Throughout the country and especially in the West, early fall often signals the start of a second, “urban” trout fishing season. This is serious aquaculture at its best. Low-land lake operators contract with hatcheries to purchase major tonnage of a variety of trout species to stock in these metropolitan reservoirs. Rainbows, Alpers, lighting, brown, brookies, and even inland farm-raised steelhead are planted in great numbers in these low elevation lakes.
Similar to alpine trout, these fish often need to be finessed by the savvy angler. To begin with, the most important thing is to use very light leader material. I recommend 2-lb. test fluorocarbon. If you are going to soak baits—usually floating above the bottom—you will need this gossamer leader to fool these fish. Whether you are fishing from the bank or in a boat, kayak, or float tube, this 18″–36″ length of 2-lb. leader is singularly the most important link between you and a limit of trout.
Next, consider your hooks. With this ultra light leader, you will have considerable line stretch, so a needle-sharp hook is mandatory. The Owner “mosquito” and black treble hook models are exceptionally sharp and have my recommendation.
Then, think about your drag setting. Let’s say your spinning reel is spooled with 6-lb. monofilament. And, you are tossing out baits on that 2-lb. test fluorocarbon leader. You will thus need to set your drag for 2-lb. breaking test, not 6-lb. A common mistake novice trouters make is forgetting to recalibrate their drags to the lighter settings necessitated by the lighter leaders. Too many quality trout are broken off by fishermen not making that lighter drag adjustment.
Do you also know that so many of those big, double-digit weight trophy rainbows planted in these city lakes are caught just a short distance off the bank? That’s right. So many of these lurkers are actually scored in only 5′–8′ depths. Making that long, impressive cast may not be your best option. These planted trout are raised in shallow pens or ponds at the hatchery so they are accustomed to feeding in very shallow water. Also, there can be a lot of natural feed on the bottom in the lake’s shallow strike zones. Worms, freshwater clams, grubs, aquatic bugs, and the like live in the nutrient-rich shallow areas. So just keep this little secret in mind when you are tempted to make that 70-yard long cast out into the middle of the reservoir.
I also want to talk about so-called “still fishing” with baits. In my seminars, workshops, and writings, I have a saying: If you are “still fishing” with bait, most likely you are still not getting bit! That’s right. Every so often you need to wind in a few feet of line so you will be sure to cover more territory. Your bait may be hung up in brush, rocks, or weeds. By reeling it in a few feet, you can be fishing in more open water where the trout can see it better.
Finally, don’t forget that many of the floating baits, live night crawlers, marshmallows, salmon eggs, or Velveeta cheese have an inherent scent. This built-in smell can draw trout in from considerable distances. By the winding in a few feet of line you will actually be creating a “vapor trail” of sorts that will bring trout to the bait.
Tight lines and good luck!