Thank You for keeping up with this series. I hoped you learned enough to get started...right now! It's a beautiful day in Northeast Iowa to go trout fishing on one of our local trout streams. Use this map and this list to find a stream near you and use this stocking schedule to see if it's been stocked recently. First a few fairly important things...
Let's Get Dressed. A long-sleeved shirt & pants of weather-appropriate weight will help keep nasty plants like Stinging Nettles, Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and my most-feared nemesis, Wild Parsnip from reaching our skin. A pair of thin gloves is a good idea if we want to go off-the-beaten-path. Trout are NOT color blind, so consider wearing colors that will help us blend in with the background. I usually wear a light-blue shirt (sky) and forest-camouflage pants (underbrush). A wide-brimmed hat is a good idea in the Spring, Summer or Fall. Mine has mesh sides so that if need be, I can use it as a landing net. Footwear should grip mud, grass and rocks...but NOT hiking boots. Most running shoes will be fine, but remember, there's a good chance that they may get wet. Trout fishing in the Winter is not unheard of (I like it a lot, actually), but our colors and patterns will be different, our footwear should be ready for standing in wet snow and cold temperatures, and we should dress warmly enough to stand outside doing very little physical activity aside from short hikes.
Insects and Sun Protection. I've never had Lyme's Disease, but I hear it's terrible. I wear a repellant-infused bandana on my head and around my neck, as well as spraying DEET from the knees down. Alternatives to DEET are available. Children under 12 can either use frequent applications of vanilla extract or, in the past I have safety-pinned two or three drier sheets to their clothing. If we're Winter-fishing...bugs are no problem at all. Apply sunscreen today if you wish. Most of my skin is covered, so I'll pass, unless there is snow on the ground and it's a sunny day, then I'll do my face.
Hydration. Bring plenty of drinking water, especially if it's hot and humid or cold and arid. Bring a small flask of "relaxation" if you wish, but please don't get impaired. Streamside is the wrong place to have poor balance.
A Small Lunch-Box Type Collapsible Cooler with a long strap. Put a small freezer-pack in it and any snacks we may want to bring, but leave room for...
Bait. A dozen night crawlers and a little tub of "wax-worms" (moth larvae) can both be purchased at a local bait shop or even that big blue store on the edge of town. Check our crawlers by opening up the container and sticking a finger into the mass of nightcrawlers. You should feel a lot of activity in response to your warm finger in their cool container. If not, pick another container until you get us a good one. Fresh wax-worms will be white to light yellow in color and plump. If they're turning brown or if there are more than four or five dead blackish-brown ones...pick a different container.
Tackle Kit. If we stick to the basics called out in Trout Fishing For Dummies: Part 3.2, your tackle kit should fit in a larger sized mint-tin or similar small container. Make sure the lid closes securely. Add a couple of self-adhesive bandages and a small tube of triple-antibiotic cream for good measure.
Tools. Hemostats on a carabiner lanyard for hook removal, good nail clippers for trimming and cutting line, and any pocket knife. A stringer is good for keeping our catch cold in the water while it "bleeds out". Something to take pictures with is good. Your cell phone should be fine but here's a beautiful fact: if we're going out-of-town, almost all trout-stream valleys have no reception. It's a gift for which I am grateful.
FISHING TIME! We're here. Before we go stream-side, let's tie-up. The water is low and clear, so I'm using a green glass bead for a sinker. Now we're going to approach the water. As we get closer, we can see a riffle that spills perfectly into a pool. Reaching into the cooler, I pull out the wax-worms and thread TWO onto the hook with the point barely poking out of the second one. This takes practice; they squish into goo if over-handled. You have chosen instead to use a nightcrawler. Nice choice. It's early Fall and the bigger Brook Trout will be feeding aggressively on larger, easier meals before spawning time. Cut off the thick end of the nightcrawler with your knife or thumbnail just behind the collar (that's their genitals, btw) and thread it, cut-end first, onto your hook, over your knot, and poke the hook point out after it clears the collar. We "safe our lines", which means we hold them taught or hook the hook over a line-guide, and approach the pool.
We're going to approach quietly, slowly, and without throwing a shadow onto the water. We don't want to spook the trout. When we're casting distance from the riffle, I point to the riffle and nod to you. You get first shot. Your use of rod & reel are spot-on! Your rig drifts down into the pool. Your spool is open and your free hand is lightly fingering your line. There IT is! Tap-Tap and the baited end stops drifting. You let out line...about a foot of it...and count to ten, despite the blood pumping in your ears and the rise of pressure in your chest as predator and prey connect in a moment as old as life on Earth; you're stalking prey. After the ten-count, with your rod-tip pointed at where you think the fish is, you gently close the bail and slloowwwlllyyy reel up slack line until you feel slight resistance and another Tap! Still there! Quickly - let out line again. Now I'm going to share another secret weapon. This fish is "thinking about it". Close the sale. Tap your free fingertip gently on the rod-butt behind the reel seat. That vibration will go down the line and opposed to spooking the fish, it tells the fish that "This thing isn't dead yet! I must crush it!" Now your line begins to move upriver. Time to set the hook. Point the rod-tip at the fish again, reel up almost all of the slack (she could still spit it out if she thinks something doesn't feel like it should), extend your arms, check your surroundings and sideways swwweeeeeeep the rod-tip 90 degrees to the downstream side. Your baited line did not fly out of the water and smack me in the face. That's excellent. The rod bends spastically and the water explodes; you have a FISH ON!
This, Dear Reader & Fishing Companion, is where we part ways. The battle that has just ensued is between you and your prey. You have some triumphs to achieve and mistakes to make, fish to land and fish to lose...on your own. Those are YOUR experiences and lessons which I will not diminish with an instructional narrative.
Thank You for following this series and special "Thank You" to the Iowa DNR and The Iowa Driftless Chapter of Trout Unlimited, both of whom go to great lengths to maintain Northeast Iowa's world-class fisheries. I hope you learned something and I certainly enjoyed sharing. The Trout Streams of Northeast Iowa await your gentle feet and watchful eyes. Good Hunting, My Friend.