'Fraid It's Going to be a Long Year
Many years ago I came up with a term to measure the level of excitement enjoyed while fishing with spinners. I call it the Anticipation Factor, or “AF” for short. A level of “10” is the best, generally meaning that the action is so intense that a trout is expected on nearly every cast, while a “0” means there’s so little action that it’s time to quit or find another stream to fish. I also adjust my AF depending on the circumstances and the stream I’m fishing. For example, an AF of 10 could be obtained on a large stream while catching few trout if they happen to be large trout and I’m expecting more. The level of anticipation depends on the situation. Achieving an AF of 10 is what motivates me to pursue trout with spinners.
A quick look back into my statistics for the month of May in the last five years (2012 – 2016) reveals that I caught 9,838 trout in 646.25 hours during 75 days. This averages out to 15.22 trout per hour (TPH) and 131.17 trout per day (TPD). On 68 of the 75 days I caught 100 or more trout. My best days in those years, beginning with the year 2012, were 201, 251, 241, 149, and 279, respectively. May was my best month of the year in four of these five years.
To say I have high expectations in May would be an understatement. This year, however, is different due to the drought we had last summer and autumn. How many trout would there be in streams this year? Would limestoners be adversely impacted as much as freestone creeks? These are the questions I’ve been trying to answer since January. Unfortunately, my growing mountain of evidence seems to be pointing in the wrong direction, though I haven’t seen any total bona fide collapses in trout populations, except possibly in the upper reaches of one small mountain creek. Attaining a high AF has been basically nonexistent since I don’t factor in low trout populations unless I’m fishing specifically for large trout, which is rare.
During the week of May 15th through 19th I think I got a pretty good sample of what is in store for 2017 since water levels and weather conditions were darn near ideal all week. Here are the results of my adventures:
Monday, May 15th, 2017:
Although I saw very few trout in this south-central stream during low water last autumn, this morning I chose the stream that yielded my best days in three of the last five years (251, 241, and 279 trout).
In the very first pool I caught two sublegal wild browns, then lip-hooked this fine 16.5” wild brown with my White Bead Gold spinner in the dim morning light.
Dame’s Rocket was blooming streamside.
But as I moved upstream I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Where are all of the trout?”
After 4.25 hours and only 51 trout and well over a mile of stream, my AF had dropped pretty low. It was time to go to another stream.
The next stream was equally slow and after 1.50 hours and only 13 trout I knew it was time to go to my next preplanned option. The highlight on this stream was fishing about fifteen minutes through marginal water to reach a deep pool where I cranked out this fine 16” brown.
Next I drove to a small mountain freestone creek hoping to catch a minimum of 39 trout to hit 100 for the day.
Some wild trout were caught.
But it became clear very quickly that catching 39 trout was not going to happen. In fact, after a while I wondered if I would catch even one more trout. I caught 20 trout in 2.25 hours and fished about a mile and a half of water. My total for the day was 84 trout in 8.00 hours.
Tuesday, May 16th, 2017:
Today I chose a small mountain stream that usually coughs up a hundred trout like clockwork.
The fishing was slow, and I mean really slow.
Occasionally a nice native brookie was landed, including this 10”er.
Some were very attractive.
The “Trip Computer” of my Garmin eTrex10 GPS unit, which I just recently learned how to use after watching parts of about twenty YouTube videos since the directions that came with it appear to have been written by a second-grader, showed I had fished 6.10 miles in 8.75 hours. I had 97 trout but the prospect of catching even one more seemed remote so I decided to book it back to my SUV.
A nice patch of wild geraniums grew along the trail on the way out.
Wednesday, May 17th, 2017:
Today I chose a mountain freestoner that typically surrenders over one hundred trout on a May outing.
The flow was great and the trout cooperated, though many good spots seemed void of trout. I fished 8.00 hours and caught 123 wild trout. Most were wild brown trout. The air temperature was 90-degrees during the hike out.
Thursday, May 18th, 2017:
I got up at 3:30 a.m. this morning and drove to a little mountain stream. I began fishing at daybreak and had good action for a while, but it would peter out at times.
Though dead trees in a stream make good cover for the trout, they also provide what I call “nursery water” since it’s pretty much impossible to fish spinners in some spots.
Some small wild browns were landed.
But if it had not been for running into a good head of stocked trout, the overall action would have been pretty slow.
I caught 48 stocked trout and 71 wild trout, a total of 119 trout, in 8.00 hours. The air temperature was 91-degrees during the walk back to my SUV.
Friday, May 19th, 2017:
Like the stream I chose on Monday, where I hadn’t seen many trout during last autumn’s low water, today I chose a similar stream hoping that there were more trout than I feared.
The sizes of the trout I caught revealed the ages of the trout. Assuming the trout hatched in February, many of the trout I caught were right around 5.5” long, which would make them about one year and three months old. The young-of-the-year would still be minnows, probably less than 2” long.
Individuals in the next age group, ones two years and three months old, had a larger girth and were mostly around 8” long.
Trout in the next age group, centered around 3 years and 3 months, were around 10” long and had a much larger girth than the trout that were a year younger.
In 8.25 hours I tallied 108 trout. Many pools appeared troutless like on other days this week.
Probably the neatest thing of the day occurred in the afternoon. I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the birds that I see while I’m fishing, as well as their songs, and in fact own a few CD’s with bird songs, as well as several field guides. Today I was surprised when I came upon two extremely rare whistlepig warblers along the stream I was wading.
Overall for the five days I caught 531 trout in 41.00 hours. This calculates out to a 12.95 TPH average and 106.20 TPD, both well below normal for this time of year.
It will be interesting to see how the fishing goes in the next few weeks. Right now my expectations are a little on the low side, but things could change.
- Frank Nale -