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Cross Training

I get a little tired with the exclusivity some anglers have:  You know, “I’m a walleye angler”, or “I only fish for bass”, “Catfish or nothing”.  I get it, we naturally have our favorites, but it gets real old when some are so snobbish that they despise other fish that end up on the end of their lines.  They just do not get it.  Oh, I have my favorites too, but I believe that you can actually become a better angler for your favorite fish if you learn how to catch other species.  Learn to apply new ideas, new presentations, to the fishing you do!  In the process, you might even develop a deeper appreciation for the fish we love to pursue and the environments in which they live.  You might even discover more and more enjoyment from your time on the water.

I was reminded of this again recently when I watched an In-Fisherman TV segment:

Rock Solid Strategies in Action

I have never fished for steelhead one day in my life.  However, over the years I have read every story I can find about steelhead fishing, have watched every TV show and video I could find.  Steelhead are nothing but big, ocean-run, rainbow trout.  They are the same rainbow trout, Onchorhyncus mykiss that I have fished for many times, many places.  As that In-Fisherman video points out, the same float-fishing techniques that are used to catch steelhead on a Great Lakes or west coast stream can be applied to catching trout on a river or stream anywhere in the world, yes, even in Nebraska.

Want a little secret from this ole pointy-headed fish biologist/fisherman?  The “steelhead” float fishing techniques illustrated in the video have dried off a darned lot of Lake Ogallala rainbow trout for me and my fishing partners over the years.  I even ordered a specialized St. Croix float fishing rod to do it.  As a matter of fact, look close at the first trout shown in the video link above, the trout being taken out of the small landing net, you might recognize that fish, might recognize some of the scenes shown.


Float fishing techniques work great for other species as well, panfish, catfish, even walleyes and other large predator fish.  And you know what?  Those techniques can be easily applied to standing waters too, not just rivers and streams.  It is a technique for big fish, trophy fish, large specimens of a variety of species, not just panfish or “pellet-head” put-and-take trout that just came off the stocking truck.

Sure you could you tie on a weight, hook, thread on a ‘crawler and catch fish.  You bet, that still works too.  But, if you experiment, try new things, apply different techniques, you might just find that there are other ways that work even better!  I have not fed a nightcrawler to a trout, any trout, for a long, long time, years.  I have found a better way to catch those fish, and a huge advantage is that they are very releasable–they do not swallow a nightcrawler and hook deep down their throat!  I have not had to sacrifice a deep-hooked trout for a long, long time.

That specific float-fishing technique is very versatile, and that is another reason I love it.  I often start with relatively large baits and accompanying large hooks and heavy leaders.  If the fish, trout in this particular example, are actively feeding, that is it, good to go.  But, as often occurs when you are on the water, the fish may not be in a positive feeding mood, or with trout, they are selectively feeding on one certain prey item.  In that case, I start down-sizing to smaller baits and lighter leaders until I find something that will get ’em to bite; time on the water and observation of what is happening around you will make the experimentation period a lot shorter.  I usually know right away, within a cast or drift or two, if I have it right.  In extreme conditions I fish with flies, sometimes with a fly rod, but oftentimes with the float rod and spinning reel.  It is the same technique that fly anglers use to drift fish a variety of nymph patterns.  They just call it a “strike indicator” when they put some sort of float on their line.  The key is getting a drag-free drift whether you prefer a fly rod or float rod.


If you need some more background on the subject, take a gander at this old blog post, Trout Fishing Presentations That Will Work Anywhere.  And, please do not think this blog post is just about trout fishing, or river and stream fishing.  The broader point is that being versatile, by learning different presentations and techniques and applying them to the waters you fish, you can catch more and bigger fish.  Versatility is a huge key to consistent fishing success–consistently catching fish, and consistently catching big fish.

It still works,


and it works for big fish.


It works both ways too!  My fly-fishing, trout-bum nephew recently caught this big brownie out in Montana on a spinning rod and jig while fishing for walleyes!


About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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