In the last couple of years I’ve seen my fishing go from a finesse style with light freshwater tackle to a much heavier aggressive style. I think that the Kayak Bass tournaments that I fish have been the major reason for that. In those tournaments you have all day to catch three bass and the three largest wins. Granted, there are tournaments where I wished I would have been fishing an 1/8oz Shakey Head with a finesse worm on 6lb test but overall the heavier stuff has yielded heavier fish. This philosophy has filtered over into my trout fishing too. Instead of my old 5 ½ or 6’ ultralight set up I now use a bit heavier gear because the rivers I fish I know there are some double digit fish and I’m talking pounds not inches.
The tackle I use is a medium action rod with a 3000 series spinning reel spooled with 15# braid. I’ll run a rod and a half's length of 8-10# fluorocarbon. This is also the same setup I use for sea trout and redfish except I will opt for a 20# fluoro leader. The rod length is very important in this setup because I’m in a kayak. A 7’ or longer rod allows me to fight a fish with a bent rod from my right to my left without the bow of my Jackson Big Rig interfering with the line. The idea when fighting a fish from a kayak is to keep the battle directly in front of you. There are several reasons for this but safety is the key reason. When a fish gets away from the bow and you end up fighting on the port or starboard side you risk capsizing due to the fish pulling you over or your boat striking submerged objects. I also have more control over the fish when it’s off of my bow because I have more options with rod angles thus putting more torque against the fish if it decides to head off to one side or the other, allowing me to turn the boat with “fish power” .
The reel I use is a quality spinning reel that’s light weight and won’t wear me out from casting all day. Every major reel company offers a 3000 size reel like this. My line choice is based on the amount of line I can load into the spool, in this case, I can load almost 300 yds of 15# braid onto a Shimano Stradic 3000 reel. The braid also casts much further and is a lot more sensitive. My leader length is based on water clarity and I rarely use less than a 7’ leader but in ultra clear water I may use 15’ of fluoro just to be safe.
Thursday, I’m going down one of my favorite tailrace rivers fishing for trout. My lure choices for trout have also changed in the past few years, when I was a kid I remember seeing a guy in Cherokee NC carrying a stringer of 18-20” trout and when I asked him what they had bit, he showed me a #7 Rapala countdown. That piece of information was eye opening and made perfect sense. The rivers I fish have two main forages, blueback herring and crawfish. My lure of choice is a Lucky Craft pointer 65sp in a blueback pattern. I’d throw a bigger one but they run a bit too deep for that particular river causing a lot of hangups. Throwing the bigger lures generally won’t catch numbers of fish like an inline spinner or a chunk of power bait but a couple of years ago my buddy and I had a 21 fish day using this same plug and every fish measured 18” to 22”.
Fishing this river with a kayak requires some decent paddling skills and the ability to read fishy water and determine the easiest most efficient way to fish it. Trout are finicky so you have to be stealthy. I spend a lot of my time hugging the banks in water just deep enough to float my kayak and making long casts to deeper water. I mentioned that this is a tailrace river that I am fishing which means that I’m normally racing against the dam generation schedule. (Whatever tailrace river you’re fishing the generation schedule is usually posted on line and it is imperative that you know this information.) Don’t get roped into picking apart every single fishy looking spot, you’ll be on the water longer than you had planned and risk getting to ride the generation flow back to your take out...I like to hit the high spots, casting while drifting and fish the pools hard. In most tailrace trout fisheries you can wade a 1 mile section of river paying attention to every detail and catch the amount of fish that I do on a 7 mile float but the float usually gives an angler access to a lot more big fish water and it’s definitely a lot more fun.
Here are a few things outside of tackle that I always have on a tailrace river…
• Always wear your pfd. Always!
• You’ll need a net. Trust me, if Jesus had been a trout fisherman...he would've had a landing net.
• Use a paddle leash.
• Carry a change of clothes, water and food.
• Dress for the season… layers, waterproof clothing etc.
• fire starting kit.
Now it’s time go catch a trout that will drop everybody’s jaw. Use your common sense, check your generation schedule and know your state laws. Most of all, have fun! Peace