by Jarrod Day •
There really is nothing more addictive than squatting in the thick summer grass on the edge of a river bank watching a big buck brown trout sipping insects from the surface of the water. As picturesque as that scenario may be, catching that trout was always going to be a challenge from the moment you laid eyes on him.
Trout are quite a unique fish and for most of the year they can be stalked in many Victorian rivers and streams. Sure, many of the fish caught will be your typical stream trout fetching a pound or so, but occasionally you’ll hook into a solid fish. It will be your tackle and ability that will decide whether the story has a happy ending or not.
Trout are quite a shy species and are easily spooked at the slightest movement, sending them into an undercut riverbank or under a submerged log. Rather than trampling up the edge of a river or splashing up a stream, tackle every session with care and a stealthy approach.
Around the middle of the year and just before the onset of the winter rains, trout begin to get ready for their annual spawning. This is when you’ll encounter the majority of the larger fish in a river or stream. They begin to move upstream from around April where they look for females and gravel beds in which she can lay her eggs. Rivers and streams that run into lakes are certainly worth of trying, as the fish that have been living in the lake throughout the year will head out to spawn.
May is a great time of the year and although you might go home empty -handed on a few occasions, just doing the research on a stream can give you a good indication as to whether it has the potential to hold big trout, like if there are any gravel beds.
Most of the trout movement will occur when the rains first fall and the rivers rise. Even if the rivers only come up a few centimetres, this could be just enough water for the fish to get over all the hurdles they face such as fallen logs, rocks, waterfalls and more.
In Victoria the trout season closes at midnight 12 June, so when beginning in May there really isn’t a lot of time to perfect your skill.
If it takes you to get on your stomach and army crawl to the edge of a river to spot trout, then do it. The slightest movement can spook them, so do whatever it takes to get close enough for an accurate cast. Small streams can be very difficult to fish. Perfect your casting and bow and arrow casts to enable yourself to get a lure into tight areas.
Trout will always face upstream. If you’re going to wade a river, it’s vital that you do it by walking into the current. This will also help you spot trout ahead of you, so you can cast to the exact point and land a lure that will pass by where they are feeding to attract a strike.
Finding the points to cast at, can take a while to learn. Start by casting to small rapids where the water runs into slow running pools. A lot of the time, a big trout will be just at the head of the pool ready to make is way out. While there, it will hit anything worthy of eating as it flows through the rapid and into the pool.
In saying that, most trout will hit a lure out of aggression. During this time of the year when the larger males and females are spawning, smaller males try and get into the action themselves. Larger males will attack and eat small males, hence anglers have had success using trout pattern lures in the 70-100mm length range.
This won’t always work. On occasion, big males might be too focused on the job, especially in shallow water over gravel beds. Nine times out of ten you can see the dorsal fins of trout in the shallow breaking the surface while they are attempting to spawn with a female and they won’t always be in feeding mode.
In this case, change the lure for a glow bug fly setup with a bead head nymph. This rig is ideal to cast in around any structure because it’s lightweight and will flow with the current pressure. If you snag up, you’ll only lose the split shot sinkers and not the entire rig.
One thing you will find is that most of the fish will be taken on the nymph, so they’re taking small aquatic insects and not bigger lures.
During spawning, both brown and rainbow trout are quite aggressive and will swipe at any trout that attempts to muscle its way close to the female. For this reason, trout pattern lures tend to be the most productive, as they look just the same as any other trout in a river. While small trout may be in the 10-20cm length bracket, a larger fish has no hesitation and will attack if he needs to.
Lures like the Yakamito 100mm Slim Minnow and the Yo-Zuri 90mm Pins Minnow are proven lures to use. If you need to go smaller, 60mm is great for the shallower runs and the Yakamito SXY Shad works for the deeper pools.
In situations where the fish might be shy, opt for changing the rig to using the glow bug setup or try a Wordens spinner in fluoro orange, pink or a completely black colour to resemble any insects in the water.
Big trout in small streams hit hard and are furious when hooked. Your traditional light tackle doesn’t always have the strength to land them. In an ideal world, fishing 6lb would be a dream, but because of the logs, rocks and other debris you will have to opt for 10 or even 12lb fluorocarbon on the end of your 8lb PE braid.
Rods also need to be able to support good butt strength, otherwise you’ll have no control when trying to pull the fish from a bunch of snags or out from under an undercut river bank. In his case, a fast to medium tapered rod with matching Shimano Stradic 1000 will have more than enough line capacity and drag strength to handle any trout.
Rods with a medium slow or slow taper will buckle under the pressure of a good fish. While it’s not impossible to land them, the fight will be drawn out too long because the rod strength is just not there, so try to use a fast tapered rod where possible.
Fishing for trout, especially the larger ones, is certainly a lot of fun no matter which state you’re targeting them in. One thing to note is that regardless where you’re fishing, the techniques are all the same. They just change depending on the day.
Whether you’re hiking through the central Victorian rivers or perched on the river bank amongst the snow on the Eucumbene River in NSW, the time to catch hefty trout is now. Just remember one thing, these fish are the brood stock that keep the fishery alive, so if you’re stalking them, take a photo, release them and let them do their thing and help to preserve our magnificent freshwater fisheries.