When Greg Morton goes trout fishing, the main purpose is to catch fish. To achieve this, he needs hook-ups that stick; the phrase, “well hooked” sums up the goal.
Losing fish sometimes is to be expected. But if it happens repeatedly it gets frustrating and becomes an issue that needs to be remedied. Most trout that I land are released but still, it is nice to get a good look at the fish before it is let go. Losing fish repeatedly feels like a tough day at the office.
My worst hook-up day was when my spinner was whacked hard by seven good rainbow trout over a few hours and I landed none of them. As soon as each hooked fish took to the air my spinner parted company and the trout escaped. The insect spinner that I was using – one that I fish regularly – was enticing the trout to bite but was struggling to hold onto them. The ‘hooked but lost’ statistics were really bad that day.
I snipped off the treble hook and replaced it with a split ring and single hook, and made sure the hook was super sharp, but the problem of lost fish persisted. In the end, I surmised that trout were hitting it primarily from the side rather than the back, making a solid hook-up difficult. Most jumping fish spat it out. I no longer use this brand.
You are always going to lose some trout when spin fishing because they are striking at a moving object with their mouth. No easy feat. To minimise loss, you need to find spinners you trust; ones where the ‘hooked and landed’ statistics are good. I personally use only Panther Martin and Mepps spinners for this reason, but there are many other proven brands out there.
When spinning you want trout to be fully committed to the bite when they strike. You want an aggressive attack from the back. To focus trout on the rear of my spinners I use dressed hooks, and that has resulted in a high landing rate, probably about 70% of fish hooked. Some strikes have been so savage that the spinner has been entirely engulfed.
A well-hooked trout on the Panther Martin.
Lately, I have been using soft-baits and the word ‘deadly’ accurately describes the hooking success they have on trout. The rate of landed to lost fish is amazing. Over the last couple of cold winter months I have hooked thirteen prime trout, and of that number I landed twelve. That is a 92% success rate.
Ten of the landed fish were rainbows that went ballistic in their efforts to escape. Surging runs, aerial contortions, shaking heads and crocodile rolls – all were fruitless in securing their freedom. This mode of fishing is different to conventional spin fishing because the finesse required, and the size/type of baits used, which cater to all manner of forage foods that trout feed on, including the small items.
Years ago when I lived in Canterbury I targeted sea-run trout that lived in Lake Ellesmere. After dark, I would fish a live bully in tributary streams, such as the L2 and Selwyn, to huge fish chasing smelt. It was very effective and the technique used then is very similar to how I fish soft baits today. The gear is better now.
The hook I used then was a small number #10 fly hook which was lip-hooked into the bully. A piece of split shot was squeezed on the line and that was it. It was cast out a short distance and then slowly retrieved back. When a sudden abrupt twitch or two occurred, it meant a trout had picked up the bully as it tried to get into the weeds. As the trout turned the bully around in its mouth for swallowing I struck hard, which drove the tiny hook into the jaw or roof of the fish’s mouth. Most were well hooked and, unless the line broke, were usually landed.
Today, the soft-bait replaces the bully and the jig head replaces the split shot, while longer rods and braid allow longer casts. Trout still feed the same way though, so the take is often very similar to those nights on the Selwyn River.
Down south on the Mararoa River (near Te Anau) I used to drift-fish milk worms to brown and rainbow trout; today on the Tekapo canals anglers drift eggs to large brown and rainbow trout. Both methods I used years ago always resulted in well-hooked fish, so I shouldn’t be surprised that soft-baits are the way to go if you want to land a high percentage of fish you hook.
There is a wide selection of ways you can rig your chosen soft-bait but I have been fishing in a conventional way with a light jig head in size #2. Trout landed recently fall into two categories: the ambushers and the whackers. The majority follow the sea-run trout ambush pattern I mentioned above. They intercept the retrieved soft-bait, mouth it with small bites, then swim off with it, only then do I tighten up. If they let go early I continue the retrieve and often they return and hook themselves. The second category of trout hook-ups are those that just whack the soft-bait on the drop or retrieve; then, on the next turn of the handle, I come up tight on a fish.
I like to fish with curly-tail grubs and that is mainly because in my fishing area there are a lot of irrigation dams that hold yabbies, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, and small bullies. The waters of a lot of the dams in the region are very dark in colour, so it should be no surprise that a common colour I use is motor oil.
September 2022 - Greg Morton
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
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