Late winter is a great time to check over your gear for the approaching spring trout season. Whether you fly fish or use conventional tackle - a simple rundown of the basics will get you off to a great start. Trout tackle essentials include rods, reels, terminal tackle, lures, flies, bait and wading gear.
It’s really important to check your fishing rod’s guides, ferrules and reel seat. Grab each guide and make sure they are secure. Inspect the thread wraps and epoxy for damage. A guide that breaks while you have a fish on can cause the line to break, ending with the loss of a fish. The rod ferrules on multi-piece fishing rods are what give the rod the overall strength, similar to that of a one-piece rod. Again, inspect the epoxy and wraps on these areas for damage. The rod’s reel seat should clamp down on the reel’s foot tightly and should have a solid connection inside to the rod blank.
If you find damage, it may be time for a new spinning rod. Some favorites include St. Croix Trout Series and Premier Rods, G. Loomis Trout Series and GL2 Trout Jig Series Rods, Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner and Eagle GT Rods, Okuma Celilo and SST Rods, Daiwa Presso Ultralight and Spinmatic Ultralight Rods and Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 and Ugly Stik Lite Rods.
Favorite fly rods for trout include St. Croix Imperial and Avid Rods, G.Loomis NRX and Streamdance GLX Rods, Okuma SLV and Crisium Rods, TFO Professional Series and Signature Series Rods, Redington Voyant and Crosswater Rods and Sage Approach and Response Rods.
I always stress the importance of keeping reels clean and lubricated. A reel can easily pick up dirt from your hands, the ground and water and line can bring in dirt every time you reel in. Modern spinning and fly reels are precision made with high tolerances and complex parts and should be cleaned and lubed every season for the best performance. Many of you can strip a reel down, clean and lube it and reassemble it, but if you’re unsure it’s always best to check with the manufacturer for maintenance details.
If it’s time to retire your old spinning reel consider reels such as Okuma Avenger and Safina Pro Reels, Pflueger President and Trion Reels, Shimano Sienna and Sedona Reels, Daiwa Crossfire 3Bi and Laguna 5Bi Reels, Mitchell 300 Pro and Avocet IV Gold Reels, Quantum Xtralite XTR and Fire Reels and Abu Garcia Orra S and Cardinal STX Reels.
Favorite fly reels include Okuma Sierra and SLV Reels, Pflueger Trion and President Reels, Waterworks Lamson Guru and Konic II Reels, Redington Drift and Crosswater Reels, Scientific Anglers Concept and System Reels, Sage Click and 4200 Series Reels and Echo Solo and Ion Reels.
Terminal tackle includes items like line and leaders, sinkers and floats and hooks. Terminal tackle is often overlooked but is a critical part of success on the water for trout.
Line - The first step is to check out the condition of your line. On spinning reels for trout, monofilament in 2, 4 and 6 pound test are the most popular. Because of the small diameter of these lines and the often rough environments they are used in it’s a good bet you need to respool your reel. Some people will replace line each season, others every two or three years. As long as your tackle was stored out of direct sunlight (Sunlight’s UV Rays can breakdown some mono lines) your line should be ok.
When it’s time for new mono try one of these favored monofilament lines for trout including Berkley Trilene XL in Clear and Low-Vis Green, Maxima Ultragreen, DAM Tectan Superior, Stren Original, Seaguar Senshi and Sunline Super Natural.
Check fly lines for cracks in the finish and look for dirt or build up. It’s a good idea to clean your fly line at least once a year (more often if you fish a lot). A variety of cleaners are available today to keep lines in top condition, free of dirt, floating high and shooting easily through the rod guides.
Fly lines are designed for years of use, but if you need a new line try standards such as Cortland 444 Classic and 444 SL, Scientific Anglers Supra and Mastery GPX and RIO Grand. Specialized trout specific lines include Cortland Precision Platinum Dyna-Tip and Precision Trout Boss, RIO Avid Trout and Trout LT, Scientific Anglers Mastery VPT and Mastery Trout.
Leader - Leaders, specifically short fluorocarbon, are often used by anglers using spinning gear. Try standard Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon or Maxima Fluorocarbon to minimize line presence in clear waters around weary trout. Mono and Fluoro tapered leaders are both used by fly anglers. Popular leaders and tippet include Climax 98 and Climax Fluorocarbon, RIO Fluoroflex and Powerflex and Maxima Knotless Tapered Leaders.
Sinkers - Sinkers are used by spinning and fly anglers alike to get offerings down to the exact level in the water column trout inhabit. Most often this means the use of split shot. Favorite lead split shot includes Water Gremlin Removable Split Shot, Sure Shot Lead Split Shot and Blackbird Split Shot. Some states have banned the use of lead so shot like Water Gremlin "Green Gremlin" Removable Tin Split Shot and Dinsmores Split Shot are used. Tungsten putty is also a great alternative to lead. This includes Loon Deep Soft Weight, Angler’s Image Tung-Fu Moldable Tungsten Putty and Brass Head Soft Weight.
Floats – Floats and Indicators are popular for use while trout fishing. They keep your bait or fly drifting through the feeding lane and prevent hang-ups. They also broadcast bites during the drift. Small foam floats such as Leland’s Lures E-Z Trout Floats, Weldon Slotted Foam Bobbers, Thill Ice ‘n Fly and our Foam Strike Indicators work with fly and spinning tackle. For spinning alone popular floats include Drennan Loafer and Zepplers, Thill Shy Bite and Mini Shy Bites and Sheffield Floats. Also, great fly fishing indicators include the popular Thingamabobbers, Palsa Pinch-Ons, Yarn Indicators, Float Masters and O-Ring Foam Indicators.
