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Reading the clues

 

Some people are naturally good at catching fish. Quite often it’s their ability to observe and react to what they see around them that keeps their rod bent and their smiles a plenty. They see clues; some are visual, like picking off slight bulges or tiny, almost imperceptible wakes moving in knee deep water. It’s visual clues like this that give away the location of mega trout feeding in shallow, foraging for minnows and a host of invertebrates.


Ability to observe and react

With this information at hand, they go to work making a stealthy approach, send out a well placed cast and the fish is caught. It’s the perfect read, stock and capture. Being able to interpret what’s going on around you is perhaps your most valuable asset for improving your fishing success.


The fish is caught

Some clues are not quite visual, in the sense that you can’t actually see the fish, but rather, you interpret the conditions in front of you and then use that info to put you into fish. This scenario played itself out for me some years back.

After catching a trout, I was fiddling with my gear while the wind did its thing and pushed my boat in shallow. I wasn’t too concerned as it was about to butt up against a cattail weed edge pretty quickly so I continued to tinker with my tackle. As the boat snuggled up against the cattails I looked down and was surprised at what I saw. There was a good three plus feet of water right at the edge, much deeper water than the surrounding shallows and there was also lots of free water under that cattails, much like an undercut bank. Then I saw a small school of stickleback milling about a few inches off the cattail edge. A light went on.

Piecing this info together I tied on a stickleback looking floating plug and rowed some fifty or so feet down the shoreline and anchored a comfortable cast off the cattail edge. Then I waited. In a few minutes a swirl a few inches off the cattail weeds betrayed the trout’s presence and I shot out a cast right into the dissipating rings. Before I could pick up the slack the plug disappeared and I was solidly hooked into what turned out to be a 23 inch rainbow.

Since that discovery, I’ve scouted out all the cattail beds in the lakes I fish and I’m happy to say that several of the lakes have a similar set up and each one that does, also has a healthy population of big trout living in them.


Healthy population of big trout

Piecing the information together put me into a winning pattern with the cattail trout, but sometimes you can already be on a winning pattern that only needs some tweaking to become a real producer. This happened to my good friend Arnold and me when we were fishing Slave Lake during the renowned June walleye bite. The typical approach is to stick a minnow on a quarter ounce jig, lower it to the bottom and catch your fish. But this day was different. The fish were there all right – we could feel them bite non-stop, but every time we set the hook all we’d have to show for our efforts was a jig with only a minnow head attached. These were short strikers, indicative of neutral or negative fish. To overcome this situation Arnold and I made a couple of changes to our approach.

Arnold continued with his quarter ounce jig, but attached a stinger hook near the minnow’s tail. This improved set up tagged nearly all of the short strikers. I switched to a lighter one eighth ounce jig, which the light biting walleyes where able to fully inhale, allowing me to get a positive hookset on a great many of them. It shows that a number of solutions can work for any given situation.

Observation also works for your tackle too. I am a huge proponent of sharp hooks. If I get a bite and miss a fish, I chalk it up to bad luck. If I get another bite and I miss that fish as well I chalk it up to a bad hook. I’ll bring it in and sharpen it before throwing it out again. If the bites are still happening and I’m still not catching, I’ll switch to another hook of the exact same type. Sometimes, no matter how good and how sharp a hook feels, it just doesn’t stick fish. A switch to another hook of the exact same type will put me right back onto the catching side of the ledger.


Catching side of the ledger

So there you have it, a few clues through observation that will help you catch more fish. One final tip is to someday take a trip to your favourite river or lake leaving the fishing rod behind. Without fishing as a distraction – as great as that is – you can devote time to observing. I expect that what you learn in that one day will surprise you and help you become a better angler from that day forward.


A better angler


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Fly Selection for Beginners

(2) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(3) New Waters

(4) Big Bad Burbot

(5) Looking Back

(6) Out of Africa

(7) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(8) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(9) The Browns of Autumn

(10) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(11) Walleye Town

(12) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(13) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(14) Going With The Flow

(15) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(16) Swinging The Fences

(17) A View From The Aerie

(18) Dixieland Delight

(19) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(20) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(21) Montana's Cool Missouri

(22) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(23) Toothy Critters

(24) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(25) Top Ten Flies

(26) Northern Exposure

(27) Home Water Lessons

(28) Chicken Of The Sea

(29) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(30) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(31) Keep It Up!

(32) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(33) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(34) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(35) Hawg Holes

(36) Saltwater Salmon

(37) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(38) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(39) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(40) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(41) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(42) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(43) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(44) Fall Walleye

(45) Wet Flies

(46) Versatility the Key to Success

(47) Grayling of the Boreal

(48) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(49) Size Matters

(50) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(51) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(52) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(53) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(54) The Point Of It All

(55) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(56) Fall Fly Fishing

(57) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(58) Big River, Big Fish

(59) Bottom Bonanza

(60) Fishing Small Flies

(61) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(62) Four Seasons of the Bow

(63) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(64) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(65) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(66) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
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(67) Edge Walleye

(68) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(69) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(70) Four Corners – Four Waters

(71) Chasing Pothole Trout

(72) Springtime Stoneflies

(73) The Torrents of Spring

(74) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(75) Bust Them With Bait

(76) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(77) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(78) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(79) Terrestrials

(80) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(81) Rocky Mountain High

(82) Reading the clues

(83) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(84) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(85) Fly Fishing 101

(86) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(87) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(88) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(89) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(90) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(91) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(92) Trust Your Electronics

(93) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(94) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(95) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(96) Walleye can be Humbling

(97) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(98) Winter Flyfishing

(99) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(100) Hot Fall Pike Action

(101) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(102) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(103) Frequently Asked Questions

(104) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(105) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(106) Deep Water Perch

(107) Post Spawn Brookies

(108) A Fisher's Life

(109) The River's Last Stand

(110) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(111) Coho on the Coast

(112) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(113) Summer in the Mountains

(114) Peak Walleye Season

(115) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(116) Last Ice Rainbows

(117) The Burbot Event

(118) Tackle Matching

(119) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(120) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(121) The Lure of Brook Trout

(122) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(123) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(124) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(125) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(126) The Vesatile Plug

(127) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(128) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(129) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(130) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(131) Daily Fish Migrations

(132) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(133) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(134) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(135) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(136) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(137) The Fun in Ultra Light

(138) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(139) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(140) Never Stop Learning

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(142) Jigging through the Ice

(143) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(144) Rainbows on Ice

(145) The Season of Ice Begins

(146) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(147) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(148) Facts On Cats

(149) West Coast Adventure

(150) June Walleye Frenzy

(151) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(152) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(153) "Northern Exposure"

(154) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(155) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(156) Man Overboard