Presented from Issue 108, February 2014
Michal Rybka shares some useful trout techniques that he discovered on a recent trip to the Canadian wilderness.
For the third time now, I have been fortunate enough to fish for trout and salmon in British Columbia, Canada.
The most recent trip was certainly the most enlightening, with lots learned. My experience started when I walked into one particular tackle store in the city of Vancouver. While the size of the shop was the first thing I noticed, I was more intrigued by what was on the shelves!
Fly-fishing, like in many places all over the world, seemed to be very popular - with a lot of gear on offer. But the real surprise came when I discovered several aisles full of just spoons and wobblers. While I also saw quite a few soft plastics, there were next to no hard-body lures for sale. The fly and spoon seemed to be the method of choice for Canadians, and this was confirmed when I talked to the staff at the shop.
When it comes to the Canadians fishing for salmon and trout, the methods that seem ‘old school’ at home in Tasmania, are the preferred choices over there. And it is because these methods work so well. Below, I have described some simple, but deadly, Canadian methods that are well suited for catching trout in Tasmania.
This style of rig may already be familiar to many of you who like to fish mud-eyes under a bubble float. However, while similar, the Canadian version has many more applications. Instead of just using a mud-eye as bait, the Canadians use a single artificial fly. If you are fishing a lake, the rig is cast out and simply retrieved using a very slow, flat wind.
You can also just leave it sitting there and wait for the bite! I liken it to fly fishing without a fly rod. Best of all, there are no special skills required. Both trout and salmon will readily fall for this method.
This rig can be set up on just about any type of fishing rod. The water filled bubble float ensures super long casting distances. It really is a great rig to use in places such as Arthurs Lake in the warmer months when the trout feed near the surface. The Canadians use this rig a lot in their huge rivers, simply drifting it in the current for salmon. From experience, it is equally as effective fished this way in any Tasmanian small river, stream or creek – just be sure to adjust the depth of your leader to suit. Try it somewhere like the Meander River, Macquarie River or South Esk. Cast it upstream as far as possible. Make sure that you have plenty of line out while still having the ability to set the hook. Then just watch the float like a hawk as it drifts downstream.
You could even walk downstream with the float if the current is not too fast. I have tested this technique in the Meander recently and I can tell you that my little adventure was productive and, above all, a lot of fun! A final tip with this method for those anglers who don’t like to use flies, or have little knowledge as to which fly to use, a small micro-sized soft plastic can be substituted in place of the fly. A natural coloured Strike Tiger 1 inch nymph is perfect for the job (I use the ‘olive pepper’ colour for rivers). You can also try using Berkley Gulp crickets in ‘brown’ or ‘green pumpkinseed’ - they come packed in a small jar of fish attracting juice.
|Spoons and wobblers rule in Canada
The perfect substitute for lead line This setup is perfect for trolling deep water in places such as Arthurs Lake and Great Lake. It is a good method to use if you don’t own a lead line setup. The Canadians use it for catching those big Chinook salmon - the ones that you have probably seen when watching TV shows like Robson Green’s Extreme Fishing.
To get the lure running deep, a sinker of around 50 grams is typically used in lakes similar to ours. However, I suggest experimenting with the weight of your sinker in order to find which best suits your style of fishing.
Our lakes aren’t nearly as deep, so you may get away with a lighter setup. In saying that, the Canadians like to run these rigs very deep in order to get the lures right in the face of the fish. Over there, salmon tend to sit on the bottom in large lakes. Often what results is a so called ‘reaction bite’. This is where the salmon or trout strikes at the lure in order to protect its territory or to simply get it out of its way.
A large spoon or wobbler is used as the lure on this rig. Don’t overlook these lures. A lot of them essentially have the same ‘side to side’ swimming action as the winged devil and cobra lures do. In saying that, for those of you who religiously troll Tassie Devils or Lofty’s Cobras, this rig is equally as effective. Simply substitute the spoon for your favourite devil or cobra. Thinking outside the square, you can even use a hard body lure or paddle-tailed plastic to do the same job. Whichever lure you choose, you will soon find that this setup will get you to the bottom very quickly!
Attractors used all around the
All of the big Chinook salmon that I have seen caught in Canada have been taken on this rig. While one key element of this technique is to run the lure at a great depth, the other element is the attractor itself, and this is what I want to concentrate on. A ‘flasher’ is essentially a fish attractor and it is the most important part of this rig besides the lure. While the lure itself will attract the attention of fish, a ‘flasher’ will work to catch the attention of fish located much further away. To a fish, the bright flash represents a school of baitfish. It can also represent a fish (or a group of fish) that is in distress.
The idea is that fish will initially be drawn to the flasher and, when closer, they will see the lure swimming behind the ‘flasher’ and (hopefully) strike. It not only works on salmon, but is also deadly on trout. As a matter of fact, you will find that most predatory fish like the idea. Tuna fishermen will even use larger versions of such attractors in the off-shore environment.
