Basic, run-of-the-mill earthworms (also known as “garden hackle“) continue to catch trout, but more so at higher elevation waters than at lower, municipal reservoirs. The best way to fish these is using just one or two on the hook, making certain to cover the point and the shank.
Rig the worms through the sex collar, using a #8 to #12 bait-holder hook. For still-fishing from the bank, a more subtle offering of just one or two instead of an entire “gob” is preferred. This presumably looks more natural to the trout.
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Nightcrawlers present another situation all together. Fish the ‘crawler with a #6 to #10 longshank bronze baitholder hook. Run the hook through the sex collar and then back through, re-embedding it into the ‘crawler, creating a weedless effect.
Another option is to do the same thing only this time fill the nightcrawler full of air with a worm blower (basically a crude syringe sold at tackle stores). This will force the bait to float off the bottom depending upon the length of the leader line.
Both red worms and nightcrawlers can be still-fished with the traditional sliding egg sinker rigs. However, with nightcrawlers, you might consider using a 4 pound test leader. Bigger trout chomp on these jumbo worms and are often not that particular about the diameter of the leader material. Hence, the heavy leader will give you a little more leverage against larger fish. But, if the 4 pound test doesn’t get bit, go back to fishing the ‘crawler on 2 to 3 pound test.
Be sure to inspect the bait before you leave the tackle shop. Most stores allow you to empty the contents into a metal or cardboard trough to determine that the bait is alive and represented in the proper amount.
Finally, keep nightcrawlers chilled for best results. You can store them in an insulated “Bait Canteen” or buy an inexpensive styrofoam ice chest with a lid containing coolant solution that you can freeze. You can keep ‘crawlers alive in this chest all day even through the hottest summer months.
Grasshoppers and Crickets
In some areas grasshoppers and crickets produce fantastic results when more conventional offerings fail. Some bait shops sell crickets in little cages. As for grasshoppers, you can easily catch your own. Take a woman’s nylon stocking and stretch it over a wire coat hanger frame. Attach a broom handle and you have a simple grasshopper net.
Hook live ‘hoppers and crickets right under the collar again, using light leaders and #6 to #10 baitholders. Large browns and ‘bows seldom see these morsels and jump on them like a rare treat. So be prepared for possibly tangling with a larger-class trout when you use either live grasshoppers or crickets!
Other Bait for Trout Streams
There are some subtle tricks that help catch trout with bait when stream fishing. Locally collected baits can be deadly on rivers and creeks.
As with all forms of troutin’, bait fishermen must be willing to “mix it up” as far as presentations are concerned. Sometimes, just when it seems that the fish are annihilating one bait, the bite shuts off and you have to switch to another. In our highly pressured California streams and lakes, light, delicate leaders and small hooks are a must when soaking baits. Western trout can be super finicky, so be certain to take the time to discretely hide the hook in the bait.