What if your dad wasn't around to teach you? Or you grew up in the asphalt wasteland where the nearest fish were townie carp?

Slide a bullet sinker up the line, tie on a swivel, cut 30 inches of leader, tie it on to the other side of the swivel, tie on a No. 16 treble or a No. 10 bait hook. Open the bait jar, cut a forked stick…

That is the typical beginner's trout fishing setup as advised by the typical expert, but it requires a nodding acquaintance with proper weights, dexterity with knots, and rigging. No wonder it's so hard to catch fish if you haven't done it before.

I stopped at a 17-and-under youth fishing pond the other day to watch budding anglers in action. Aside from the fact a state trooper could have filled his ticket book with overage fishermen, it became clear what the inexperienced angler needs is better advice.

An angler with a few years behind him can set up a trout bait rig in under a minute. A novice might just go back to golf or pick up a pool cue or a fifth of Jack.


What we want are easy rigs. Tie one knot. Go fishing.

An appropriate rod and reel combo is easy to find and can be picked up at any tackle store. The rod should be between five and seven feet long, rated for 4- to 8-pound line, and the reel should be the open-face spinning type, filled with six-pound test monofilament. Spincast Snoopy, SpongeBob and Barbie need not apply.

Now learn how to tie a knot. Use the Improved Clinch. Run the line through the eye of the lure, wind the tag six times around the line, run the tag through the loop and back through the second loop, moisten it, pull it tight.

The archetype lure for the one-knot angler must be the 1/6-ounce Rooster Tail spinner. Buy it in brown or black and take it to the lake. Cast and retrieve with a little twitch to get the blade revolving about the shaft. If it's not spinning it won't catch a thing. Crank just fast enough to get the blade spinning and keep it off the bottom. No faster. Move from spot to spot till you find the fish.

You're going to lose gear. If you're not snagging up, you're not fishing where the fish are. If you can't pop the lure free, point the rod at the lure and back up with one hand on the spool to break the line. Reel it in, trim off the frayed end and tie that Improved Clinch again.  

Another good spinner is the Mack's Lure Promise Keeper. The one you want for hatchery rainbows is the 1/8-ounce model in a frog pattern or in black with a red dot.

These lures target the aggressive fish in any pod of trout, the ones most likely to feed on baitfish and minnows.


An even easier lure to fish is a crankbait like Worden's Timber Tiger. Try the Delta Craw or Rainbow Trout pattern in the DC-2 or DC-3 configuration. These plastic-lipped baits dive when they're cranked. They are a good bet too, when trolled 60 feet behind the boat. In deeper water, use the DC-8 or greater rating.

When fishing a river for trout, consider another one-knot option. Tie a small jig head on to the main line then slip a bubblegum pink or an orange skirted tube like Outlaw Bait's 2.25-inch Steelie Tube over the head of the jig. Cast it upstream then hold the rod high and let the jig bounce along the bottom.  

The trick when trout fishing is to use these lures with either 4-pound or 6-pound test main line. Any heavier and fish will spook.            

One-knot fishing targets the bigger fish, the predators that feed on minnows. And a day's worth of tackle can fit in one pocket-size box. If you haven't exhausted your angling budget yet, buy a landing net. You're going to need it.


Gary Lewis is the host of Frontier Unlimited and author of John Nosler – Going Ballistic, A Bear Hunter's Guide to the Universe, Hunting Oregon and other titles. Contact Lewis at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.

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Originally Published: Apr 23, 2014

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