On Monday the 4th, I headed out to fish despite cold overnight temperatures. It was 30 degrees at the stream I intended to fish when I left home and I figured it would be above freezing by the time I got there. When I arrived, it was 26 degrees, too cold for me to venture out. I did not want to deal with ice forming in the guides and freezing fingers, so I drove around for a little while and then sat and waited. Finally, a little after 11 PM, I hit the stream.
I expected slow fishing, but it was really slow to start. As has been the case on several outings recently, the trout initially showed no interest in spinners. After about half an hour with not so much as a follow, I tied on a Lucky Craft plug. I had several trout follow, but I did not get a hit until I had fished the plug for about 15 minutes. The first and only trout of the first hour was a 12 inch wild brown. I took the water temperature, which was better than expected at 46 degrees. Due to the cold overnight air temperature, I expected the WT to be in the low 40s.
My second trout was a 12.5 inch brown. Shortly after that, the first leaper of the day separated itself from my plug. I enjoy seeing trout clear the water, but it is a double-edged sword. Most of the trout I lose are leapers.
About five minutes later a nice brown bolted out from under a large rock to grab my plug. It cleared the water once but this time the hooks held, and I slipped my net under it. The buttery yellow brown measured 14 inches.
The action picked up as I caught browns of 13.5 and 12 inches and lost two other trout in short order. As I moved upstream under a bridge, I flipped a cast to a deep pocket next to the right bank. I had barely started the retrieve when a big brown intercepted the plug. He thrashed on the surface then dove into the depths. After a few minutes, the lunker began to tire and I led him into the shallows, which spooked two trout that were next to the bank. The hefty brown made one last dash for freedom, but I slipped the net under him. I knelt to measure him, and the magnificent hook-jawed male measured 20 inches. It is the first 20 inch brown I have ever caught on that stream. I had hoped to catch at least one more 20 incher this year, but had dismissed the possibility of getting one there. I had seriously questioned whether I should fish with the overnight temperatures, but this fish made the day.
While pulling my plug along some heavy in-stream vegetation, another nice brown attacked. He tried to burrow under the heavy grass, but I led him to my feet. My first trout of the day between 15 and 16 inches was 15.5 inches.
In hour number three, the trout repeatedly followed without hitting. Finally, a chunky brown smashed the plug and cleared the water multiple times. Fortunately, the hooks held, and I led him to my feet. He was 15.25 inches long. About 10 minutes later, a heavy trout hit, thrashed on the surface, and was free. Two casts later, an 11 inch brown was added to the tally. Of course, I would much rather have lost that fish and caught the previous one, but we all know it does not work that way. Since I had reached shallow water, I decided to try a spinner. After several more trout followed without hitting, a chunky brown piled into my spinner. He shot downstream into a heavy riffle and I had a few anxious moments moving him out of the heavy current. As I brought him to my feet, I thought I had landed hog number two. My retractable measuring tape showed the fat brown to be 15.75 inches; close but no cigar. I fished up a little further until I reached posted property, so I waded out and walked back to my car.
I drove to an SGL parking lot and pulled in. When I had driven past it earlier in the day, there were four vehicles there. I was confident they were all hunters. When I pulled in, the lot was empty.
It took about 15 minutes to hook up. My first trout in my second stop was a 10 inch brown. A few minutes later, a nice brown hit but immediately got off. As was the case in the morning, several trout followed but did not hit. A nice brown flashed out from an undercut bank and grabbed the spinner. It measured 12.75 inches.
I arrived at a spot where I had caught a big brown the previous month. I flipped the spinner into the deep pocket next to a logjam. A heavy trout blasted my spinner and dove under the logs. Using constant pressure, I was able to lead him out. The tape showed 15.5 inches, my fourth trout of the day between 15 and 16 inches. I caught one more trout that hour, a 9.5 incher.
The next hour opened with three straight trout hitting and getting off. I checked my hook points, which were in good shape. Shortly after that, another 9.5 incher came to hand.
I had come to a spot that has been highly productive for me over the last couple of years. I have caught several hogs and near hogs in that area. I made a long cast to a deep pocket next to the bank and a large brown struck. He plunged into the depths but was at my feet within a couple of minutes. I hoped it was another hog, but it was near hog number five, measuring 15.5 inches.
I made a cast to an undercut, expecting a big trout to ambush my spinner, to no avail. Surprisingly, the other prime lies in that spot also failed to produce. As I neared the head of the run, I made one last cast in a pocket next to the heavy flow. A nice brown pounced and I set the hook. The beauty cleared the water twice before I netted it. I thought it might be another 15 incher but the tape showed 14.5 inches. I lost one more trout before landing my final trout of the day, an 11 incher.
