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Spring Trout Techniques – Dead Drift Float Fishing

Posted on March 06 2017

The traditional opening day of trout season statewide is April 1st. But on the Finger Lakes trout season is a year round’ pursuit. While the tributaries are closed to trout fishing, there are thousands of acres of open water for boat or shore fishing available for the hardy angler dressed for the unpredictable and often ugly weather.

Early season trout fishing on the Finger Lakes lakes means cold water. The trout, however, is a cold water fish, most active in water temperatures that remain between 45 to 65 degrees. The middle of that range being the optimum, representing a trouts peak period of activity. A rainbow trout that will slam a retrieved spoon in June, and leap out of the water to shake it free, is a far more subdued creature in February or early March.

When the water temperature is a few degrees above freezing and into the low 40’s, the always hungry and opportunistic trout moves in slow motion, scavenging and hunting the shallows of the lake. They eat, but not as much and not as often, I believe. Crayfish, shrimp, snails and bottom-dwelling nymphs and larvae are a staple of the lake-dwelling trouts diet. These food sources, in water temperatures below 45 degrees, are also slow moving.

Each lake is different and each species of trout that lives in the lake behaves unique. But over the years, I continue to refine a technique that delivers a match-the-hatch type of presentation with a natural dead drift that most closely represents the mode in which the trout are feeding and the food they are eating and it produces fat trout on a consistent basis.

Dead drift float fishing, as it relates to the lake angler, is really just my adaptation of fly fishing for those who do not fly fish. Instead of the floating weight forward fly line delivering the fly and holding it, dead drift, suspended in the trouts cone of vision, I utilize modified casting floats with fast action spinning rods and reels.  Same thing just different gear. A basic premise of effective nymphing or dry fly fishing is to present the fly as natural as possible, no drag, no movement, no retrieve, static yet drifting with the current, in suspended animation.

The fly fisher knows, as the steel header knows, that a morsel presented completely dead-drift is an appealing, often irresistible temptation for a nearby trout.

Due to the high angler pressure on the tributaries of the Finger Lakes during the early spring trout season, and because I do not fish for trout when they are in the act of trying to reproduce, I began fishing the open lakes in early spring to find solitude and big fish. That was over 15 years ago. I found the fly rod to be my first choice when doing controlled drifts and casting from the deck of a boat. When cold air temperatures or cruddy weather dictate shore fishing, I turn to the float and fly presentation with the fast-action spinning rod.

As with any technique, there are nuances and details of terminal tackle and jig or fly selection that are integral to the effectiveness of the system. In future blogs I will explain the recipe.



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