Category: fishing lessons


What is it that pulls at us?

I think my soul knows, but my conscious mind only has hints of what it really is.

I say it’s the adrenaline of the moment, it’s the environment, it’s the ambiance or the camaraderie… but that isn’t what I SEE when I look at an image of the sport in action.

The image speaks to me on so many levels. It nearly brings tears to my eyes before I want to laugh at the joy I know is behind that unintentional and seemingly cocky fisherman’s smirk.

I know this man’s pride of showing the catch and the growing remorse, helpless to delay the fleeting unity, squeezing every drop of pleasure from this climactic moment, and the eye’s fading memory of the escaping creature returned to the waters is like the shadow of the sun through a closed eyelid.

In that funny hat is this fisherman’s indifference to fashion and preference for function.

In those sturdy stiffening fingers is resilience and measured tenderness.

I see shoulders that bore a life of trials bolstered by faith and rationed with conformity. A tough stubborn jaw that is resolute and held the foundations firm.

I realize the common thread in the images of fishing I enjoy isn’t the fish caught or the fisherman’s posture extending a prize before the envious, but rather it is the water. Its form and color. Its depth and breadth. It too has limitations, but never ceases to crash against the rocks that restrict its freedom. It holds treasures within and always calls to those that have a least one of the five scenes.

I fish because the water calls me and because I have been one with it, and will so again. I hope.

A human life, as beautiful as it is, must be lived isolated and with division from everything around it, in a constant effort to connect; to be one with something, anything, everything, and just be.. for a moment. To stay in that moment, until unity flees to the depths at its first opportunity.

For me and for many, Fishing is a path to the cipher of life’s mystery, giving us only pieces of the code each time we cast our lines to discover… what the waters hold.

After learning about the trout itself, you should learn about rivers. You’ll see that it’s easy to un derstand where you’ll find the fish if you understand the anatomy of a river. Luckily for us, it’s not that complicated. If the trout’s figured it out, hopefully you’ll be able to.

River currents tend to flow with a pattern that repeats itself over and over. Just remember: “riffle-run-pool” Source: Troutlet

Here’s a basic breakdown of each section and how it translates to trout fishing.

 

River Riffle

The riffles of rivers tend to be where water is shallow and the current is strong. In large rivers, this area would be the white-capping rapids. In all rivers, you might see banks of gravel or pebbles breaking the surface of the river throughout the riffle. For the most part, this area of the river will only contain small trout, because the water isn’t quite deep enough to ensure large fish cover.
 

River Run

The run of a river is deeper and slower than the riffle. If you’re looking for the area of the river that house the most adult trout, this is your best bet. It provides good cover and the current is a great moderate speed that allows the lazy trout access to a sufficient buffet. After all, the trout’s ideal habitat is one that provides him with adequate shelter and delivered food.
 

River Pool

River pools are the laziest part of the river. Here the water is deep and the current runs slow. Some trout, especially big Brown trout, may be found here, but the slow current doesn’t provide enough food for most.

Now that you understand the current and its effect on trout, perhaps you can be the one in your group that seems to have a nose for where the action is. Good luck!!

 

Rainbow in a run

 

I’ve previously written about Trout and True Trout. The last post of this “trilogy” is about Char. For clarity, it will help us to keep in mind that scientist categorize the living world first by family, then genus, by species, and so on.

Char or Charr (genus: Salvelinus), are made up of over 60 species. I could write for a year if we tried to discuss each one, but then again, there are very few differences that the average guy would really care about among many of these species. Since I’m not interested in preparing you or myself for a PhD, we’ll just take a look at the most common species that I (here I go again) assume you have heard of.

Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) is a freshwater char—also called togues or mackinaw trout —are the largest of all trout. The normal maximum is about 60 pounds (27 kg), but some individuals weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg). They are native only in the northern United States and Canada, but they have been introduced into cold lakes in Europe and South America (25% of all Lake trout are found in the province of Ontario, Canada). In the northern part of their range lake trout inhabit streams connected to lakes. Lake trout are gray, greenish-blue, or bronze, with pale spots on their bodies and fins. The female does not make a redd.

Trout Lake

In 2007, nearly 30 men and boys, all friends (same genus, most of them) and family (same species, although in some cases there may be reason to question if this is true) of mine, spent a week at Trout Lake in Canada. My godfather (yes, but he’s a good guy) was the master of catching Lake trout that week, but I must say I find Lake trout to be rather boring compared to other species of trout, let alone other fish. They’re generally down quite deep and you really just “still fish”, which isn’t the kind of “active” approach I like to take when fishing. My godfather was happy though, and as you probably know, if the Godfather isn’t happy, nobody is happy… 😉

By 1961, lake trout in the Great Lakes had been almost totally destroyed by the sea lamprey, which had entered the lakes after completion of the Welland Canal in 1829. Efforts to control the lamprey population met with some success, but trout are still killed in large numbers. Lake trout are regularly released from hatcheries into the lakes to replace those killed by lampreys.