For the day, I caught 18 wild browns and lost 7 or 8 others. I caught nine trout each on spinners and plugs. The highlight of the day was the 20 inch brown. That was my only hog of the day, but the five trout I caught between 15 and 16 inches almost made it a six hog day. Though I did not catch a lot of trout, the overall size was excellent, which I attribute to using plugs and a slightly larger spinner.
The next day, I drove to another favorite stream, a large limestoner where I have done well this year catching big trout. I parked my car and walked downstream a long way before wading into the stream. I again had a very slow first hour. After starting with the same spinner, I had fished the previous day and only getting one hit, I switched to a plug. I had several trout follow without hitting. 45 minutes into the hour, I was still troutless, so I switched to a large bladed spinner. In cold water, the extra flash of the large blade sometimes works. I finally got on the board with a 9.5 inch wild brown. I caught a 9 inch brown to close the first hour.
The water temperature was 43 degrees, which was lower than I expected as the air temperature had been in the high 30s and low 40s overnight. I made a cast next to a deep pocket by the bank. A heavy brown struck, and I set the hook. The big fish thrashed near the surface, and the spinner popped loose. That trout was definitely a hog.
I picked up browns of 9.5, 12, and 9.5 inches before two trout hit and got off. The action had picked up. The area I was in was different than the spots I had fished to that point. It was pocket water with plenty of spots for the trout to lay in. As I pulled my spinner in front of a large rock, I felt extra weight and set the hook. The drag buzzed as the trout took off downstream. As I worked the fish into the shallows, I thought I had a good chance at my first big trout of the day. The female brown was 17 inches.
Four more trout came to hand in the remainder of the hour, browns of 11.75, 12, 10 and 14 inches. Several more trout followed and did not hit.
As I moved into deeper water, I made a long cast to the far bank. Bang! I set the hook and the trout vaulted out of the water. It cleared the water twice more before I netted it. I thought I had caught my second big trout of the day, but the tape showed 15.5 inches. I was temporarily disappointed, but then came to the realization that a trout of that size is a nice trout and that I was maybe getting a little spoiled.
Two nice trout hit and got off before I landed a 12.5 incher. I had a long period of inactivity before I came to another section of pocket water. My first cast into the pocket water yielded a 15 inch brown. I was very lucky to land that trout, as it hit when I only had a couple feet of line out. It’s been been my experience that when a trout hits on a short line like that, it usually results in a parting of the ways.
I pulled my spinner in front of a large rock, and a big brown drilled it. The brown burned line off my reel as it made several long runs before finding a resting place in my net. At 18 inches, it was my second big trout of the day.
The next hour produced five browns between 10 and 14 inches, along with lots of followers. I tangled with another nice brown, which cleared the water before spitting the hook in my direction. As I walked around a log jam, I noticed I was near a spot where I have caught many nice trout over the years. The water next to the bank is not deep, but there is cover, and the fish are there. I made a cast with a high degree of anticipation. Browns of 9.5, 12, and 11 inches came to hand but the big brown I had hoped for did not materialize. I knew there were more pockets that could well produce another big trout.
It had rained intermittently all day but started to rain more steadily. The wind picked up as well I felt much colder. I had several more follows as the rain increased. I was getting tired and thought about taking a seat on the bank for a brief rest. “After this cast”, I thought. The spinner dropped right where I wanted it and after a few cranks of the reel, a portly brown hit. I had a good hookset and was confident of landing the fish. The heavy trout made several line peeling runs, but ultimately wound up in my net. The trout was shorter than I expected, but was 16.5 inches. I would have liked to have taken a picture of it, as it was vividly yellow with beautiful red spots, but it was raining too hard to get a good picture. After landing that fish, I decided that maybe I did not need to rest after all. The action slowed down, and I caught only two 9.5 inch browns in the remainder of the hour. I slipped on a rock and did a slippery rock dance that I did not know I was still capable of and shockingly did not fall.
I caught my third straight 9.5 incher to open the next hour, but then had a long period of inactivity. It had gotten much colder and the fish were much less active. I had a few follows before a feisty 8 incher was added to my tally. I fished for another half hour and only landed one more trout, a 9 incher.
As the wind picked up and I neared where I had parked my car, I climbed the bank and walked out.
I landed 28 trout on the day and had a lot of trout follow. I caught three hogs and two trout between 15 and 16 inches. Just like the previous day, the average size was excellent. As I walked back to my car, I knew that this was likely my last outing of the year, as the forecast for the rest of the month calls for very cold weather. I hope that I will be able to get out at least one more time before the year is over, but I do not expect it.
It has been a good year for me in terms of catching big trout and I have had many enjoyable trips.