For many anglers, winter is a time of stagnation and preparation for the next season: going through the lures, equipment, as well as planning and coming up with strategies for the future. That is the case for many, but not all: there is quite a few of us for whom winter is the long-awaited period of reunion with our favourites, the salmonids. On the 1st of January, enthusiasts of sea trout show up at the Pomeranian rivers hoping for a beautiful kelt, or even possibly, if luck holds, an entire set. Small and medium-sized rivers, in calm and quiet wooded areas, are the perfect place for the first trout fishing.
Sea trout is one of the toughest enemies for anglers, a cunning and vigilant inhabitant of rivers with difficult access. Winter is actually one of my favourite times of year and not because trout is easier to catch then, which is absolutely not true, but mostly because I am able to get to the sections of the river banks which are practically inaccessible in other times of the year for anybody who is not an experiences trapper. But winter trout hunting has another benefit: it keeps you fit and provides a motivation to get out of the house and spend a few hours in the fresh air a rod in your hand, where you can forget about everything, even your frozen fingers and toes.
The “first cast” theory
I have often heard that trout is a fish that requires deep thinking and coming back to one spot to explore it using various techniques and lures. I could generally say this is true for the entire season, and especially the very end. But winter is the time when our enemy is still weak and every jump at a potential prey requires a lot of energy. That is why I have watched more experienced anglers with great respect and interest as they approached a new spot and spent the first dozen or so minutes observing before casting. Then they cast so that the lure is presented in the best possible way in a place they chose.
Naturally, they succeed in most cases, but not always. In this case the solution is to move a few metres in one direction and cast the lure at a different angle to make up for what didn’t work the first time. That is why the first approach to a spot, especially since with no rain or snow water this time of year is very clear, is one of the most important elements of winter trips.
Spinner and spoon
A spinner is one of my favourite lures and it’s invaluable on a winter trip. In sizes 0 to 2, it is the basic lure for trout in small rivers and streams, due to both the depth of these waters and the skills I have gained in the years I’ve used this lure. If you lead it downstream, it imitates fodder carried by the current and will tempt any trout to attack.
That is because for a trout tired after spawning, rising from the bottom to catch food carried by water is the easiest way of feeding itself and requires very little effort. Depending on the size and depth of the section you are fishing in I choose the most appropriate one, without excess and sentiment.
Another invaluable metal lure is the trout spoon. Those colourful lures with various patterns, often handmade, measure a few centimetres and can be used to penetrate underwater rocks, rapids, deeper troughs and holes, which you cannot access with a wobbler. A weight of a dozen or so grams lets it sink right to the bottom even in those difficult places.
Little wobblers and wobblers
Wobbler is the second basic lure for trout. They can be round, mirroring or with a typical tail action. They can stay close to the surface or sink deep and are simply invaluable for trout fishing. I choose their sizes, just like with the spinners, depending on the size of the river and the place I fish in, but it’s a good idea to have a few from 3 to 7 cm on you.
As far as the colour schemes go, it’s also hard to predict in advance. I usually rely on my intuition to pick the colours, e.g. when the water is raised and muddled I often use the brighter ones, sometimes even those that look like trout light bulbs, and on the other hand when the water is clear – the colours are more natural and toned down. Even in the small rivers you can sometimes encounter narrow sections or sharp bends, where you can find holes a few metres deep. In this case the best method is lowering a wobbler (one that sinks deep, e.g. 5 cm) into the hole, leading it upstream with a few second-long stops and letting out the tip, which can result in an attack.
What we don’t expect, but happens anyway
When I was fishing in small rivers in the Lubuskie region, which are usually tributaries of the largest lowland rivers, I had an experience that later on became quite normal, but the first time it happened I was positively shaken up.
A few years ago I was fishing in a smallish river in the first days of January and I encountered a beautiful bend with a large fallen tree. There was a trough running down the middle and the water was so clear I could see the bottom down to a metre. As I was approaching the spot, I saw a large tail sticking out. The water was going over the fallen tree, so the surface was so rippled I was not able to recognize the fish my eyes fell upon.
It was huge for the size of the river, so my first thought was that I was about to face the largest trout I have even seen – a beautiful specimen, majestically standing in the middle of the river. I estimated it at over 60, so my emotions were rising every second. After carefully creeping up to the optimal spot, I finally made the one perfectly-aimed cast.
Once I dragged it out on the bank, I saw a beautiful male crown trout in amazing mating colours. This experience made me think, and even in the same season during trout fishing I started to use larger lures in promising places. Even though I never expected it, I manages to catch about a dozen sea trout. The winter trout hunts can sometimes completely surprise you. Such situations can teach us that routine can be a trap and angler’s imagination should be the basis of every trip.
All the best on your fishing trips,
Paweł GARBUS Kołodziejczyk
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