The idea of a trolling an attractor in front of a lure is certainly not a new one. Many mainland anglers regularly use attractors, like ‘cowbells’, to draw the fish in to their lures. What surprises me is the fact that we seldom see trolling attractors used in Tasmania. It is most often just a cobra or devil tied on at the end of a lead line and that is it. With the added ability of attracting trout from great distances, I urge you to try this rig?
The Canadians run large spoons behind the attractor in this setup due to the large size of their fish. Since our trout aren’t nearly as big, a smaller spoon or wobbler will work well for most Tasmanian applications. Try also running Tassie Devils or Cobras behind the attractor. You will be surprised at how much more effective your lures will become!
Something different: Canadian Gravadlax
If you are a keen trout angler, you will have probably heard about this dish. Gravadlax is a traditional Scandinavian dish. It is basically raw salmon that has been cured with salt, sugar and some fresh herbs for some extra flavour. I guess it is a bit like our cold smoked salmon, with the difference being that there is no smoke flavour. It is popular in many parts of the world and there are many variations to the recipe.
While in Canada, I got to experience the local version of this dish. The Canadian recipe is very similar to the Scandinavian original. The thing that sets it apart however, is the substitution of the pure maple syrup for the brown sugar. The flavour that the syrup gives is very unique, and tasty to say the least!
Since we are in Tasmania, forget about the salmon. This recipe works equally as well using our wild brown or rainbow trout. It has become a breakfast favourite of mine on a lazy Sunday morning. Simply serve it on some nicely toasted bread spread with Philadelphia cream cheese. Serve with a poached egg on the side and you have a gourmet breakfast that will certainly impress your better half!
What you need to make it:
- 1 good sized fresh trout (not frozen)
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup (not the artificial stuff)
- 2 tablespoons of salt (non-iodised)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Fresh dill
- Clean cutting board x 2
- Glad Wrap (kitchen plastic wrap)
- Paper towel
- Long sharp fillet knife
- Microplane or grater (for lemon zest)
- Clean your trout the usual way. Take the fillets from both sides. Ensure that the rib cage is cut away from both fillets. Make sure that all traces of blood are removed from each fillet. This is important, as blood will spoil the flesh. There is no need to scale the fillets and pin bones can be left in if desired.
- Once you have cleaned both fillets, pat them dry with paper towel.
- Lay a generous amount of Glad Wrap on your cutting board and place the fillets skin side down on the plastic. Sprinkle a thin layer of salt, evenly covering both fillets (I use around 2 tablespoons for a trout of up to 2 lb).
- Drizzle the fillets with maple syrup and rub it into the salted flesh so that it is mixed with the salt and evenly distributed over the fish.
- Sprinkle a fine layer of lemon zest evenly over the top of the fillets.
- Finish off by chopping up some fresh dill and covering both fillets with a reasonably thick layer. Sandwich the fillets by placing them on top of each other (flesh to flesh).
- Wrap the whole thing tightly with the Glad Wrap that you had lining the cutting board. Place in fridge with another cutting board on top. Place something heavy on top so that the fillets are pressed together. I usually use a small brick for this.
- Turn the wrapped fillets once a day for three days. You will get juice escaping from the fish – so be sure to wipe it up. On the third day, your gravadlax will be cured and ready for eating. To eat, unwrap the fillets. Wipe the dill, salt and maple mixture, and any remaining liquids, away using paper towel. With a long sharp fillet knife, cut very thin slivers from each fillet and place them on a plate. If you have left the pin bones in, then start in the middle of the fillet and cut away. Discard the skin (pin bones will be still attached to it).
You should be left with a tasty plate of Canadian style gravadlax!
Only use the freshest and cleanest trout possible. The deep red or orange fleshed ones are the best for making any type of gravadlax. Beautiful looking trout from places such as Arthurs Lake, Woods Lake and Little Pine have all produced some great results for me in the past.
Use only proper Canadian maple syrup and not the artificial maple-flavoured stuff.
The sugar in the maple syrup and added salt in this recipe ensures that the trout is properly cured – hence safe to eat.
The final product will keep in your fridge for at least 7 days – that is if you don’t eat it all at once!
The rigs and techniques that I have described are not difficult to setup, or to use. In my mind they are very simple, back to basics approaches that should not be overlooked. They are often good alternatives when hard-bodied lures and soft plastics aren’t working for you.
And let’s not forget the humble metal spoon or wobbler. They were so popular in Tasmania back in the 70’s and 80’s, yet they have lost their popularity in more recent times. While very effective on Canadian salmon, they can also be successfully used on our Tasmanian trout. Spoons are simple to use and, due to their weight, have the ability to be cast a considerable distance.
In summing up, probably the biggest lesson that I learned from my overseas trip is to keep it simple. Dust off some of those old spoons in the garage and give them a go next time that you are up at the lakes. I am sure that you will agree that fishing methods change over time, but the fish don’t. Sometimes ‘simple’ is the best way to go! Enjoy your 100% Tassie-bred (Canadian-style) trout gravadlax!