Each year when the salmon migrate their way back to the tributaries to complete their spawning cycle, Trout follow them to target the salmon eggs for an easy meal to help fatten up for the winter months. In the fall trout from a far will start to bundle up near the mouth of the rivers or congregate in the tail end of runs waiting for salmon eggs to drift downstream. As the salmon start to thin out throughout the season and into later October, the Rainbow Trout will start to make their way up the river to feed. This is the perfect time to target these opportunist fish by using an Trout Bead patterns.
The best places to target the Rainbows are below spawning fish and off to the side. As the salmon spawn the trout position downstream waiting for straggling eggs to float by. Locate pools, current seams, long runs, cut banks, and any other structure, as this is usually where the Rainbows will be hiding out.
Traditionally fly anglers target trout feeding on salmon eggs by using a fly egg pattern, also known as a “Pom Pom Fly”. More and more anglers are now switching to using trout beads, which imitate a single fish egg. The benefit of the trout bead method is that the fish don’t take the hook deep into its throat like they do when using a traditional egg pattern. The main difference is that the bead is located 1.5 to 2 inches up the leader from the hook, where the egg fly pattern is directly on the shank of the hook, which allows the fish to swallow the hook deeply.
The way that the trout bead works is that the fish takes the bead then the angler sets the hook. The line between the bead and the hook will slide through the fishes mouth driving the hook point into the inside of the beak of the fish’s mouth; not allowing the hook to go into the throat. This hook set allows the angler to easily remove the hook from the fish’s mouth and provides a clean release. The use of barbless hooks is essential when using this method. It’s important to note that all rivers and streams in BC have a single barbless hook restriction.
Trout Bead Set Up & Tackle Considerations:
Trout beads can be found at majority of tackle shops and they come in a variety of colours and sizes. Choosing size and colour can depend on the time of year and which fish egg you are trying to imitate. Peach and orange colours tend to work best, but it is a good idea to have an arsenal of beads in different colours and sizes. The size of the beads that you want in your kit will be between 6 to 10mms. If the trout are skiddish use a smaller size of bead. Water clarity is another determining factor; the more stained the water the bigger the bead can be used. The darker the water is start by using a bead that will provide strong contrast. Use lighter colours of beads for clearer water conditions.
You can fish this method by using a spinning rod or a fly rod. For a spinning rod I recommend a medium action 7ft rod equipped with 8lbs fluorocarbon line. For a fly rod a 6wt, 9 foot rod is perfect. You can either use a wet line with a sinking tip or a floating line with a strike indicator and longer leader. Equip your fly line with 3X 8lbs leader and a 4x 6lbs tippet.
How to Create a Trout Bead Presentation:
This presentation is much easier to set up that it sounds. Basically you will require the following:
- Hooks: Size 6 is a good size for majority of BC Rivers. (I prefer Gamakatsu Octopus Red Hooks)
- Trout Beads: 6 to 10mm, in multiple colours. (good colours: peach, cotton candy & orange)
- Split Shot Weights: Depending on current and river depths, best to have a wide selection.
- Float or Strike Indicator: When using a spinning rod an adjustable sliding float is vital. When using a fly rod a strike indicator will help detect the subtle hits.
- Small barrel swivel: This is used to connect your leaders to main line.
- Toothpicks or Trout Bead Pegs: Instead of tying a bead knot you can use a toothpick or Trout Bead Peg to hold the bead on the leader.
Hook Size to Bead Size: Matching the hook size to the bead size will help you land more fish. Use this formula to help match up the sizes: 6mm bead = size 12 or 10 hook, 8mm bead = size 8 or 6 hook, 10mm bead = size 6 to 4 hook, 12mm bead = size 4 hook.
The first step is to tie your trout bead onto your leader this is done by using the bead knot. If you don’t feel comfortable tying the bead knot a tip of a toothpick or a trout bead peg can be used to secure the bead onto the line.
Once you have your bead tied on then tie your hook 1.5-2 inches from the hook. If you find that you are snagging the fish on the outside of the mouth or in and around its head then shorten the distance between the bead and the hook. A simple Improved Clinch Knot will work fine to tie the hook.
Before tying the leader line to the mainline, run the float or strike indicator up the mainline.
Connect the mainline and leader by using a small barrel swivel. The length of leader between the hook and swivel should be approx.18 inches.
Attach a couple of small split shot weights above the swivel onto the mainline. Throughout the day you will have to adjust the weight depending on current speed and water depth. The key is to keep the bead within the strike zone of the trout, which is approx. 4 to 8 inch off the bottom. The weight will do two things; either bounce along the bottom keeping the bead naturally presented tumbling off the bottom or in the deeper water the weight will allow your bead to stay suspended just off the bottom. Keep adjusting your weight and leader length throughout the day and between areas of the river to find the pattern than works best.
A good tip is that before heading out onto the water tie up multiple bead presentations. This will help reduce time while on the water when having to retie or adjust your presentation.
Here is a video by Big Y Fly company to help breakdown this process:
The key to this fishing is to “dead drift” your presentation through the water. This is similar to nymph fishing to the avid fly angler. Cast 3/4 up stream and across the current. Be sure to cast upstream from your initial targeted area. As the float drifts downstream pick up any slack line and follow it with your rod tip downstream. The longer drifts the better, as it will keep the presentation within the strike zone longer and more naturally.
As soon as you see any irregularities in your line set the hook! The fish will only hold onto the bead for a short period, hook sets are free so take as many as you need. The hook set is more of a sweep up and to the side rather than an aggressive upward swing. Sometimes when the weight bounces off the bottom it can get stuck and appear to be a bite, but by sweeping the rod as if you were setting the hook will help lessen the amount of snags on the river bed.
This fishing technique with trout beads is very productive on any rivers that are home to spawning fish. So once you master this method be sure to add it to your bag of tricks for all fisheries.
Since you will be fishing in late October the weather conditions can be somewhat harsh and cold. Be sure to use a thick pair of waders and dress in layers. When walking the river areas it is a good idea to carry bear spray with you, as there are bears in the area feeding on the dead salmon carcasses.
When heading out to the Salmon Spawning Rivers please take these conversational steps to ensure the fishery is protected:
- Wash your boots before heading out. “Rock Snot” and other invasive species are a huge threat to all river systems. Washing your river boots prior to coming will ensure that we don’t carry any unwanted species to this system.
- Be mindful of spawning salmon and reduce the amount of walking within the water. As you wade in the water you will be walking over top of spawning habitat that will be containing eggs. By minimizing the river area in which we walk in will help reduce damaging eggs.
- Handle the fish with care. Catch and release the fish in ways that are not harmful to the well being of the fish. Avoid areas that salmon are rearing in to allow them to peacefully complete their spawning cycle.
- Pack out what you pack in. With everyone’s help we can keep the river clear and free of garbage.
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