When fishing for stockies, it may not pay to be ambitious

by | May 2, 2018 | 4 comments

Western Pennsylvania, June, 2002. On a Wednesday morning, Brandon and I ditched a three-hour summer college course called “Oceans and Atmospheres” in favor of a more inspiring classroom.

Weather was perfect, cool and cloudy with that late-spring feeling of freedom — a tangible impression engrained from years of anticipating summer vacation as a child. And it was too much temptation to resist. Brandon and I drove twenty miles north, into the hills, knowing that a local freestoner had received a second stocking of trout just a few days before.

Brandon barely cut the engine before I jumped out of the truck and into my waders, stringing up lines and laces in no time at all.

“I’m gonna head upstream past the second flat, into that woodsy section away from the road. When I pick off a few fish up there, I might circle back around to the lower end,” I said to Brandon.

“K. Those are big plans.” he replied flatly.

I waded quickly across a side channel and pushed my way through new-green underbrush.

Walking hurriedly, with planned purpose and high hopes, I turned back to see Brandon casually walking down the dirt bank, into what we called the Road Hole.

I ducked and dodged around a maze of low-hanging limbs and briars, looking all the while for anything like a deer trail but finding none. Within a few minutes, I realized I’d overdressed again. The effort to reach the roadless area surpassed any need for an extra layer of fleece. So I took the time to unravel from my vest, belt and waders. I removed the thick black shirt, stowed it away, and redressed.

Honestly, one less layer left me no cooler.

Two hours later, worn out and frustrated, I walked back to Brandon’s truck, much slower on my return downstream than was my hopeful and hurried journey upstream. I brought with me the tale of just one native brook trout, caught and released because it was too small to keep.

Brandon was still in the Road Hole.

“How’d you do?” I started to ask.

Brandon interrupted me with a tilted head and a high hand, open palm faced toward me and holding me off, demanding my silence and stillness.

I paused on the bank across from Brandon and stared while he finished the drift with his rod high. After another cast, he spoke.

“Caught my limit,” he said. And he motioned to the stringer on the bank.

“What the hell, man?” I protested.

Brandon spoke while staring at the water. “Dom, when fishing for stockies, sometimes it does not pay to be ambitious.”

In the next hour I fished directly across from my friend on the small creek. And I filled my own stringer with stocked rainbow trout.

We had a good fish fry that afternoon.

— — — — —

I’ve kept this gem with me. Brandon’s wisdom went against everything I’d grown into as a trout fisherman, because I’d been taught early on to walk in, spread out and find your own water, to explore and get off the muddy fisherman’s path.

But Brandon was right — sometimes it does not pay to be ambitious. Sometimes, fishing for stocked trout is just different. Maybe all the fish were dumped into the Road Hole because they didn’t have enough volunteers to float stock the creek this year. And even after the fish have had time to spread out, upstream and down, they may still group up in slower water. And freshly stocked fish may not respond to a “proper” dead drift presentation as much as something bright and swung against the current.

My Dad’s buddy ties and fishes an ace-in-the-hole pattern that he calls the Hardy’s Hand Grenade. It’s a grape-sized, fluorescent glow bug, and it kills on his favorite, stocked, Maryland streams.

Does stuff like that always work on stocked trout? Nope. But it’s worth the time to consider the trout. How freshly stocked are they? And what’s their life experience up to this point? Stocked trout can be pretty gullible for a while, so why not take advantage of that?

Fish hard, friends.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Fly vs Bait

Fly vs Bait

I know this is a minority opinion. The average angler assumes that bait will fool more trout than an artificial. Just yesterday, I came across the frequently repeated assertion that bait outperforms flies. I saw it in print and heard it in dialogue on a podcast. It was stated as fact, as though no one could possibly argue otherwise. But it’s wrong. It’s a common wisdom that isn’t very wise. And I think those who believe that bait has the edge over flies have probably spent very little threading live bait on a hook and dunking it in a river . . .

You Already Fished That

You Already Fished That

If you’re committed to working a section of river, then once you’ve done your job in one lane, trust what the trout tell you. Don’t re-fish it, and don’t let the next cast drift down into the same spot again either. Sure the water looks good, and that’s why you fished it in the first place. But you’ve already covered it. So let it go, and focus on the next target. Trust the next opportunity . . .

