Trout fans know 'bows, browns and lakers prowl shoreline shallows early in the season, and when wind beats the bank, casting cranks, spoons and swimbaits produces banner catches. But when the wind dies, so does the bite.
"Shallow spring trout act comatose in flat, glass-calm conditions," says high-country guide and avowed salmonid seeker Bernie Keefe, of Granby, Colorado. "You can forget about aggressive tactics until the wind picks up again. But that doesn't mean your day's over."
Keefe copes with the calm by fishing a finesse softbait program so inanimate, it borders on deadsticking. He targets the same points, inside turns and flats that produced trout in heavier seas, in depths of 2 to 15 feet. Sand, gravel and mud are preferred substrates, mainly because rocks eat rigs dragged along bottom. Dark, fast-warming soil also jumpstarts the food chain, attracting hungry trout.
Four-inch bass-style tubes and 5-inch Berkley PowerBait Jerk Shads are top options. "Stick to muted colors like green, gray, or a good, boring brown," he says. "You're trying to sneak the bait past the fish without them getting too good a look."
Keefe threads softbaits on drab-colored leadheads up to ½-ounce in weight, to allow long casts and seamless bottom contact. "Push the jig tight against jerkbaits and into tubes, so the head burrows into bottom," he advises. "If you rig the bait too far back it will want to drift off to the side, which is a deal-breaker in this situation."
He favors a 6-foot, 3-inch medium heavy spinning rod, paired with a Wright & McGill Sabalo 2500 reel spooled with 14-pound FireLine Crystal. A 5-foot leader of 10-pound fluorocarbon, joined to his mainline with a uni knot, boosts the stealth factor.
"Make a long cast, let the jig settle, then begin a slow, bottom-oriented retrieve," he explains. Keeping the rodtip at about 2 o'clock, he alternately drags, twitches and pauses the jig. "Most of the time, the bait is moving, stopping occasionally here and there," he notes, adding, "When you do pause, don't be afraid to deadstick 10 to 15 seconds."
Animation is imparted with the rodtip, and slack is taken up after every twitch. "You need to be ready to set the hook at a moment's notice," he says. Strikes register as light ticks or subtle taps, as if the jig suddenly skittered across hard bottom. "When you feel that, give 'em a quick, crisp, cross-body set," he adds.
Boat control is also paramount. "If you move down the bank too fast, you'll miss half the fish," Keefe warns. He also cautions to be prepared to shift gears when a breeze picks up. "It doesn't take much of a chop to turn the fish on again," he says. "The second the wind comes back, switch back into search mode and start fishing aggressively with cranks, spoons and swimbaits." In the meantime, though, use Keefe's finesse program to keep your success rate on life support until comatose trout regain consciousness.
Contact: Bernie Keefe; FishingWithBernie.com, (970) 531-2318.