Baitfishing for trout

Fly fishing is not the only way you can catch trout. Baitfishing for the wild brown trout in Scottish and Welsh waters is a highly successful, exciting technique.

The rivers and lakes of Scotland and Wales are full of all sorts of fish but the brown trout is by far the most popular. Trout fishing is there for the taking at very little cost. In many places all you need do is get the permission of the riparian owners this is important since it is their land you’re treading on. Go on – ask.

Choice of bait

Take plenty of bait with you and look after it carefully so it doesn’t spoil. One way to be safe is to order extra bait from a tackle shop near where you are fishing. Worms Several species of worm attract trout. You can dig lobworms from your own garden, and find brandlings and redworms in dung heaps and compost heaps.

Keep the worms in a clean jar or plastic box with some fresh moss. Lobworms take about a week to toughen up while brandlings take two to three days. Maggots Buy large white, red, bronze or yellow maggots and keep them dry and plump by putting them into either fresh sawdust, maize meal or a little bran. Store them in the fridge or a cold, dark place until you are ready to use them. Don’t overcrowd them and they won’t let you down when you fish with them.

Minnows and bullheads. These little fishes provide some of the best sport when baitfishing. You can catch them in a jar or minnow trap by laying the trap, baited with bread, in a small stream with the mouth facing the direction of the current. The minnows swim in but can’t get out again. Put them in a bucket of clean water, and use an aerator pump to keep them healthy. Naturals Stonefly nymphs and caddis larvae, crayfish, grasshoppers, leeches, slugs, docken grubs and so on are all worth a try.

Not everyone succeeds with them, but some anglers swear by them.

The tackle you need

Tackle for this technique is much like that used in coarse fishing. Hooks Use a single hook – say a size 12 -for worms, maggots and naturals and for lip-hooking a minnow. Or, to increase your chances of keeping a fish on the hook, choose a double hook – sizes 14 and 16 are usually successful, especially for holding on to a large specimen.

Another useful set-up is the Pennell -two hooks tied in tandem. It’s good for hooking on minnows and naturals, giving them a bit more support when casting. An extension of the Pennell is the Stewart – a three-hook set-up useful when the fish are nip-pingthe tails off the worms. This little outfit soon puts a stop to that. Floats You need a selection of floats – perhaps a couple of each of the following kinds: stick floats, small grayling floats and a few small bubble floats. You also need split shot and a few small 54-V5 oz pear or ball weights. Take some swivels and anti-kink vanes. Rods and reels. The ideal rod is small – no more than 7-lift (2-3.4m) long – and light but strong enough to cope with a big fish.

You can use a spinning reel for loch fishing and a centrepin for river work, or a spinning reel for both. You don’t need more than 6lb monofilament – but don’t use less than 3lb line.

Landing net A small landing net is useful. One with a long handle is a good idea, especially for river work.

Using baits for trout

As in coarse fishing, there are various different ways to fish natural baits. Here are just a few of the more important ones. Freelining One of the easiest methods of using naturals is freelining — fishing without a float or weight. It can be deadly in rivers when trout are lying in water less than lm (3ft) deep. Freelining isn’t suitable when the fish are in deep, fast flowing water — in runs or glides — because the bait fishes near the surface, but if the fish move up in the water and begin taking hatching insects, it can work well. The method succeeds perfectly well in a deep, still pool.

To begin freelining, simply hook a worm, for example, to a size 12 hook (a good general size for river browns), cast across the current and allow the bait to swing round. Or, drop the bait in and let the current take it. Feather the line smoothly to avoid large bellies of slack line. Freelining upstream makes bite detection difficult, but keeping a tight line by picking up the slack helps.

Takes are more often felt than seen, especially in fast water, though in slow-moving stretches you may see the fish hit the bait.

Freelining in lochs is often successful when the fish are feeding near the surface. Float fishing on rivers allows you to present the bait at a precise depth over long distances. For example, a 20m (22yd) fast glide (about lm/3ft deep) may have trout lying hard along the stony bottom. By setting the float just short of depth and spacing the shot close to the hook, your bait fishes just off the bottom, minimizing your chances of getting snagged. The float also serves as an excellent bite indicator. Jig and minnow/leech combo Casting a spinner, plug or jig is an effective technique in itself — the movement serves to attract trout. Adding a deadbait, worm or leech to a jig gives it smell as well as movement and makes it even more lifelike. Use jigs in lochs and deep sections of rivers by bouncing them off the bottom in quick lifts. Legering A seldom-used technique for trout, legering exploits the fish’s excellent sense of smell. You can leger in lochs, tarns and even rivers.

Their defences down, larger trout become active at night. A juicy lobworm or small livebait legered hard along the bottom of a deep, swirling pool can draw many fish, especially the large ones. Success doesn’t depend on your approach alongside the bank , your casting or the weather conditions. Legering has built-in stealth in that, after casting into a likely pool, you wait for the fish to come to you — instead of your going to the fish. The trout comes to you unwary, its belly empty, and seldom turns down your offering.