For many of us, the classic in-line spinner represents the first artificial lure on which we duped a stream-dwelling trout, a significant milestone in a young angler’s progression and one that we’ll never forget.
Classic spinners—ones like the Rooter Tail, Panther Martin and Mepps Aglia—have inherent qualities that make them effective trout getters for novice and veterans alike. The rookie will benefit from the built-in attraction a simple cast-and-crank presentation provides. The sharp, and relatively diminutive treble hooks essentially set themselves when a fish grabs the bait.
Conversely, the experienced angler understands the significance of the details, raising spinner fishing to that of a highly efficient search-and-capture approach. In a vein similar to the largemouth/spinnerbait connection, a key to spinner success is in fine-tuning variables such as size, blade profile, and lure finish in relation to the conditions faced.
|Having an assortment of colors, sizes and patterns will provide you with more options if the fish are being selective.
Spinners most appropriate for stream trout fishing run from size 0 to size 2. A condition that would lean one toward the smaller end of this scale is clear water. Another is the size of the trout being pursued. If the quarry is hand-size native brookies from a backwoods stream, go small.
On the other hand, when the setting is a larger stream flowing strongly with early-spring rain and snow melt, it’s fitting to use a larger version, which is easier for the fish to see, and more representative of food they are pursuing.
Color provides another opportunity for refinement, though personal preference, fueled by the confidence established from past success is a significant factor. That said, color can make a difference.
On the western Pennsylvania streams where I learned to fish a spinner, a popular combination was a brown Rooster Tail with a copper blade, particularly for brown trout. The accepted theory was that the color combination suggested a crayfish, a food source browns are especially fond of. This match-the-hatch notion can effectively be applied to white bodied spinners with silver blades, a finish that mimics many minnow species.
Contrasting colors can help turn the head of a trout, particularly when the water is stained. For example, the bright dots on the black blade of the Mepps Black Fury—another classic trout spinner—might provide the look trout respond to under conditions of marginal clarity.
Treble hooks with a bucktail dressing have the potential to trigger an extra strike or two, the breathing look imparted by water passing through the hair making the difference between a trout eating the bait, or turning at the last moment.
||Timing is everything. Match the size of the spinner to the size of the forage as best you can—the fish will follow.
How and where you fish a spinner is as least as important as lure details. Think of a spinner at a search tool, one best used to seek out active fish. So fish it in and around feeding lies, those spots within a stream where trout pull up to the table: the tailout sections of pools, tight to undercut banks, transition zones where a riffle feeds a slower pool, deep, boulder strewn runs and pocket water alongside riffles.
The blade of a spinner needs a certain resistance to ‘bite’ against, so don’t make casts directly upstream. Instead, make casts that angle just slightly upstream, so the bait swings down with the current during the retrieve. Often a trout will hit a spinner at the end of the swing, as it suspends in the flow, so give the bait a second or two at this point, perhaps even jigging it a couple times with the rodtip.
The better spinner anglers put the wear-and-tear on wader soles, covering a lot of stream during a day, firing casts in and across likely lairs, and then moving on.