Brook trout, native to the American coast from near the Arctic Circle to Georgia, have been introduced to suitable habitats in other parts of America and the Old World. These trout are olive-green or brown on the back, which is often marked with dark, wavy lines. The sides are mottled with pink or red spots surrounded by pale blue. At spawning time, the fins and bellies of males turn orange or red and the leading edge of each lower fin is white followed by black. Brook trout are also called speckled trout or squaretails. Sea-running varieties are often called salters. Brook trout weigh an average of 1 to 4 pounds (450 g to 1.8 kg), with record weights of about 14 pounds (6.4 kg).

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden: note the small head and snake-like body.

Dolly Vardens, and Bull trout, used to be considered the same species, but in 1980 were separated. Bull trout are a threatened species in America. They range from Japan to Alaska and south to northern California, but are native to North America. Sea-running varieties are silvery with dark, wavy markings on the back. In mountain streams Dolly Vardens are spotted with red. Large lake-dwellers are silvery with yellow spots. The average weight in streams is generally less than one pound (450 g), while lake-dwellers and sea-runners often weigh more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg). Dolly Vardens feed on spawn and small fish, rodents, frogs, and birds, and are regarded as destructive to other trout and salmon. Bull trout can be differentiated from brook trout (S. fontinalis) by the absence of distinct spots on the dorsal fin, as well as yellow, orange, or salmon-colored spots on the back as opposed to red spots with blue haloes on the brook trout.

Bull trout identification

Bull trout lack the deeply forked tail fin of lake trout. Bull trout have been recorded measuring up to 103 centimetres (41 in) in length and weighing 32 pounds (14.5 kg).

If you want to learn more about these varieties of trout, and even other sub-species, it may be helpful in your research to know that trout belong to the family Salmonidae. (Since there are lots of “experts” out there, it’s easy to get confused since although they claim to be experts, their opinions differ… go figure!)

True trout are of the genus Salmo. The rainbow trout is O. mykiss; steelhead are Salmo gairdneri; the cutthroat, S. clarki; the brown, S. trutta; the golden, S. aguabonita. Chars are of the genus Salvelinus. The lake trout is Salvelinus namaycush; the brook, S. fontinalis; the Dolly Varden, S. malma.

When I start thinking about my next fishing outing, like most fishermen, my thoughts focus on the enjoyment I have waiting for me; a chance to reconnect with nature, sooth my soul and take away memories to last me until my next outing. I think of myself as someone who does his best to preserve nature so that I can continue to enjoy the environment and so that my son, and generations to come, can do so also. I don’t litter and even will pick up bottles or garbage that I find and hope my fishing companions will notice and that it will be contagious. But I’m not one to impose my values on others. So if I see a fishing pal drop a wrapper carelessly, instead of saying “hey jackass friend, why not drop that in a wastebasket instead”, I’ll just subtly pick it up myself (hoping he/she will notice) and save it to toss later, or toss it directly if there’s a recipient nearby.

But even though I think I’ve got all the good behavior down (and maybe you do too), perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider how recreational fishing can have an impact on the environment, because in fact it’s not just commercial fishing that has a negative impact on the environment. Unfortunately, we good natured weekend warriors also make an impact and recreational “harvest” may make up as much as 12% of the global take.  source: Cooke & Cowx

 Ok, now you’re thinking, “Hey, I practice catch and release…” But it is not only those fish that you keep. Even the ones you toss back may end up as flotsam. Not to mention that negligent fishing practices and carelessness can also harm other wildlife and even destroy entire habitats. Here are some things that might be good to keep in mind, consider and even address actively and constantly improve your conservationism and minimize your negative impact on the environment and sport we all love. To approach this logically I’ve assembled five points, one for each finger (assuming you haven’t lost one to a nasty Pike, Muskie, Walleye, Golden Dorado, Pacú, etc. while trying to extract your “lucky fly”).

  1. Transport – Imagine putting your outboard in your bathtub before taking a bath. Right, they are nasty. So imagine what they do to the natural environment. Now jump in the tub with your outboard and crank her up… You may or may not whack a fish with your outboard propeller but it works like a moulinex on plants and anything else that are vital for fish survival (i.e. food and shelter).

