By late August and September, the diverse geography of American trout fishing finally evens out as similar conditions prevail nationwide. Rivers from North Carolina to Michigan to northern California are usually at their lowest and clearest flows, and cooling weather brings increasing trout activity. For ultralight-spinning aficionados, these seasonal circumstances are ideal.
Midget lures or small natural baits fished on superfine 2- or 4-pound-test monofilament line will let you sneak up on fish that those with heavier spinning gear-and even fly casters-either spook or can’t reach. Here are 10 ultralight tackle tips to boost your September score.
(1) Match line to lure. Two-pound-test allows the longest casts with the smallest lures and can also produce the most hits from fussy fish. It works great with midget plugs and jigs, but some spoons and most in-line spinners will twist that ultrafine line. For fishing spinners, especially, use 4-pound-test instead.
(2) Test your strength. Most people are too timid about pulling hard with ultralight gear against a hooked fish. Hook a lure to a car bumper, back away about 30 feet, and start working the rod and reel as if fighting a fish. Experiment with more and more pressure. You’ll be amazed at how much you can apply.
(3) Match rod to water. Ultralight spinning rods generally range from 41/2 to 61/2 feet. Use longer ones on bigger water where the extra length helps control the drift of both lures and bait. Shorter rods excel on small streams and brushy creeks, where casting room is limited.
(4) Feather your cast. Use the index finger of your rod hand to gently touch the reel-spool edge near the end of a cast. This slows the lure and makes it land more softly. It’s also the best way to stop an off-target toss.
(5) Avoid hangups. In the long, shallow pools of September streams, your lures may be snagging bottom at the end of a cast before you even start to retrieve. Sweep the rod upward and close the bail just before the lure touches down. Then it will be moving toward you instead of sinking as it lands.
(6) Be sneaky. When fishing low, clear pools on smaller rivers, crouch well back from the tail of the pool to avoid spooking fish. Cast a 1/16-ounce spinner far up into the pool. In the last moments of the retrieve, use a quick rod-tip flip to lift it over the intervening dry rocks.
**(7) Drift a hopper. **Grasshoppers and crickets are abundant in early September. Catch one streamside, impale it on a small hook without added weight, and allow it to float free in the current by feeding slack line from your reel.
(8) Toss a bugger. Woolly Buggers are a favorite streamer among flyfishermen, who often put a split shot at the fly’s head and impart a jigging action. Either tie some Buggers on small jigheads or buy a few of the regular streamers. Attach a small split shot to your line right above the knot, and fish this rig in deeper runs and chutes, jigging gently as the fly drifts.
(9) Finesse a worm. Heavy snelled hooks and big nightcrawlers will scare trout in low, clear water. Instead, use size 8 to 12 hooks and a single small garden worm, with only enough added split shot for a reasonable cast.
(10) Cast a bubble. Small spinning bubbles and trout flies are an often overlooked combination. Rig a Hare’s Ear Nymph 3 feet below a small casting bubble, or-if the trout are rising-use a small dry fly. You’ll be able to cast this rig quite far and then be able to drift it without drag in the slow currents of a big pool. Your ultralight line is more than fine enough as a leader, being equivalent to the 6X or 7X tippets that flyfishermen like to brag about using. Ultralight-spinning guys, of course, fish that fine all the time.