With all the new trends these days like Tenkara and zero weight rods the art of catching large trout has become a little muddied. The lightest leader and tippet folks are all you read about these days. The dry fanatics scoff at the nymph crowd and they all look down their noses at the streamer anglers. And I won't bring up the fly versus spin thang.
There are no hatches involved so some disregard this pursuit. I know some anglers these days think head hunting is below them but the feel of a big trout pulsing on the end of your line never gets old. The unforgettable thrill of having to palm your reel to slow do a trout running like its tail is on fire is second to none.
These nightmare creators live a solitary life in the deepest darkest shaggiest messes known to the Midwest. When you think of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area you think of tiny spring creeks. Lots of those spring creeks merge and there you will find what you are in search of. Some of that big water you drive by and dismiss has trout as long as your arm in them.
Big trout are carnivores and will lay in wait for their main course to come by. They often ignore the appetizers. Salad just won’t cut it. They want steak! If you are satisfied catch little ones all the time I recommend you stop reading now.
The brown trout in particular can live in what most anglers consider frog water. All that is needed is a couple cold water sources in their domain to persuade them into calling a stretch of water home.
Springs and swamps fit that bill. Some early season scouting in these areas reveal the cold water sources when the vegetation is down. A hand held thermometer for taking water temps will also help.
Now comes fooling those loner curmudgeons. The size twenty-two and twenty dries need to be left at home. Everyone fishes a bugger from time to time. I am thinking out of the box. You need some stout fluorocarbon leaders. Your four weight rod will serve you well in this crusade.
The leech pattern is a stalwart in the quest for that alligator brown. It can be a bunny or a turkey leech. Don’t be afraid to throw a weighted bunny leech that is a little heavier than you are use to. That turkey leech needs to be tied fully and a cone head is a must.
You have to be able to get down to where these monsters live. Distance is not a requirement in these types of casts. You may have to fish out of your comfort zones. Dredging under and along log jams can be very fruitful. Down and upstream presentations need to be varied in the same hole. Sculpin helmets can also be used in this way. You partner them with a black or olive bunny body.
This big bow loved a sculpin helmet and seriously hammered it.
You need to swim those big flies up and down stream. No dead drifting. Make it look alive. No indicators are required. There are leeches in most trout water and these are just what mister big likes.
Most times the bunny leeches are black in color. There are special times here in the driftless when an olive bunny is all you need. It is typically in later April and they are imitating brook lamprey. There is a small about 5 week window when these brook lamprey come out. These times can be unforgettable because of the ferocious hits on an olive size 2 bunny leech.
This method requires a stout rod and some possible muscling the trout out of its labyrinth it calls home. It is very important to gain control immediately and get that fish’s head up before it dives into the root wad if just came out of.
Many folks look at a Hornberg and think it looks like a good fly and purchase a couple. The hornberg was invented by a Wisconsin angler. It was initially fished as a dry but didn’t function well as a dry. The typical angler doesn’t know how to fish it and it is left in the fly box to never be used again. This is a serious mistake!
Hornbergs work best as a bottom hugging streamer. A new nine foot tapered leader is needed to fish this fly. A hornberg mimics a baitfish. This method is even fruitful during very cold conditions.
Take that new 9 foot leader and tie on a size 4 or 6 Hornberg. Make sure that Hornberg has a jungle cock eye. If the water you are fishing is 6 feet deep place a gob of biostrike at 7 feet and another bigger ball at 8 feet. You need your smallest sinker at about a foot behind your hornberg. This sinker causes the fly to dart and change directions when striped just like a bait fish.
This fly needs to be fished upstream. Let your fly get down before you start. You need to keep control of your line. The retrieve must be varied. You should even pause a couple times when you are retrieving. Vary the length of your strips. Don't give up on retrieves early. Make sure you shake and undulate that fly to the surface as you lift out. Pick out a good landing spot before you cast. Take a big net with you.