I am about to commit the unthinkable - the worst Cardinal Sin of any speckle trout fisherman: Divulge a few of my closely guarded secrets.
I therefore respectfully request that after reading the aforementioned classified information you commit it to memory, tear this column into tiny pieces and bury those pieces in the garden.
Okay, not really.
I wouldn't want you blaming your dead vegetables on my feeble prose.
Actually I thought I'd share some of my time-honed practices in hopes they might help you hook that brookie of a lifetime - and then, more importantly, help avoid heartbreak when you do.
As in any outdoor pursuit, I've always been one to leave as little as possible to chance. Enough can go wrong on its own without adding the uncertainty of equipment malfunction to the equation.
For me, that means spotlessly clean equipment and constant attention to detail.
I keep both my hunting and fishing equipment as pristine as the day I purchased it and I never skimp on either. I buy the best, take care of it and it takes care of me.
I also sweat the small stuff. A chain is only as good as its weakest link - so the smallest fray or burr in a line, a weakened snap swivel or a dull hook can mean the difference between putting a lunker in the boat or going home empty-handed.
Okay, so enough jibbering- jabbering - here is how I do it (at least with spinning gear).
I run two light, fast-action 7-foot Orvis rods with ultra-light Okuma reels spooled with 8-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon line.
I like the longer rods because it allows the fish to fight the pole and not the line.
I've been a fan of fluorocarbon since its introduction a decade ago. It does not soak up water like traditional line, so it doesn't stretch and knot strength is never compromised. It also has a high tensile strength and very low diameter. That means you can bump up to a higher weight line without sacrificing spool capacity or line maneuverability.
Also, the line always seems to run true as do lures attached to it and it definitely lives up to its name in the water - it vanishes, which I think has huge advantages for tempting a strike from a finicky trout.
While this setup has served me well, probably even more important than what is above the water is what's below.
I am crazy retentive about my hooks and leaders.
I've found more fish either get missed or simply do not bite at all because of poorly designed trolling rigs than any other factor and I never run factory-built.
I also hate to waste time on the water, so I ready a number of leaders beforehand of varying length and tip each with different hooks and flies to change up the offering.
And, if you think I buy the best when it comes to equipment, that goes tenfold when it comes to the detail stuff like hooks and snaps.
I run SPRO ball bearing swivels with interlock snaps (yes, they are $1 apiece - but ball bearings are a fisherman's best friend and they don't come cheap). I tie one on my line, then another to the top of the leader. These snap together so I can easily run a lure between. Changing them out takes seconds.
From there I run about 8 inches of line to a SPRO ball bearing swivel. I'm a big fan of swivels, they allow the bait to run true behind the lure and are key in landing a big brookie - as anyone that's had a three pounder to the net can attest.
Then I finish it all up with about 10 more inches of line tied between the in-line swivel and a number 6 Gamakatsu baitholder hook that I hand tie to the leader.
Gamakatsu hooks, made of high carbon steel, are simply the sharpest hook on the market. Of course, I also carry a stone and sharpen my hook after every catch and run my hand over my leader checking for frays and burrs. Again, changing the leader out takes just seconds. I often do it a few times a day if the fish are hitting.
Lastly, I usually change my line out about every six trips or so, even sooner if its been stressed by a backcountry trip. My ultra-lights don't require a ton of line, so this is relatively cheap insurance to avoid line breaks.
These tips may be no real revelation to veteran brookie fishermen, but for me, they have made the difference of putting fish in the net when others were not.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsmen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.