Canyon Caddis

Canyon Caddis

Some of these caddis were swamped by the current or damaged by their acrobatic and reckless tumbling. And the broken ones didn’t last long. Large slurps from underneath signaled the feeding of the biggest trout, keying in on the opportunity for an easy meal.

Smith and I shared a smile at the sheer number of good chances. Trout often ignore caddis, because the emerging insects spend very little time on the surface, and trout don’t like to chase too often. But with a blanket hatch like this, the odds stack up, and trout were taking notice . . .

Natural vs Attractive Presentations

Natural vs Attractive Presentations

. . . Let’s call it natural if the fly is doing something the trout are used to seeing. If the fly looks like what a trout watches day after day and hour after hour — if the fly is doing something expected — that’s a natural presentation.

By contrast, let’s call it attractive if the fly deviates from the expected norm. Like any other animal in the wild, trout know their environment. They understand what the aquatic insects and the baitfish around them are capable of. They know the habits of mayflies and midges, of caddis, stones, black nosed dace and sculpins. And just as an eagle realizes that a woodland rabbit will never fly, a trout knows that a sculpin cannot hover near the top of the water column with its nose into heavy current . . .

How To Be A More Accurate Fly Caster

How To Be A More Accurate Fly Caster

Only a small percentage of anglers have the necessary accuracy to tackle the tough situations. And big trout seem to know where to hide from average anglers.

In fact, accuracy is the most important skill an angler can learn. The simple ability to throw a fly in exactly the same place, over and over, with subtle, nuanced differences in the tippet each time, is the most valuable skill for any fisherman . . .

Trout Like To Line Up In Productive Seams

Trout Like To Line Up In Productive Seams

Trust the lanes. Trout choose them for a reason. And while it might not make sense to us why they pick one lane over the next, don’t argue with the fish. Wherever you fool a trout, expect to catch his friends in the very same lane. Follow that seam all the way to its beginnings, even if the character of that seam changes from deep to shallow or from slow to fast. Stay in the lane, and trust that more hungry trout are there, waiting to be fooled . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

4 Comments

  1. I used to fish the Sierra’s every summer with family. My dad came up one year which wasn’t the norm. I grew up being told by my uncles that the best fishing was far away from people. When the sun came up I was gone and away from camp as much as possible. I came back one afternoon and my dad said why don’t you fish the stream here next to the tent? I smiled and I’m sure gave a look like he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. He said “I’ll bet you $10 there are fish right here. I wondered how could there be? This wasn’t even the main stream it was a small tributary. I went over to the bank where a small bridge crossed the water made a few casts. On my third cast I looked over at my dad and was about to say “told you so” when my rod doubled over and I had a fish on. A couple casts and fish later it was my dad saying told you so and me eating crow. I always fished the closest water to me after that. Especially if it’s stocked water.

    Reply
    • Nice.

      Reply
  2. So, last Tuesday I got hall pass and went out fishing to the lower part of Muddy Creek, York county’s special regs section. Got there 11 am-ish, and was anxious to get on the creek. There was a pick up already parked and he was fishing a near-by usually productive venue and a guy (older than me) puled up and started getting his waders on. I decided to get a fast start and hike a mile up stream to avoid all contact and do my most productive winter spots. This is a rigorous jaunt and, therefore, see few casual folks up there. Fished hard in places where i knew there should have been(and probably were) fish and caught a little brownie, on, much to my last resort dismay, a squirmy worm, and had some close encounters with bigger fish on streamers. So, when it was time, I started down stream to my car and threw (somewhat casually- if not serendipitously- but probably more effectively due to the practice of the day, mind you) a #14 rainbow warrior and Michael Gardner wire ab prince nymph into new fully sun lit, but pretty significant green tea colored water flow places. Whammo! Caught 5 stocked rainbows on the way back in locations I’ve never caught fish. The flashy thing (Rainbow Warrior) seems to fit your old analysis.

    Reply
    • Right on, Tom.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest