereading the first one before moving on.

A BIG PART of the magic and joy in fishing for stocked trout comes as a result of the fact that… well… they’re dumb. PHOTO COURTESY CHRIS NORBY

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