OH BOY! We're almost ready to stalk the scenic and bountiful streams of Northeast Iowa in pursuit of trout! Many "one-that-got-away" stories leave out crucial details that the teller may save face; a bad knot, a dull hook, a frayed leader, or a rusty eye (not the angler's...the tackle's). In this installation we will learn about selecting hooks (and keeping them sharp), sinkers of various types, leader material, float beads, the importance of the swivel and three knots to master for holding it all together. The knot pictures will show up pretty small. Google the names of the knots for larger pictures.
Hooks. There are literally hundreds of types of fishing hooks. I use and recommend a style of hook that goes by a few different names; "octopus", "walleye", or "egg". The hook has short shank, a wide gap and an upturned eye. When tied on the end of a leader as shown here,: the hook will pivot point-in when the line is pulled tight or "set". That's a good thing. I also use them because they can be easily removed with small pliers (hemostats). For trout I use as small as possible, a size 8 or 10 (I have to get them both mail-order from a non-local source like Cabelas, Gander Mountain, or a well-outfitted bait shop. Keep your hooks sharp with a simple nail-file by stroking back against the point and if the eye gets rusty...discard.
Swivels. The swivel is a little gadget with a metal circle on each end that can spin independently of each other inside a metal barrel. The swivel's purpose is to keep the swirling action of the water on your baited line from twisting only your leader and not your main line. I love swivels. They prevent almost every problem we may encounter with our reels. If the only kind that the store has is the "snap" kind, use snippers and cut off the snap part. We're just interested in the swivel. The swivel will be used to connect our leader to our main line, with a hook on the other end. For trouting, buy small swivels and keep them in a small, airtight container. If the eyes get rusty...discard.
Sinkers. There are more sinker types than there are hooks. Again, for our purposes, we will focus on two: the slip sinker and the split-shot. In recent years many manufacturers have brought lead-alternatives to the market and while these may not be suitable for trolling up twenty pound lake trout from 100' deep on Lake Superior, for stream trout they will serve just fine. A slip-sinker is anything heavier than the water that has a smooth hole longitudinally through the center. My favorite slip-sinkers are found in the "craft aisle". Glass beads, hematite beads, and stone beads all make suitable slip-sinkers. In the "tackle aisle" I find 1/8oz. through 3/8oz. bismuth "bullet weights, which look exactly like the name implies. I also, on occasion, use tiny tin split-shot sinkers on the leader. If you are using glass beads, check around the holes frequently for chips. If they get chipped, discard and retie.
Float Beads. Ssshhhh. This is your reward for following and voting-up this article series. I've never seen another angler do it while stream-fishing for trout. This is our Secret Weapon. I almost always use some kind of float-bead right behind the hook. They are tiny and while the sinker takes the line down and through the water to our prey, the float bead keeps the bait off the bottom just enough that our prey can see it. Most commercially available float beads are too big for trout fishing. I prefer to use a sharp, hollow punching tool (I use the largest setting on my rotary leather-punch) and cut tiny circles from sheets of yellow "craft foam". The point of our hook will easily penetrate the craft foam, which will then be pushed up around the hook's bend, up the shaft, and over the eye-knot. The result is a floatation device that also adds a wobbling action to the baited hook. Win-Win.
Putting it All Together. May I tie you up? Yes? Good.Yyou won't regret it. The weakest point in every fishing line is the knot, which is why fishing knots are complicated; they tie things together without weakening the rig. Your strongest connection to the fish is your weakest knot. Remember that. Let's see if I can get enough photo-links in here to make this paragraph work. First, we start with our main line from the reel, which I am going to hope is a super-braid (see Trout Fishing For Dummies: Part3.1 – Gearing Up (or Gearing Down); Lines, Reels and Rods) and after routing it through the rod-guides without, a) leaving the bail closed, or b) wrapping the line around the rod between guides, pull out enough line to comfortably use without the cat getting tangled. The main line now goes through a slip-sinker heavy enough to reach the bottom of the water you'll be fishing. Now, with the sinker resting on a stable surface or in your shirt-pocket, tie your main line to one loop of your swivel with the uni-knot or the palomar knot one connection down, two to go. Now find your leader material (mono will cost you less money in lost tackle when...not if...you have to pull out a snag), cut off about 12" – 16" and tie one end to the other eye of your swivel using whichever of those two previos knots you're comfortable with. Tie on the hook to the end of your leader with a simple snelling knot or you can also use a palomar knot, if the hook-eye isn't too small. In either case, if you are using monofilament line, lick the knot before cinching it closed. Mono overheats, stretches and gets thinner when tied. Every knot you tie, give an extra tug to double-check your work, then use a lighter to burn a "ball" on the clipped-off tag-end. This little ball is "slippage insurance". I didn't make that up. A 97-year old Guide taught me that. Now use your hook to pierce your float bead as previously described.
If we did this right the rig should look like this little alpha-numeric-punctuation-hieroglyph I'm about to create. MAIN LINE-------[SLIPSINKER>--------(KNOT)-0:barrelswivel:0-(KNOT)------leader-------[FLOATBEAD]---(KNOT)-0:HOOK
Next time we wrap the series up with Trout Fishing For Dummies: Fishing Day!
Thank You for following, reading and voting-up this series. It is a pleasure to introduce Northeast Iowa's trout streams to those who want to learn.