Winter has finally loosened its grip on the mountains and allowed the snow and ice to melt out of the headwaters of the creeks and rivers giving us some very good early season trout fishing. The water is still cold but the sunshine and warm temperatures have had the trout feeding well throughout the day on a variety of baits.
The trout have been very susceptible to bait in the mornings taking salmon eggs, worms, minnows, and other types of bait, as long as you can get it in front of them, the fish will eat but the bites are very subtle as the trout just open their mouth and inhale the bait.
Not willing to move much to intercept food in the cold-water trout will position themselves in holes, behind rocks, and in other places that offer some relief from the swift water, while still allowing them access to the flow, where food is carried on the currents as it drifts downstream. At this time of year, most trout will be deep favoring the security depth provides while opportunistically feeding on any morsel that drifts by in the flow.
One popular method for taking trout in cold water is with the use of a float. In recent years, many anglers have started using a float or bobber to fish small jigs to trout suspended over the bottom.
The idea is to cast the rig out with the float adjusted so the jig drifts at the trout's level but not so deep that it snags on the bottom. This method works very well when the fish are holding deep and not aggressive, the bait or lure is presented at the same speed as the current and the float allows you to suspend the bait at the fish's depth throughout the drift.
This method is most often associated with the trout magnet series of jigs but works well with other jigs, live bait and salmon eggs.
I have even used flies under a float on spinning gear with very good success early in the year using large stonefly and mayfly nymphs with a split shot to keep them down.
The biggest problem you are likely to encounter with this technique is detecting strikes. You would think that with a bobber the strikes are well telegraphed by the float dipping beneath the water and often times it is.
However, many fish are missed by not recognizing the very subtle takes of fish that will just cause the float to hesitate momentarily as it drifts along.
Sometimes this is a rock or other obstruction but often it is a trout simply intercepting the bait to see if it is edible and then rejecting it when they feel resistance. This can all take place in a second and the only signal will be a twitch in the line or float, this is why it is a good idea to use just enough bobber to keep the bait off the bottom, this will help detect those sensitive strikes and increase your catch.
Early season fishing can be very rewarding if you adjust your tactics to suit what the trout are doing.
Who doesn't like seeing trout chase spinners and lures or taking flies from the surface but when the water is cold and the fish are lethargic, slow and steady is a better way to go.
One good thing about trout fishing in water of this temperature is that where you find one there will usually be more, especially if you are fishing for stocked trout. Small pods of trout will move around and seek out good holding water that provides safety and a good supply of food, often several trout will occupy a small hole or run, something the fish will not tolerate when the water warms and the fish become more aggressive and competitive for food.