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Spin fishing – plenty of "a lure"

Pam Cosmo Gooch

I have heard several women say, “I’d like to go fishing, but I don’t know how to fly-fish.” It is as though fly-fishing is the only type of stream fishing they have heard of.

I can see why. After all, books and movies are not featuring spin fishing. It is not as romantic as “A River Runs Through It.” I guess it’s not as visually pleasing as watching Brad Pitt cast a fly gracefully through the air and expertly drop it onto a stream. Of course, one could watch Brad Pitt throw a ham sandwich into the river and it wouldn’t look half bad, but I digress …

The point is that fishing with lures is a good way to start fishing streams. In many ways, it is more fun. All you need is a simple light rod and reel, some lures, and a few tools. The reel is easy to master and one is not as likely to hang up on assorted bushes and trees while attempting to cast and spend three-quarters of her time cursing and untangling line as one does while learning to fly-fish. It is a lot less expensive and affords just as much exercise. You probably will catch more fish, as well.

When I was little, my dad gave my little brother and I a rod and reel hooked up with a rubber sinker and we would practice “precision” casting into a tire in the backyard. We got pretty good, too. Coming from New York City, I guess my dad never saw the need to bring us to a lake or stream, so it wasn’t until years later that I ever actually cast into water. But I felt like a fisherwoman from an early age. I would recommend not spending a whole lot of time in the backyard, however.

The lakes and streams around here are stocked with rainbow and brown trout for the most part, and brook trout and kokanee and a few other species are possible as well. But all respond quite well to a few basic lures, like the Castmaster, the Rooster Tail and the Panther Martin. There are other, fancier and more expensive lures (like the rapala), but for starters, these are good, basic lures. They often have treble hooks, but if one is committed to catch-and-release, the barbs can easily be mashed down or the hook could be switched to a single-point barbless one.

Line should be light, say, 4- to 6-pound test. This is because trout are not stupid fish and will avoid thick line. Lures can be cast easily into streams, often under low-slung branches and hard to reach places. The weight of the lure makes it easier to aim. If desired, one can tie a dropper fly onto a lure, and fish with that as well. That way, you have the best of both worlds – the lure to take it where you want it to go, and the artistry of the fly as well. (Now, where is that Brad Pitt …)

When casting, think of a fan pattern. Cast to one side, then the middle, then the other side. You are hunting, surveying the territory and trying not to be too obvious to the fish. Vary your speed as you retrieve the lure. See what works. Watch your lure, notice its action in the water. The Castmaster wiggles back and forth like a wounded fish. Jerk it a little as it comes back. You want it to seem like an easy meal to a trout.

The Rooster Tail is a little different. It has a spinner on it that gets the trout’s attention. Trout are aggressive predators (especially browns). They strike at something, not only because they are hungry, but because they are annoyed that somebody is in their face. When casting out a Rooster Tail, let it sink to various depths, then give it a sharp jerk to get the spinner working as you reel it in. Develop a feel for it as it goes through the water. If it jerks, set the hook and keep some tension on. But don’t just horse the fish in. The fun is feeling what this great fish does, how he attacks and fights. Watch him or her jump out of the water or dive deep for cover. Your job is to keep up with the fish, anticipate what he will do. Carefully finesse him to you without losing him or damaging him. It is like a dance. You want it to be a tango, not a polka.

Blue Lakes have been stocked by California Fish and Game this week. The West Carson is always worth fishing on the way up there. The East Carson, past Markleeville, was slow for me last week. Plus, with all the rock reinforcement since the flood, you need to be built like a goat to maneuver around all those boulders. I must say, it’s not as much fun there as it used to be for me. Of course, Heenan Lake is open now. Nice, big, catch-and-release-only cutthroat trout there. If you are a fishing gear enthusiast, this is your place … it’s like the Orvis and LL Bean catalogs came to life. I keep hearing good things about Silvercreek. And Caples Lake reports that it’s picking up, with several reports of people catching limits. The Sportsman says that Red and Blue lakes are looking good as conditions get colder.

And, good news! Monte Wolf’s Trading Post, closed last season in Markleeville, has reopened and is under new management. Mike and Janna Gard are running the store, renamed Grover’s Corner. So, once again, we have a Markleeville resource for fishing gear, food and fishing tips.

Autumn is my favorite time to fish. The colder nights and cooler waters make the fish seem harder and snappier. The surrounding colors are more intense, and a cup of coffee just tastes better when held between cool fingers. Grab your pole and a few lures and just be out there while things are crisp and clear.


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