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The Trout Mechanic
by Dr. Todd Kuhn

The summer bite was hotter than lap-spilled McDonald's coffee. Some fishermen prone to exaggeration might have said it was bordering on downright blistering. Sizey (salt-speak for "huge") trout and redfish were jumping into our waders (I'd say "into the boat" but…) as fast as we could hand feed them.

We'd waded into a venerable flock of chubbies with a sweet tooth for our root beer-and-gold-fleck DOA shrimp; a penchant that seemingly wasn't going to subside in the near future. The picture-perfect morning was destined to be penciled into my fishing journal as one of the best in recent memory. Then, as fast it began—it piddled-out.

Hmmm. No matter what we tossed, how we tossed it, where it was tossed, whom tossed it, when it was tossed or how we held our mouths while tossing it, the once famished fish had soured on our sweet treats. It's as if they'd gotten their fill of our plastic and had moved on to greener weed beds elsewhere.

After a hundred empty casts, and out of a genuine fear of contracting carpal tunnel, I clocked-out and went on break. During my momentary retreat, I glanced over, catching my buddy, a certified trout mechanic (he can fix any broken or puzzling salty bite), out on my southeasterly periphery, fiddling with something just below the upper line of his thick-framed bifocals (not an attractive look for him, BTW).

Too disgusted to care, I took a deep breath, folded my rod under my arms and began daydreaming on how great the good ol' days were (those "days" of just an hour earlier). Much to my wonderment, moments after wrenching on his rig, my trout whisperer (I'd never let him hear me say that) bud was once again in a rough-and-tumble with a fattie.

Then came another, another and yet another. Seems Ol' Goodwrench over there had re-opened the buffet line (oddly enough, the line ended with a free ride on the end of his crowded stringer).

Hey, never one too proud to ask, I did. After an impromptu on-the-water pinky-swear-to-secrecy ceremony and some spitting in our palms which ultimately led to a slimy handshake, he confided quietly he'd swapped to a bare jig and was tipping it with a shrimp. As fast as I could say, "Do you have another one of those thing-a-ma-bare-jiggies I might borrow for the duration of the day?" I was back in the game with a renewed attitude and tugging on tubs eager for my rejuvenated offering.

As is always the case, there's a lesson to be learned here. For me, it's make certain you fish with someone who's a much better fisherman than you. Okay, seriously (nobody's better than me), the lesson here is sometimes the most rudimentary of adjustments can make all the difference in the world.

As he would explain later in the truck (as we were wet-napping dried spittle off our hands), several years prior, the same thing had happened to him. A weathered old-timer who appeared to him in a dream once clued him into the tipping technique and he'd used it in the years subsequent.

Now please don't misinterpret these ramblings as a sermon on the advantages of tipping baits—that's not the point (as most of us know a thing or two about tipping).

The point is, however, I think too often, when the bite heads south, we as creatures of habit will beat a dead horse. We'll pound the water ad nasuem with the same baits and presentations. We should instead, learn to be creative and adapt. Or, have a cool bud (or "budette") whose well-versed in the mystic ways of versatility (and has creepy old salts appear to them in their dreams revealing insider tips, tactics and how-to).