1. Lose Your Seat
A light trout rod with a Tennessee-style cork handle—which has no fixed reel seat—will improve sensitivity and take a bit of bulk out of your stick. Bass Pro’s Microlite ($50) is a great choice. When you attach the reel, anchor the foot first with 3⁄4-inch masking tape. Next, cover that tape with electrical tape. The masking-tape base will prevent cork damage.
2. Reel Small
To keep overall weight low, you want a compact reel that will balance with the rod. Such a setup will increase accuracy and control when casting tiny lures. Look for reels classed for 1- to 4-pound-test, such as Shimano’s Sedona 500FD ($60). It doesn’t cost more than a dinner for two on a Friday night, and it will handle years of big-trout punishment.
3. Use Fine Line
Trout are notoriously line-shy. A big mistake anglers make is using line that’s too heavy. This is an especially bad idea in clear streams. Use no more than 4-pound-test on a microlight outfit; you’d be wise to opt for fluorocarbon-coated monofilament. I like P-Line’s Fluoroclear ($10), as it provides the easy castability of mono with the low visibility of fluorocarbon.
Make it Natural
Trout can be finicky and spooky. To up your catch rates, eliminate any elements from your presentation that might make your offering look less than natural. Don’t be the lazy guy with the snap-swivel. Take the time to tie directly to your lure whenever you make a change. A shiny swivel’s added visibility can turn off a picky trout, and even the smallest snaps can affect the action of a tiny lure, especially in fast current.
If you’re using worms, dough baits, or shiners and need additional weight, opt for split shot instead of a barrel swivel and an egg sinker. Also, use the smallest shot possible that gets the bait down to the fish. The lighter lead reduces the sound of the weight knocking off rocks, keeps you from getting hung up on the bottom, and helps you detect strikes much faster.