    Moulinex

    Engines also make clear waters murky because of their pollution and contribution to erosion.Some alternatives I can think of are, electric motors, not using a motor at all, and at the very least, just being conscious of the potential damage you might do if you’re not as careful as you could be while operating a fishing boat.Giving up the motorized transport may introduce you to a whole new fishing experience.

    Two years ago, I decided to try fly fishing from a canoe I found by a path leading to a small lake behind the cabins we were staying in while fishing Trout Lake in Canada. I’d never tried to fly fish off a canoe before, and it wasn’t easy, but when I finally hooked a Pike, even though he wasn’t very big, he hauled me all over that little lake before I got him in the net. It is still the most vivid catch memory from that trip.

  2. Gear – Most of your gear goes in with you and comes back out, but there are some things that you leave behind which can have significant negative effect you may not be aware of. There are the obvious things, such as lures that get snagged and you end up loosing because of a broken line. Whenever possible, make every effort to retrieve them. You’ll have the lure to use again in the future, and you’ll ensure that no animals are injured when they come across your lure either by mistake or because they mistake it for real food. Fishing line is also a huge hazard. It doesn’t bio-degrade and can trap fish and fauna alike. Next time you have a big hairy knot-up (galleta as it’s known around here) dispose of it properly instead of just tossing it to the depths.Lead weights are another hazard.  They are toxic and left in the water they can also be mistaken for food. Believe it or not there are lures and weights that are now made of fish food and might actually improve the luck of some of you out there who I know can use all the luck they can get… 😉

  3. Trash – This one is simple to remember. Don’t be stupid. Don’t litter. ‘nuf said?
  4. Non-native – Non-native plants and species can devastate your newly discovered fishing paradise. You’ve all heard by now about Zebra Muscles, Asian Carp and Sea Lamprey among others, that are invading and significantly impacting your local fishing environments. In most cases this didn’t happen because some crazy guy introduced the non-native plant or creature on purpose. Usually these problems started because of carelessness. Be sure you boat, float, lures, bait bags, minnow buckets, etc. are all cleaned and free of plants and other animals before you go from one body of water to the next. It’s just the smart and correct thing to do. It will also ensure that your gear stays in the best shape possible and you enjoy your investment that much longer. Invading species can displace native ones by outcompeting them for resources, thus altering the species composition and balance of the ecosystem. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, non-native and invasive species cost the United States more than $100 billion dollars each year.Also, don’t dump your unused bait in the water when you are done fishing, and don’t use live bait if it is prohibited. Be a good sportsman and obey the rules. If you set a good example, other will follow.
  5. Handling – This is something that is becoming more and more popular and well know, and I’m happy for it. The length of time and how you handle your catch is key to fish survival.I hope most, if not all of you, are practicing catch and release, and only keep what you eat during a shore lunch or dinner. Taking “limits” back home to store in a freezer for me is just greedy. Go out and have a nice fish dinner in a restaurant when you get back home, and if you want fresh caught Pike or Trout, enjoy it when you’re on the water only.

    Keep only the small and medium sized fish and let the big ones that reproduce do their duty.  Use barbless hooks to minimize damage, hold the fish as little as possible, avoid touching their gills and removing protective slime. Reel them in, take a quick picture and return them to the water quickly (to avoid exhausting them). If you hook a fish deeply, don’t risk unnecessary harm by trying to get it out — simply clip the line and let the fish go.

Give and Take-care

Like I said before, I’m not one to impose, but I hope by now you are considering some ways that you can be a more environmentally friendly fisherman. Nobody is perfect, but by setting an example whenever we can, we’ll ensure that there are many more productive and enjoyable fishing outings in our future and for those who follow on behind us.

Sources: Cooke, Steven J. and Ian G. Cowx. “The Role of Recreational Fishing in Global Fish Crises.” BioScience. September 2004. Vol. 54, No. 9.

A while ago, I started a review of what I know about Trout, but since there are so many species (over 60) I’ll keep this focused on the basics and True Trout today and later we’ll review some species of Char. Here are some that you already know about, and maybe one or two you didn’t.

Future Monster

Rainbow trout are among the most popular game fish. Their natural range is from Alaska to Argentina, but they have been widely introduced in other localities. They are olive to greenish-blue above and silvery below with a prominent red or pink stripe along the side. Stream-dwellers have dark spots on the body, dorsal fins, and tail. Lake-dwellers usually have weak spots or none. Rainbow trout have been recorded weighing up to 50 pounds (22.5 kg)… although I don’t know anyone who’s caught a monster like that, but apparently it is true.

