The poles were set, and the trolling motor was humming us along the rocky edges and sub-structure of Lost Creek Reservoir. Suddenly a pole lurched downward and the fight was on.
This was a big day for my grandson, Lincoln; his first fishing-from-the-boat adventure. And we had made special plans to try to "guarantee" fish for him. Which is never a sure thing. Some advanced scouting was necessary. We didn't even get him out of bed until he was ready to go, so that he wouldn't be tired or grumpy. No 5 a.m. departure on this day.
This time of the late summer/early fall, the trout fishing is generally picking up at Lost Creek and other Top of Utah reservoirs. That was the premise of our lake selection: Fish where the fish are plentiful, and Lost Creek is that, if nothing else. We felt confident that with a fish-finder, we could stay on fish most of the day. We were able to do just that.
Our next strategy was to have out multiple poles, in hopes that we could keep Lincoln relatively busy. Almost any pole that started to bounce was immediately given to him to reel in. We caught and released fish, which he was fine with, and kept a few for eating. Grandma had given orders that she wanted some fresh fish to cook. But we didn't want to kill everything we caught. So that was Lincoln's charge for the day. And he was well aware of the nice fish that he bagged up that morning.
We found that "flash lures," such as Kastmasters, Rooster-Tails, and Wedding Rings with a dodger were most productive. Most fish came from long-lining the lures behind the boat on monofilament line.
We did the dirty work of unhooking fish and applying new liquid attractant to lures, but Lincoln even wanted to be involved in that. Don't force them to "hold a worm" if they don't want to try.
We also wanted him to have his own pole in the water, so that he might feel a little more "ownership" of his actions. As hoped, he was able to release the lure on his own, allow it to free-spool back to a distance away from the boat, and recognize his own bites. He did so very well, which I attribute to his previous experience bank fishing. In fact, on one retrieve he lost his fish, and knew it immediately. "He got off!" he yelled, and was correct in his call. How great is it when a four-year-old kid gets the feel for fishing to the point that he or she knows exactly what's going on at all times.
"I got a big one!" my grandson yelled at one point. And sure enough, his pole was dancing in his small hands as he struggled to bring the fish in. He did a good job of keeping the pole up, reeling like crazy, and caught a fat 'bow all by himself. To say he was quite proud of himself would be an understatement.
Next, we wanted to cover water depths as much as possible to find the most active fish. As it turned out, those near the surface were the active feeders on this day, with the downrigger only collecting a few trout.
We were blessed with fat rainbows in the 12 to 13 inch range, and several nice cutthroats that pushed 15. That's nice to see coming out of Lost Creek, where the fish have been stunted in the past at much smaller sizes.
We had searched fish at different depths with the downrigger, looking for active trout. However, the only action on the downrigger was when it was at its highest levels of about 20 feet or less. We figured our mono and lure combo was only getting down six to eight feet at the speed we were moving, but that was good enough. The hits were hard and unmistakable, making for a good time for us all.
Lastly, we were determined to make sure that we got off the lake before he became weary of the boat ride and fishing, so that he'd be hungry for more. But he outlasted all of us, going four hours and still wanting more when we finally pulled the boat out of the water.
Then he wanted to fish from the shore. He never tired out on us, which was surprising. The rest of us were wiped out.
So, in summary, make a good choice of waters to fish, allow your student-angler to bring and use his or her own pole, search water depths for the concentrations of fish, and leave them wanting more when the day is over.
These few elements worked well for us, and hopefully you'll find success with a similar method with your little ones. As for Lincoln, he's ready for another trip at anytime.
Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at email@example.com