The Browns of Fall
Fishing Rapalas for brown trout on Diamond Fork
Brown trout fishing is good right now on many of our area streams and
it will probably get better as fall progresses. With temperatures cooling,
the browns are very active and aggressive as they prepare to spawn. They
feed on a wide variety of critters; minnows are a favorite meal and so
they can be caught readily using fly patterns or lures that imitate minnows.
Rapalas are particularly effective at this time of year. Rapalas are
precision-manufactured to be realistic-looking minnow imitations and are
perhaps the most versatile lures ever developed. A fisherman could use
one small Rapala on various Utah waters and catch a wide variety of fish
including perch, crappie, smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout, walleye,
tiger muskie and lake tout.
I fished Rapalas on the Diamond Fork River on Oct. 15 and did exceptionally
well for browns running from 12-15 inches. I fished above Three Forks
and my best action was just below the confluence of Fifth Water Creek.
I saw fish chase my lure in almost every hole and I had solid strikes
in most of them.
One missed fish was particularly memorable. I was working a hole on the
far side of the stream, casting right up against the bank. I angled a
cast so the lure would come along a rock near the bottom of the hole,
figuring it may shelter fish. The cast was right on target and, sure enough,
I saw the shadowy form of a fish following my lure. I caused the lure
to pause just before it would have entered the current and the fish hit.
strike was stronger than expected. I raised my rod and the fish came up
out of the water, dancing on its tail. Thats unusual for a brown
they usually fight to stay deep. The maneuver worked in favor of
the fish and it threw the hook. I stared in amazement as it disappeared
into the dark water. It was a good 17 inches long and would have been
my biggest fish of the day.
Im sure there are bigger trout in the river. Diamond Fork has become
a good brown trout stream and it is fun to catch them on Rapalas.
Glen Solt, an old friend, taught me how to fish Rapalas effectively.
Take a look at his tackle box and you will notice it's full of Rapalas.
Look a little closer and you'll see that it contains nothing else - and
that all the Rapalas are the same style and color, in just two different
sizes. His whole box is full of black and gold G-5 and G-7 floating Rapalas.
Glen fishes often and the Rapala is the only lure he uses. He catches
fish - big fish - out of little streams and big rivers all over the West.
"Why should I use anything else when the Rapala works so well?" he asks.
"It's easy for my wife and kids to know what to get me for Christmas or
my birthday. They all know I'd love to get a Rapala." He goes through
a bunch of them every year. He loses a few to snags, and a few more when
big fish break off his six-pound leader. But he sometimes fishes for days
without ever changing lures.
"I give a lot of them away," he said. When someone sees him pull in big
fish after big fish, they come over to see what he's using. They often
can't believe he's doing so well using a Rapala. "I show them how to fish
it, and sometimes I give them one."
Glen was raised in the Salt Lake area and he loves fishing the Weber.
"People are amazed at the number and size of fish I get out of the Weber,"
He often fishes the famous waters in Idaho and Montana, and the Green
in Utah. Everywhere he goes he converts people to his Rapala method. He's
had great days on the Green, but also catches fish on small Utah streams.
"Some of my biggest fish have come out of small streams," he said. "I
fish streams the most; I don't do much lake fishing.
Do the Rapalas work on lakes? "My sons and brothers troll with them at
Strawberry and they do well most of the time. I don't like to troll. When
I'm too old to walk the bank then maybe I'll fish from a boat. But for
now I walk and cast. I tried casting a Rapala behind a bubble at Scofield
last year and I didn't know there were so many big fish in that lake."
A Rapala behind a bubble? "The bubble adds weight so I can cast farther.
That's also why I have two sizes of Rapala. The number five will always
catch more fish, but the number seven is almost as good and I can cast
it farther," he said. "It doesn't matter what state or what stream, the
Rapala works. I catch fish in all of them."
Glen was raised in a fishing family and has enjoyed the sport from the
time he was a small child. He discovered the Rapala on his own and perfected
its use by trial and error. As a young man he often fished the Weber and
did quite well, but never caught any of the browns he knew inhabited the
water. He experimented with different baits and lures. An old timer showed
him how to thread a worm up his line and he started to catch browns when
he fished it along the bottom.
"One day I saw a Rapala and decided to give it a try. It worked so well
I became an instant convert. It's almost the only thing I've used for
the past 15 or 20 years," he said. It's not hard to learn to fish the
Rapala, Glen said. "I think anyone that will take time and work with it
will catch fish."
The key is to let the lure move with a natural motion. Glen uses 6 or
8 pound test leader, depending on the size of the stream and the fish
that inhabit the water. Heavier leader changes the way the lure moves.
If you troll Rapalas you may want heavier line, but for casting on streams
light leader is best.
Glen ties the Rapala directly to the leader. No swivel, because that
would also add weight and change the movement. He uses the Rapala knot
(tying instructions come in the box with the lure). The knot suspends
the lure from a loose loop, even when pulled tight. The loop allows the
lure to move freely and that's important, Glen says. "If the knot slips
and tightens around the eye, I don't do as well."
Sometimes a Rapala will not track straight. It will turn onto its side
or move with some other undesirable motion. "If that happens you have
to tune the lure by bending the eye slightly," he said. "Natural movement
is the key." Test each lure before fishing with it to make sure it tracks
On larger streams he will wade into position so he can cast to likely
spots. He casts up and across the river, above holes and runs. "Cast right
into the bank," he advises. Cast into water just inches deep, or even
up onto the opposite shore. When the lure enters the water next to the
bank it looks like a minnow fleeing for cover, and that often attracts
a savage hit. On smaller streams he casts downstream, or just drops the
lure into the current and lets it drift down, then he reels it in so it
comes alongside likely spots.
"I think it is mostly knowing where to fish," he said. "Some parts of
the stream I just walk on by. I catch most of my fish at the tops of holes,
at the bottoms, on the edge of eddies or under overhanging brush." The
speed of the retrieval is important. In swift or shallow water you want
to move the lure slowly, so it stays just an inch or two below the surface.
The faster you reel, the deeper it will go. In still water you can reel
very slowly, pause and then reel again. You can often watch and see what
the lure is doing. "Play with it; let it stop and then start again. Let
it go deeper and then pop it up."
Rapalas are somewhat expensive, compared to other lures or baits. Some
anglers are reluctant to cast them into brush or against the opposite
bank because they fear snags. But that's where the fish are and a lure
isn't worth anything if it doesn't get to the fish. "I've swam in after
a Rapala many times," Glen said. A Rapala becomes even more valuable when
it's your last one and you don't want to stop fishing. He keeps his tackle
box full, and still drops hints that he'd like a 5-pack for his birthday.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005