Fishing high-water conditions after a heavy rain in summer can produce great brown trout action.
As effective as flies are for duping large trout, inline spinners have a unique way of persuading lackadaisical fish to bite. Spinner fishing is not a foreign technique for most anglers, and many have used them in the early spring and late fall seasons to catch steelhead and salmon for years. Contrary to popular belief, spinner fishing during the summer months can also provide steady action, as well as a great shot at enticing the lunker of the hole to bite.
While fishing the many great tributaries of Lake Superior over the last 10 years, there have been many occasions when the going got tough with flies, and a quick switch to spinners produced immediate results. Using spinners, my cohorts and I landed one Rainbow after another on these tough days. Not only do spinners consistently fool Rainbows, but they are very efficient at deceiving other species of trout such as Browns, Brookies and Cutthroat.
Secrets for Success
Spinners are productive fish catchers for multiple reasons, the most significant of those being the rapidly spinning blade attached to the wire shaft of the lure. This unique design feature allows the blade to pump and push through the water, imitating many of the living creatures on which big trout feed. These spinning blades also put out a tremendous amount of flash, which is useful in attracting and enticing the most lackadaisical lake-run fish into taking notice.
Another key feature of spinners is their weight, which provides two distinct advantages over most flies and other lures. The spinner's heavy weight and compact, balanced design makes casting these baits relatively easy, allowing anglers to sneak baits under overhanging roots and branches to fishy looking holes. The weight of spinners also plays a big factor in getting the spinner down deep in the water column quickly, even in the fastest of currents. Big trout rarely move farther than a few feet to strike at bait, so getting down into their strike zone quickly is imperative.
Another key to spinner fishing is the speed at which these lures can and should be retrieved. "The faster the better" is the general rule for spinner retrieval. Burning through holes with spinners gives trout little chance to get a good look at what you're offering, and in most instances, this speed gets fish to bite down ferociously.
Fishing spinners slow and deep through large pools is your best bet for hooking into trophy trout.
The key to spinner selection is to match your spinner to the water color, light conditions and stream size that you're fishing. Metallic gold, copper or silver spinners will produce best in clear water conditions with a bright sun overhead. In the low-light conditions of dusk and dawn, painted blades in black and gold/silver or black and red should do the trick. A good idea is to carry a wide variety of spinners ranging from 1/32, 1/16, 1/8 to 1/4 ounce. If you are fishing smaller streams or rivers in low-water conditions, try using smaller spinners. When fishing big, open waters or flood conditions, starting with large 1/4 ounce spinners is best.
The Big Three
If you were to walk into a tackle shop and ask to be pointed in the direction of the spinner aisle, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of different spinners available. Truth be told, though, there are three basic spinner brands – Mepps, Blue Fox and Panther Martin – and these are the most popular with anglers.
Mepps spinners are high-quality spinners that incorporate large blades that give off tons of flash and "thump" when retrieved. Blue Fox spinners are also very high quality spinners that use a little smaller blade than Mepps, but Blue Fox incorporates the Vibrax body system to help fish take notice of the spinner pumping through the water. The last of the big three is Panther Martin, and these spinners have a unique linkage for their blades (attaching them directly to the wire shaft) that creates a wobble-type retrieve for the spinner.
Spinner Fishing Techniques
The type of retrieve you should use when spinner fishing is based on a couple of different factors, including water flow, water depth and the weather conditions outside. In larger streams, which can be increasingly deep or flowing heavy from a good rain fall, use an upstream and across cast to place the lure ahead of your target so that it can sink into the strike zone. Once the spinner has dropped down to the appropriate depth, let the spinner drift with the current into quicker water. Once the spinner reaches the tail of the pool or riffle, a moderately fast and steady retrieve upstream should be used. In many instances fish will follow the spinner during the drift and strike on the upstream retrieve near structure like rocks and boulders. In smaller streams, or in low water conditions with relatively little current, cast the spinner close to your target and begin the retrieve on touch down. The retrieve should be a little slower giving the fish as much of a chance as possible to strike.
Large, aggressive, migratory trout such as steelhead take spinners greedily while in rivers.
After working a hole thoroughly, parallel casting downstream and hanging the spinner in the current near eddies, boulders and other cover can be very effective. On heavily pressured waters trout regularly see spinners presented in the traditional fashion, so getting away from the norm can sometime change your odds.
If you encounter a large, relatively slow moving pool, try fan casting to cover the entire pool. Fan casting is a technique that starts with the angler casting to one side or the other – either 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock – depending on which way the water is flowing. Always start casting into the current and work your way downstream until you cover all the water in front of you.
Catch and Release
If you are planning on practicing catch and release, either crimp down the barbs on the treble hooks that come on the spinners to ease in removal, or simply change the treble to a single hook. Treble hooks have a way of getting all three hooks buried in the fish's mouth, making them very difficult to remove without doing damage to the fish. One trick to aid in hook removal is to initially wet your hand and invert the trout upside down in the water. This position will temporarily stun the fish, allowing you to slip the hook from its jaws and release it unscathed.
Learning to fish spinners effectively for trout is a must, no matter how good an individual may be with other techniques. Spinner fishing is a very versatile technique and can be applied to almost any body of water an angler comes across. Better yet, this technique is easy to learn for anglers of all levels. Pick up a few spinners and hide them away in your vest for safe keeping, just in case you come across a stretch of tough luck. You never know – they might just be what the fish are waiting for on that particular day.