Spinning for Trout

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Angling for Trout can take many forms but one of the easiest and most involving methods is to spin for Trout. Spinning or spin fishing is really not a lot different to fishing with other types of lures except that spinning lures don’t try to physically replicate the appearance bait fish or other aquatic prey rather they rely on vibration and flash to attract fish.

So what is a spinner? Basically a spinner is a revolving blade lure that consist of a wire shaft with a weighted body of some sort and a saddle that holds a blade that rotates or spins around the body of the lure as it is retrieved through the water. The hook on the tail of the spinner can consist of a single hook, double hook or a treble and these can be either dressed or just plain (see pic below).

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When it comes to spinner blades there are basically two styles or shapes, Willow leaf (self explanatory) and Colorado, a more rounded, wider almost tear drop style blade. Of course there are variations on the theme but generally all revolve around these two basic shapes. Blades are usually metal and generally gold, copper or silver in colour to maximise the amount of flash produced when the sunlight hits them. Many spinners however employ a partially painted or completely coloured blade usually to complement a similar body colour or skirt colour. Below is an example of both a Willow and Colorado style blade, both in gold colour. The size difference in these blades is due to them being employed on a spinner bait rather than a traditional spinner however the basic shapes are fairly consistent with those found on traditional spinners albeit the Colorado style blades are usually more elongated on traditional spinners.

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The mechanics of using a spinning lure are a little different than that of a more traditional hard bodied lure. When fishing with a spinning lure you have to keep in mind that motion is what produces the spinning and therefore the vibration and flash. Whereas with a hard body lure you can use a stop start retrieve or even twitch them on the spot to provide extra enticement.  Remember if you stop retrieving a spinner it will fall lifelessly to the bottom of the stream bed and loose its attraction and that means the fish will loose interest too.

So how do you use a spinner effectively? Well in the case of fishing for Trout (and its not a lot different for other species) the key is to assess the water to be fished before you cast, work out where the fish is likely to be holding, how deep the water is, how fast it’s moving and then present the lure in such a way so as to not spook the fish.

Now all this may sound a bit complicated and a bit too involved, I mean after all your on the water, all you really want to do is cast the lure right? Well trust me a small amount of effort at this stage will dramatically increase your chances of success, particularly when fishing for timid, easily spooked Trout.

Reading water isn’t as hard as it might sound as most steams possess the same basic elements and as such parallels can be drawn between all of them. Put simply, in any pool on any regular freshwater stream there will be fast water making up the head of the pool, an area of turbulent water running through the pool and slower water at the sides and at the tail of the pool just before the next little rapid starts (see photo below). So what you say! Well it’s these basic elements that will enable you to fairly accurately predict where a fish (Trout in this case) is likely to be holding. The thing to remember here is that Trout need to eat to survive and in the process of eating they will expend energy, not really a problem unless the energy expended out weights the energy gained from the food eaten.

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So what’s your point I hear! Simple, Trout, especially big ones, want to expend the least amount of energy possible when feeding; therefore you’re unlikely to find them in an area where they have to swim hard to maintain their position.

Now what does a Trout look for in terms of a good feeding spot? I reckon it’s a combination of good food supply, an easy holding position out of the main current, reasonable cover (structure) and an avenue of escape should things get ugly. In my experience whenever I’ve found a pool with all these attributes, I’ve invariably found a fish. I guess fish aren’t a whole lot different from us when it comes to the basics like food, shelter, comfort and safety. Keep that in mind when reading water and your halfway there.

Now just because you’ve found the fish doesn’t mean you’ll catch it, remember big Trout don’t get big by being silly! This brings me to how to approach the pool, pick the best spot to cast from and how to present the spinner.

Now you’ve probably seen trout anglers or pictures thereof, crouching low or even crawling up on a likely pool of water and I reckon you probably think they’re their a few roos short in the top paddock or at the very least frustrated weekend warriors. The fact is though, they are respecting the fact that trout are extremely wary and generally very easily spooked, and once you’ve spooked a fish its pretty much game over for that pool.

So the basic rule of thumb is to keep as low as possible, move slowly and approach the pool or the fish if you’ve spotted one, from behind wherever you can. If you can’t approach from behind the fish then use what ever available bank side cover there is and consider rudimentary camouflage. No need to go overboard here, there’s no need for any Rambo look a likes. Things like drab coloured clothes of neutral/natural tones are best, something that helps you blend in with the background and try not to have anything visible that is shiny or reflective as this may cause a flash of light which could also spook the fish.

So having followed these few simple steps up to now you should hopefully be in position with a good idea of where the fish is if you can’t already see it and be ready to make that first cast.

Now when it comes to casting a spinner for Trout remember that the spinner will take a couple of turns on the retrieve handle to start to work properly. You will therefore need to cast ahead of your intended target to make sure the lure is working properly when it’s in the strike zone. I always like to cast up and slightly across stream when targeting Trout as this allows the spinner to travel more naturally downstream with the current flow and covers the productive water either side of the primary current or feeding lane. I also try to only retrieve the spinner as fast as is necessary to make it work (spin), by doing this you will have the spinner moving at a more natural speed and that means longer in the strike zone.

If the pool is very long or very wide simply divide it into workable chunks and steadily work your way upstream covering all the likely lies as you go. The only thing to remember here is to move slowly and always expect a fish to appear out of nowhere. As anyone who stream fishes for Trout knows, these fish are the masters of camouflage and can often only be seen when they move or by shadows cast by their tails as they gently sway in the current.

If everything goes to plan the first cast could also be the last and all that’s needed to catch and land the fish, but hey, this is fishing and let’s face it things rarely go strictly to plan. So remember to systematically work those pools and cover all the likely water. If after this you still haven’t managed to fool a fish then move onto the next pool and try again.

You see one of the best things about river fishing is that you never know what’s around the next bend or in the next pool. Even if you know the river well and fish it regularly, rivers by their very nature are always changing; this is one of their most endearing features and one that keeps bringing me back time and again.

So if you’ve never tried spin fishing before or tried and had limited or no success, give my methods a go, you might learn something new and you might even catch more fish. If nothing else you’ll spend more time out enjoying a bit of nature and the great outdoors and that can’t be a bad thing.

Written by Brendan Keogh 2009