Stokes: Trout active right now, but not easy to land

rodcrafter@islc.netJanuary 12, 2014 

Florida Daily Life

Fishermen and pier walkers are silhouetted by the sun featuring a circular halo, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013 at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek)

NICK TOMECEK — File -- The Associated Press

Over the past few days the weather couldn't be considered choice, but it was a vast improvement over the rain, wind and cold we've been experiencing for the past several weeks.

While things may have gotten off to a slow start, a lot of good folks jumped at the chance to go fishing and most found the fish they were after. Despite fluctuations in weather, anglers on the water were finding their expectations being met and at times surpassed.

I have plans to get in on the action that has gained so much interest recently among area anglers, as soon as my therapist gives me the go-ahead. I'm referring of course to the number of trout that have become active due to the most recent cold spell.

Trout are most active just before a temperature drop and when weather conditions stabilize. Although schools are scattered and loose, they are plentiful and eagerly hitting a number of popular baits. Among those that have shown promise are a variety of soft plastics, mud minnows and shrimp. But don't expect hard tugs or wrist-aching bends to your rod, this fish is more tender-lipped and deserves a more delicate hook set.

If your quarry falls along the line and trout remains a big part of your hunt, you need to think ambush. Follow the flow of the current and locate areas that contain undercut banks, deep drops and ledges. Use the flow of the tide to work the edges of oyster beds and thick grass. Rig weedless and look for points along the smaller creeks that are laden with shells and contain hiding places for trout to grab an easy meal.

Trout can't tolerate sudden changes in water temperatures, so they seek out warmer waters among pockets and deep drops. If there is a slight chop on the water, trout will move to mid depth, and if it is windy they move closer to the bottom. Trout feed by sight more than other gamefish and depend on water clarity in finding a meal. For this reason, it is not often limits are taken after hard rains or tidal surges.

Your gear should evolve around light spinning and fly rods. I mentioned in a past column that I often use a 9- to 10-foot fly rod with a spinning reel. The length gives me leverage and casting power while the reel holds enough line to keep things interesting. Keep your drags set lightly and use your palm or finger for tension until you get the proper feel of the fish. I also use light wire circle hooks, which allows a steady hook set when the time is right.

Whether you choose to pursue the species along the salt waters of the Lowcountry or from some cool mountain stream, both can be exasperating, infuriating the angler and possessing the devil in pursuit. Your success or failure is based on lessons learned and your enjoyment of the time. Any promise otherwise would simply be casting hope among the complexities so much a part of the sport itself. I can only hope that my ramblings have provided you the tools to share the experience.

Outdoors Notes

Sportfishing Club Meeting: The Hilton Head Sportfishing Club will be holding a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Yacht Club of Hilton Head Island, Palmetto Bay Marina. The guest speaker will be inshore charter captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley, who will give a presentation on finding winter red drum. There will be a cash bar and shrimp dinner from 6:15 to 7 p.m. Guests welcome, reservations not necessary. Details: Dave Harter at 785-4106 or daveh@hargray.com.

Wildlife Supper: Beaufort's Community Bible Church will be hosting a wildlife supper for men at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24. The supper will feature venison, turkey, wild boar, shrimp, and gator meat along with sides and dessert. Guest speaker Bob Reccord will be talking about ways to become a better husband and father. The Community Bible Church is located at 638 Parris Island Gateway. Details: (843) 525-0089

Oyster Roast: The Rotary Club of Bluffton's annual winter Oyster Roast will be from 5 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Oyster Factory Park in Old Town Bluffton. Come experience a Bluffton tradition and help support the Bluffton Rotary's community efforts and around the world. Advance tickets are $25 per person, $30 day of the event. This event often sells out, so call for tickets at (843) 815-2277 or ask any Bluffton Rotarian for tickets.

Closing Thought

For the majority of my life I believed that wisdom and tolerance were synonymous with being a fisherman. I came to realize through trial and error what actually went hand in hand during the time was my eagerness for optimism. This state of blissful ignorance motivated my return to the water on more than one occasion.

Now, many years later I conclude that I am a man of complex thought yet simple needs. Forcing myself into situations where the outcome would have been better matched to another avenue of recreation.

What comes to mind in hindsight is a friendly round of dominoes. And yet, my dilemma tenders itself along the unforgettable words of another far more educated, with a good bit more patience and, I might add, a definite prose advantage.

In the immortal words of Theodore Gordon: "Time flies so fast after youth is past that we cannot accomplish one half the many things we have in mind or indeed one half our duties. The only safe and sensible plan is to make other things give way to the essentials, and the first of these is fly fishing."

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