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Jay Ford Thurston

Jay Ford Thurston

Hopefully you have been reading my trout articles and were out fishing in Trout Central during March 3 or March 4. Because that is when spring arrived on the stream. For trout, it depends upon the weather, and not the calendar date. For man spring arrives on March 20 or 21.

I suppose if you were a member of Audubon Society you would say, “Spring arrives when you hear the geese honk as they fly north, and you see two robins in your backyard.”

Trout angler, you must pay attention to the weather map if you want to catch trout. Usually the trout spring arrives during the last of February or the first two weeks in March. It takes four days of air temperature to be at 40 degrees or above for the ice and snow to be gone from the trout stream. And that is the key to cause trout to feed. Once the water temperature goes to 45 degrees trout know that winter is past and spring is here. If any ice and snow is still on the stream the water won’t go to 45 degrees. Regardless of what the air temperature is the ice and snow won’t allow the stream temperature to rise above 44 degrees.

Now this is a theory of mine. The trout of winter go to the deep pools of 6 feet or more of depth to spend the winter. They know they will be protected there from the ice that forms on the stream. And they stay there until the ice and snow has melted. Then, sometimes in the high water of spring, they move upstream after dark. And, the trout don’t stop until they arrive back at their regular feeding position in the creek. The temperature is at 45 degrees and it a signal for the trout to feed. But the high water flow of spring has removed all the food and the pantry is empty. The hungry trout after moving upstream are famished and in need of food. That is the time for you to catch a big trout. If you know where the trout was last year it will be back again in the same old territory to wait for food flowing down the stream.

Remember, this is the early season and you have to be using an artificial lure to catch the trout. And, during the early season, you must release the trout. Think about it, where were you on the stream when you had on, or caught and released, a trout of 17 inches or more. That is the place to go for the trout spring.

One thing to remember is not to use the same lure the trout hit previously – the memory of trout regarding food seems to be as high as it is for man. I never say, “Please give me an oyster to eat.”

In a book titled, “Streamcraft, An Angling Manual,” written in 1919 by Dr. George Parker Holden, he wrote about how to approach the trout. “As trout habitually lie poised or resting with their heads pointing against the current, upstream, whether or not on the immediate lockout for food floating down, it often is good generalship, especially in fishing the smaller streams having a quick fall, and all the more so when the water is low and clear, to fish up the stream and thus approach your quarry from below and beneath, regardless of whether you are fishing wet or dry. . . . By this plan not only are the fish less liable to see you, but also there is less chance of pulling the hook out of their mouths in striking. And, any muddying of the water or loosening of gravel in wading will not disturb fish in the unfished water above.”

How about that, Dr. Holden knew back in 1919 to fish upstream so that the angler would be in the blind spot of the trout. However, he didn’t know how big the blind spot was. A large trout can see a fisherman at about 30 degrees left or right of center. A smaller trout with smaller eyes can see the angler at 45 degrees. So angler stay within the 60 degree mark so the trout can’t see you.

I also found it interesting that Dr. Holden wanted the angler to be wading upstream. It was discovered that trout can sense the angler approaching on the bank within 50 feet. And I know from the records I have kept that I catch five time more trout when I’m wading upstream, instead of walking on the bank. So if possible, get in the stream and wade on the shallow side of the stream where you won’t make big waves.

Dr. Holden also said, “Fish all the large pools first from below, and then work toward the upper end; thus you can land fish from the lower end of the pool without spoiling your chance for other and perhaps larger fish at the upper end.” Usually the big trout is in the upper end of the pool waiting for the food to enter the pool. Also, for the bigger pools I prefer to fish the lower end first and when I catch the fish I wade downstream and put it back in the water. If you release it where you caught the trout it will go right back upstream and scare the other fish in the pool. Back in 1919 they didn’t release any trout.

A second place to look for big trout is under the bridges where there is continuous shade. So if the sun is shining bright fish the bridge hole from the downstream side. Then go to the next bridge and fish it too. Keep fishing the hole under the bridge and eventually you will catch a trout over 17 inches long.

Jay Ford Thurston is the Broadcaster’s trout fishing columnist. He can be contacted at


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