Field & Stream Online Editors

Worm fishing for trout is a time-honored tactic, especially in the cold waters of early season when trout are deep. For best success, however, pay attention to how you rig your worm. Fishing in high, roily water; in low, clear streams; and in trout ponds and lakes each requires a different approach.

High-Water Rivers
When trout rivers churn with early-season runoff, a large (4- to 6-inch) nightcrawler hooked once through the collar is the classic approach. Use a No. 6 or 8 Eagle Claw Baitholder or similar hook with a barbed shank to better retain the worm. This hooking method leaves both worm ends free to wiggle in the current, as split shot a foot or so above the hook allow the worm to roll slowly along the bottom of deeper runs and chutes. Common snelled hooks — the kind with heavy pre-tied leaders that are ubiquitous in paper packs of six — will work okay, but a single hook tied directly to your 6- or 8-pound-test monofilament line will work better. Larger brown trout respond especially well to this method, as they grab and gulp the whole worm rather than just nibble at the free ends.

Low, Clear Streams
When conditions are opposite from the above, you’ll often find that a small piece of garden worm or nightcrawler will interest more trout than will a bigger gob of meat. Use your thumbnail to pinch off a section of worm just large enough to entirely cover your hook. Here again, heavy snells will discourage some picky trout, so tie a No. 8 to 12 hook directly to your fine monofilament. A small, fresh worm fragment still exudes plenty of trout-attracting scent, but the key word here is fresh. As your bait becomes water-washed and pale-looking — which usually occurs after 15 or 20 minutes of fishing — replace it with a fresh worm fragment. Because your worm section is hardly longer than the hook itself, you can set the hook immediately upon feeling a tap or tug. You’ll gut-hook fewer trout this way and can more easily release unharmed those fish you don’t want to keep.

Ponds and Lakes
Many anglers fish for freshly stocked trout in ponds on opening day, and worms can be especially effective. In this case, however, change your rigging so the hook passes through a small garden worm at least twice. This bunches the worm on the hook and leaves only very short ends free to wiggle. Also make sure the worm completely covers the hook, leaving no portion exposed. That’s because your worm will be sitting still in a pond, giving trout a better look than in moving water. Additionally, the bunched worm prevents a trout from merely grabbing and snapping off a free end while escaping the hook, as often happens when the worm is suspended beneath a bobber.