Steelhead

Steelheads are actually sea-running rainbow trout. They go out to sea when they are about a year old, returning upstream to spawn two to five years later. Steelheads have been monitored traveling 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Adak in the Aleutian Islands to the Columbia River in Washington. While at sea they are colored like the lake-dwelling rainbows (sort of a opaque silvery color), but near spawning time they resemble stream-dwellers. They can weigh up to 35 pounds (16 kg). Now, this is the weird part because, here in Argentina, the Steelheads are usually much larger than the Rainbows. In fact, I would invert the weight estimates between Rainbow and Steelhead here.

Cutthroat

Cutthroat trout get their name from a bright red streak on the throat. They are found in coastal streams from Alaska to northern California and in inland waters of the western United States and Canada. I’ve never heard of them here, but I’m checking with some guides I know in various provinces to be sure. Cutthroats in high mountain streams are often called spotted trout. Sea-running cutthroats enter the ocean when a year old and remain there a year or two before returning to coastal streams to spawn. Cutthroats average around 5 pounds (2.25 kg), but some attain a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg).

Big Brown

Brown trout are native to Europe from Iceland to the Mediterranean Sea, but have been successfully transplanted to other parts of the world. They are golden to greenish brown with darker brown or black spots on the sides, back, and dorsal fins. There is also a sprinkling of red or orange spots, with pale borders, on the upper sides. While fishing the Chimehuin River in the Province of Neuquén two years ago, we actually caught Browns there were both dark brown with orange spots and silvery browns, depending on how many days they had been coming into the river from Lake Huechulafquen (try not to choke on that name, although it might clear up some congestion trying). Apparently, the change in color has to do with the hormones that accompany breeding activity.

Brown just in from the lake. Note the difference in color.

Brown trout are difficult to catch because they are much more aggressive fighters and use the river current to their advantage. Some individuals grow to a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg), but the average brown trout caught in the United States weighs 4 to 7 pounds (1.8 to 3.2 kg), while I believe that the average Brown in Argentina is probably 20% larger.

Golden trout are beautifully colored fish found in mountain streams and lakes in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Again, I’m pretty certain there are no Golden trout in Argentina (although there are Golden Dorado… but that’s another story.) Golden trout, as you may have guessed are pure black… just kidding, actually they are gold in color with a pinkish stripe along the side and a golden or reddish-orange belly.

Golden Trout: Note the red and spots

The dorsal fin, tail, and upper part of the body have dark spots. Golden trout average one pound (450 g) or less, but some attain a weight of about 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

The nice thing about fishing for trout here in Argentina, is that you can’t always be sure what you’ll get. Many species share the same habitat, and compete in the same waters for survival. Depending on when each species is actively spawning or feeding, and depending on whether you are in the right place at the right time, you may catch several different trout in a single outing.

While taking a break from a 4×4 excursion through Mendoza’s Valle Hermoso, in 20 minutes I could three different varieties of trout. In fact, I’m sort of doubtful about one of them. I think it may have been a land-locked salmon, since it was so different from the other two. It was the first I caught that day, and I didn’t have my camera ready, but you can see from these pictures, that the second two trout were definitely different species. Now can you tell which is which?

It’s always good to remember that although we all think we pretty much “know it all”, especially as we get older, it doesn’t hurt to do a little review of that which we assumed we had mastered. Remember what happens when we assume? We make and ass out of u and me.

I hope you enjoy this short review of the Trout species.

Trout, a popular game fish valued for its flavor and fighting spirit. It is native to the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but has been introduced in many other parts of the world. Some trout inhabit fresh water only, but others spend part of their lives in the sea. Most trout are brilliantly colored and are marked with contrasting stripes and spots. A mature trout may weigh from one-half of a pound (225 g) to more than 100 pounds (45 kg), according to its species and habitat. Trout belong to the same family as salmon. They are divided into two groups: (1) true trout, which are of the same genus as the Atlantic salmon, and (2) chars. Like salmon, all sea-running trout and some that remain in fresh water swim upstream to spawn, returning to the place where they were themselves spawned. Spawning time varies from fall to early summer, depending on the species.

Rainbow Trout

Most kinds of trout lay their eggs in shallow nests, called redds, which the females scrape out of gravelly steam or lake bottoms. Like other fish, trout spawn from less than 100 to several thousand eggs at a time. The eggs are fertilized by the male as they are deposited, and the female then covers them with gravel. The eggs hatch in 3 to 10 weeks.

Trout feed on insects, crustaceans, mollusks, spawn, and smaller fish. Adults of the large species often eat small birds and mammals. Trout are caught by trolling, baitcasting, spinning, or flycasting, depending on the kind of trout and their habitat. Over-fishing, the introduction of competing species, and the pollution and diversion of waters have decreased the number of trout in the United States. Many trout are hatched and raised in hatcheries.

%d bloggers like this: