If I had one choice of bait for early-season trout fishing, it would be worms. They are easier to fish than salmon eggs and better bait for trout. Hook the worms once through the girdle and drift them on the bottom as close as you can along those undercut banks or in the pockets of eddies trout will hang in those eddies and banks, waiting for an easy meal to drift by. Cast upstream and let the worm drift along the bottom past you. Trout will be looking for food that has been washed into the stream and carried away in the current. If the water is muddy, visibility may be a problem, and your bait may need some help. If this happens, fish your bait on a brass or copper spinner. Mepps-style spinners work great. Spinner blades will make your bait more visible.
Fishing Bait on a Fly Rod
Fly fishing purists will probably disagree with me, and I know I suggested spinning gear for opening day, but I also like the feel of fishing bait on a fly rod. You may be limited to roll casts and line mending your bait, but I find that catching trout on a fly rod is more fun than spinning tackle. You won’t need a tippet any heavier than 4 or 6 pound-test for most conditions.
I’m reminded that President Jimmy Carter agrees with me. As Outdoor Life editor some decades ago, we decided to give a fly rod to President Jimmy Carter. It was a beautiful Orvis split-bamboo fly rod. When we bestowed this one-of-kind custom monogrammed fly rod to President Carter, he replied, “Thanks. This is a perfect rod for live fishing crickets for crappies.” I smiled and agreed. He lost the next election.
Using Minnows To Catch Trout
Small minnows will also catch trout on opening day, but it’s sometimes a problem carrying live minnows when wading a stream unless you don’t mind dragging along floating bait can. If you are fishing a stream, hook the minnow through the lips so that they will look natural in the current. Hook the minnow behind the dorsal fin if you’re fishing a lake or pond.
Fishing for Hatchery Trout
Of course, you can also cheat when fishing for hatchery trout. Most hatcheries feed trout liver-flavored pellets. I have visited a few hatcheries. Toss a handful of these pellets into the water, and trout will come to the surface in a boil that would make a bluefish blitz look like a ripple. I’ve used a slab of beef liver from a supermarket with success. Still-fishing with small pieces of liver, and you will probably limit out. Not very sophisticated, but it will put trout in the skillet.
This is good advice for bait fishermen, but if you insist on fly fishing opening day with flies, the Woolly Bugger, the Muddler Minnow, or Zonker on a sinking line would be your best choice. If the water moves too fast, you can cheat with a pinch of split shot a foot in front of your fly. With a fly, you should concentrate on the slower-moving pockets of water.
If you want those your trout to reach home in good shape for the skillet, make sure you keep them in a wicker creel lined with wet ferns, grass, or newspapers. A creel will keep fish reasonably cool on the hottest days. Canvas creels will also work. You should also occasionally dip the entire creel in a stream. Wetting it thoroughly will keep the fish inside in good shape.
How To Field Dress A Trout
Always field dress your trout stream-side before heading home. Make sure you also remove the gills. Field dressing a trout can be done in less than a minute on most stream-size trout.