Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rain Storms Trigger River Trout Action


Many years ago, as a kid, I always prayed for rain like we got a couple of nights ago. As a youngster I learned that when the skies opened up, and it rained hard, it could produce some spectacular stream fishing action.

Many people who live near Traverse City know that when heavy spring rains fall, and the water level in the Little Betsie River rises, it washes worms out of the swamps and into Green Lake. There have been times when great gobs of worms are swept under the little bridge on Diamond Park Road, and some of those basketball-sized wads of worms would drift down the creek and out over the dropoff and to the waiting fish.

I’d wade down the tiny creek, reach down into the water for my bait supply, and hook a worm lightly through the nose. I’d cast it out on 4-pound line without weight, and as it washed over the steep dropoff, a brown trout would occasionally hit my worm.

I seemed to have had that secret spot to myself until more people moved into the Interlochen area, and soon I’d have others fishing there beside we. We treated each other with respect, and if the browns were biting, we’d catch a bunch of fish. If they weren’t biting, none of us would stick around long. Sadly, most of the brown trout that once patrolled the Green Lakes points and dropoffs are gone and the fishing is more focused on bass, panfish and pike.

I can write about that little spot now because browns are no longer being planted in Green Lake. I suspect it would pay off with other game fish now, and two years ago I caught a 5 1/2-pound smallmouth bass there along with several others of lesser size.

The West Branch of the Sturgeon River was somewhat similar in its downstream reaches, and it was a veritable gold mine for trout. I could catch brookies, browns and rainbows there during a soft rain. If it rained too hard, the shallow stream would be pelted hard and most of the trout headed back under the river banks to wait out the storm.

The upper part of the West Branch of the Sturgeon River, several miles south and west of Wolverine, was a hotspot for brookies at one time. One would fish between their feet in the little jump-across creek. The small brook trout would hold among the root wads, and the water was gin clear and very cold. A rain upstream seemed to put the fish on the prod, and it produced some spectacular fishing.

That area is now all built up with homes and no trespassing signs, and although it may still hold a few brook trout, it’s not worth the hassle of trying to stay in the creek and not trespass on someone’s land.

There have been countless other days when a good rain put the trout on the feed. I remember one evening right at dark when I waded slowly down the upper Rifle River near Selkirk, and was fishing a four-inch Rapala on a tight line as the stream grew dark and closed in around me.

The Rapala was flipped up tight to the far bank and rain drops trickled down my back, and I closed the bail on my open-face spinning reel. I took two or three turns on the reel handle, and a brown trout of great length and girth inhaled the lure and the hooks were buried.

This was a fish around which legends are made. It was well over 10-pounds, and even though I was using 8-pound line, it didn’t seem strong enough. That fish rolled on the surface, and headed downstream.

I’d been down this stretch many times and knew where to wade. I kept close to the fish, jacked him around whenever it seemed possible to gain some leverage, and we were still at it when we passed under a bridge in the darkness. Fortunately, I was able to steer him away from the bridge pilings.

We made it another 200 yards downstream, and by now the after-dark fight had covered nearly a half-mile of river, and the stream was barely lit by a quarter-moon. The wheels fell off this brown trout parade when he hung the line on a wood stob protruding just out of the water.

I eased out slowly. and had just reached the line on the wood, when the big fish made a thunderous splash near a shoreline brush pile. I knew he had woven my line around the drowned branches, and the line popped with a crack like a .22 rifle.

Me and rain have always been buddies on the trout streams. I knew that when the rain fell, worms and other critters would wash into the river, and it turns the stream into a veritable smorgasbord of tasty food. When it begins raining about dark, forget about watching sleep-robbers on television.

Grab a rod, some bait or lures, and head for the closest river. You might be surprised at what you might find.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/08 at 01:09 PM
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