Targeting Trophy Trout

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

and increase the scent trail.

Fish the crayfish with a drift, the same way you would a worm. I prefer fishing them in fast water, where the current tumbles them along the bottom, making them look temporarily vulnerable.

My first cast with a crayfish on the North Fork produced a 16-inch rainbow - a trophy! - from a swift run, convincing me that I had discovered the magic bait for the river.

But the trout must have been a fluke, because I didn't catch another on the second cast. In fact, I probably cast 20 times before I had another bite, and then I reeled in a 13-inch trout.

Apparently, I'd been demoted from trophy fishing status.

Once, when I was scrambling around among the rocks looking for more crayfish, I discovered an ugly minnow in my fine-mesh trout net. It was a sculpin.

Sculpins look a bit like catfish and a lot like grumpy, toothless old men.

When you first encounter one, you don't want to touch it because you're sure that it could either bite you or sting you. Certainly it looks mean enough to cuss you to death.

As soon as you get one in hand, though, you realize why trout might like them. They are so smooth and soft finned that they must slide through a trout's gullet like water down a drainpipe.

When I was growing up, we often traded fishing tales about secretive old men who caught huge trout using sculpins for bait, but we never actually tried using them.

I was still reluctant to fish with the sculpin because I really didn't know how. I had, however, seen pictures of them in fishing books rigged with a special long-shanked double hook that went through the sculpin's vent and out the mouth.

Lacking one of those, I simply hooked the sculpin through the lips with my small hook and cast it to the head of a truly fast-rushing strip of water.

It never reached bottom. A fish hit the sculpin almost the same moment as it landed behind a standing wave.

This was a big fish, had much more heft than my previous trophy. The fight lasted only about 10 seconds, then my bait slipped out of the fish's mouth. I reeled it in. The sculpin had scars on its side and its fins were bedraggled, but it still wiggled.

I cast it to the same spot and had another brief fish fight. I cast it again, had

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