Of Browns and 'Bows

Rods, Reels & Line
Gorp.com
Page 2 of 4   |  
Rainbow trout
An All-American: The Rainbow Trout

Before you hop on a plane with your rod tube and waders, some research is called for to determine when you should go where and what tackle you should take.

I learned a couple of lessons at Mickey and Maggie Greenwood's Blackfire Flyfishing Guest Ranch in northern New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains late in the summer of 1997.

Their trout pond is jammed with giant rainbows (and some scary cutts, too), with the rainbows averaging 4-8 pounds. These are big, healthy fish that fight like demons. I broke two 'bows off using a 5X tippet before going heavier. Knowing that the pond was filled with these brutes, I quickly realized that I would continue to lose fish if I didn't up the ante just a bit.

Sizing Up the Right Rod
I caught my first brown as a boy on Maine's North Pond using a 7-weight, 8 1/2-foot rod, which is fine for hooking good-sized browns on a Maine pond.

But that particular rod wouldn't be right for sea-run browns in the Ogunquit River along the Maine coast in February. Sea-run browns can be caught not only in select streams and rivers in North America, but also from the British Isles to Patagonia—southern Argentina is renowned for the finest sea-run brown fishing anywhere.

That rod wouldn't be right on Colorado's St. Vrain or on Redington Pond in the Redington Pond Range in Maine, where the smallish browns are best caught with a 4-weight or so. And that rod would be a bit heavy for catching browns in the Cherokee Nation's ponds and streams in North Carolina.

And the same goes for rainbows.

Again, homework is called for. Still, if I had to pick one rod to use on browns and rainbows across North America, I would select a mid-flex 6-weight between 8 1/2 and 9 feet.

Better Have a Drag
Many anglers view reels as nothing more than a place to store line, but the choice of reel may be even somewhat more important than that of rod when it comes to big browns and 'bows.

For instance, I have taken some fine rainbows (hatchery fish) from Lake Cuyamaca in the mountains above San Diego, trout that had become smart and had grown to a few pounds.

The reel I used was an inexpensive but acceptable reel for handling fish of that size. However, had I found myself fighting one of the lake's 9-pound rainbows, I wonder if the reel's drag—which I had seldom put to the test—would have survived.

Along the same lines, hefty rainbows in fast water will often test a drag's mettle, with the added stress of the moving water to determine whether the reel is right or wrong. So if you plan to stalk big trout in powerful water, never shortchange yourself with your choice of reel.

Lines cover the spectrum. In Colorado's high-country lakes, full-sinks and sink-tips are the norm when casting big black Woolly Buggers, but floating lines are needed for much of the fishing on Colorado's rivers. Check the conditions before you leave, no matter where you are going.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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