Hooks – Hooks come in a wide range of sizes, styles and colors that enable the angler to match the hook to specific fishing styles and fish species. Most hooks used for trout fishing are small in size and very sharp. Make sure to check your hooks for rust or corrosion that can degrade their strength. Also check to make sure they are as sharp as possible. Most common styles for trout bait fishing are the Bait Holder and Salmon Egg hooks. Popular fly fishing hooks for trout are Dry, Nymph and Streamer styles. Check out the great selection of Conventional and Fly Tying hooks FishUSA.com has to offer.
Lures – Trout are some of the most visual species of fish on the planet. Their vision is highly developed and sensitive to color, light and movement. Think about it, a trout in a swift current has just a fraction of a second to process what a possible meal is then strike it. That is why lures for trout come in so many colors, shapes and sizes.
The most popular lures for trout include Spinners, Spoons and small Stickbaits and Crankbaits. Make sure to check your lures before the season begins. Look for rusty or dull hooks that may need replacement and bent or damaged spinner blades. Also check to make sure those small stick- and crankbaits run straight. And don’t forget about all those lures that now call low hanging tree branches home, they need to be replaced.
Popular trout spinners include Mepps Aglia, Worden’s Rooster Tail, Panther Martin Regular Series, Blue Fox Vibrax, Thomas E.P., Joe’s Flies and C.P. Swing spinners.
Small castings spoons work great for trout as well. Try Acme Kastmasters or Little Cleo’s, Luhr Jensen Krocodiles, Super Dupers and Hus-Lures, Eppinger Dardevles, Thomas Buoyants, Little Tiger and Colorados, Mepps Syclops spoons.
Small stickbaits and crankbaits such as Matzuo Nano Minnows and Nano Cranks, Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnows, Rebel Teeny Wee and Wee Crawfish, Rapala Ultra Light Minnows, Ultra Light Shad, Ultra Light Cranks, Original Floaters and Countdown Minnows are all tackle box staples for trout anglers.
Flies – Thousands of fly patterns have been designed over the years in pursuit of trout. Flies for trout are generally tied in Dry (Floating), Nymph/ Wet and Streamer styles. Dry flies, designed to float on the water’s surface, generally are mimicking small insects that land in the surface film. Nymph and Wet Flies mimic small insects throughout the water column. Streamers mimic creatures like baitfish and crayfish.
Generally, the flies you use for trout will depend on the forage available to the trout in your area. Forage varies widely from stream to stream and watershed to watershed. For the best pattern’s to use where you fish do some detective work. Look at the insects and baitfish and choose flies that match them in size, shape and color. Ask fellow anglers for advice or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for help. We have a great selection of flies and fly tying materials to help you get stocked up for spring.
Bait – The use of bait is also a very effective way to catch trout. Red Worms, Nightcrawlers , Grubs, Salmon Eggs and Minnows are all the most popular natural baits for trout. Dough Baits are popular too, and easier for some to handle, over natural baits. Plastic trout sized baits come in a wide range of styles, colors and scents to mimic natural baits. Plastics are easy to store and handle and can be rigged easily on jigs and hooks.
Natural salmon eggs from Atlas and Pautzke are top names and are available in many realistic and vivid colors and scents. Artificial salmon eggs, such as Berkley PowerBait Magnum Power Eggs, Gulp! Salmon Eggs and Gulp! Alive! Salmon Eggs, Atlas Plastic Eggs and Mr. Twister Exude Roe all work similar to natural eggs.
Dough Baits include Berkley PowerBait Floating, Turbo Dough, Twist, Natural Scent Glitter and Extra Scent Glitter Chroma-Glow Dough, Berkley Gulp! Dough and Pautzke Fire Bait.
Plastics such Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worms, PowerBait Honey Worms, PowerBait Wigglers, PowerBait Power Nymphs, Gulp! Alive! Pinched Crawlers, Leland’s Lures Trout Magnets and small Mr. Twister Curly Tail Grubs are all great alternatives to live baits.
A great product to use with live bait and plastics for trout are Worden's Lil Corky Floats. The smaller sizes can be used in between the hook or jig and split shot to float live baits or plastics just off the stream bed and the vibrant finishes add attraction.
Our Wading Gear probably takes the most abuse of all the fishing tackle we own. That’s why it’s essential to check waders and boots for leaks and wear each season. Whether you wear basic rubber hip boots or top-of-the-line chest waders and boots, taking a little care of our wading gear will mean the difference between a great fishing trip and a miserable one.
Be sure to look over all seams and areas that wear the most. Rubber waders break down over time and are affected by temperature change and age. Breathable waders have a habit of forming pin holes and “mystery” leaks on seams.
If it’s time to retire your old waders or boots check out the wide variety at FishUSA.com. We carry wading gear for all budgets. Choose from trusted brands such as Pro Line, Frogg Toggs, Redington, Chota, Korkers and Simms for your wading gear needs.
I know this checklist really just scratches the surface when it comes to the possible items we can take with us to our favorite trout waters, and it was meant to only cover the basics. The amount of tackle products available to us now and the new products coming out each season can be overwhelming. Simplifying our tackle into categories makes it easier to be sure we have everything we need for this spring trout season.
Good Luck and Tight Lines.