Freshwater: Opening Day, My Way - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Opening Day, My Way

Whether you join the crowd, or go it alone, just be sure to get out and fish!

Don’t vilify me, but I can’t stand opening day of trout season! I know, there’s tradition there and many families make a big deal out of getting everyone together to tong some trout, and I respect that. In fact, I think it’s awesome and I would encourage any family—particularly those with children—to do that 100 times out of a 100. But I’m just not into the whole shoulder-to-shoulder thing and there are just a few too many guys who try and make it into some macho thing when they are catching more fish than those in their immediate vicinity. These are stocked trout, not permit.

Whether you join the crowd or go it alone
Whether you join the crowd or go it alone, just be sure to get out and fish—and bringing along your son or daughter is even better!

So for me, Opening Day is a nice Saturday at home. I might sleep in, make breakfast for my wife and daughter. Maybe go for a walk in the woods, mow the lawn, knock out some chores. I’m not even thinking about fishing that day—well, I’m always thinking about fishing, but I won’t pick up a rod.

I prefer to let all of those who enjoy the traditions of Opening Day, have their time. They can string up a limit, head to the tackle shop for a photo and then fry them for the whole family on my Saturday off from fishing. And I won’t go Sunday either, both days of opening weekend are no-fish days for me.

Then I give the fish a few days to recoup. They have been bombarded for two days straight, they’ve seen every shade of PowerBait, and they’ve become well acquainted with Al’s Goldfish, Mepp’s Aglia and Thomas Buoyant. Most of the fishermen have spent all their brownie points to put in a long day or two on Opening Weekend and therefore, very few anglers hit these ponds and lakes on Monday or Tuesday, giving the fish a much-needed rest.

But when Wednesday or Thursday rolls around things tend to change. I usually get there around 8 a.m. and I usually find that the lot is empty. I’ll keep my daughter out of school and we’ll have our pick of the spots. When we arrive at the deserted shoreline the only things left of the Opening Day invasions are footprints in the mud and trout can be seen rising all around the pond. I have observed, over the many years I’ve fished for stocked trout, that the fish seem to circle the ponds endlessly, so you know you’re going to have fish coming by several times throughout the morning.

But our Opening Day starts the day before, when we head next door to our neighbor’s enormous compost pile to dig worms. It usually only takes a few flips of the soil to fill a small cup with the glossy, writhing garden worms. I’m not talking about nightcrawlers, I’m talking about those 2- to 3-inch red worms that bleed mustard juice when you hook them. These are my little secret, my way of guaranteeing good action throughout a kid-shortened outing at the pond.

I rig a very light rod rated to cast lures down to 1/8 of an ounce with 15-pound braided line and a long 6-pound mono leader. I connect the braid and mono via a knot of my own invention, but I’d imagine the popular Bristol knot would also get it done. At the end of the leader I tie a size 8 circle hook. I use no weight and I use no float. Remember these fish have been through their version of the Normandy invasion just a few days ago, so I like to put something out there that looks too natural to pass up. The key to the rig is that I only hook the worm once. I thread the hook into the worm’s mouth and conceal it completely inside the body of the worm, including the knot. Then I poke the hook point out the side of the worm.

I try to fish spots that offer deep water close to shore and if that happens to be on a point or corner, all the better. With the offering I’m throwing a long cast is impossible, but I don’t worry about that. I flick that unweighted worm on the tiny hook out there and quickly shovel the rod into my daughter’s hands. Then I instruct her to watch to the line. The wind and/or whatever micro-currents are present in the pond do the work as far as natural presentation go. Each ‘drift’ lasts between two and five minutes, depending on conditions and, usually within three or four casts, the line will start moving away and I tell her to point the rod at the water and crank fast. Even when she was three years old she was taking trout this way. And it was a great gateway to other styles of fishing and species of fish.

She’s usually ‘all set’ with it after an hour or two and between two and five fish. We release all the fish we catch and go home before she gets bored. To me, this is the best way to spend ‘opening day’. She gets a day off from school, and I get to keep the fishing influence alive and well in her young life—without a crowd to dampen our day. Try that worm method, it really works. Best of luck!

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