Like most of the other anxious Adirondack anglers, I spent most of the past week on the open water, or searching for it.
Although my success was limited, due primarily to feeding fish rather than a lack of effort, it certainly was good to be back in the saddle again.
Obviously, I wasn't the only one. On a day trip through the St. Regis Canoe Area covering over nine bodies of water, I counted 27 boats. As is often the case in the first few days after ice out, the fishing was rather spotty, with hot action on one pond and nothing on the next.
However, the most consistent action I observed was the persistent and consistent action of the anglers. In nearly every instance, the boats were always in motion, with long lines trolling behind them.
If you ask most brook trout anglers what they've been up to, the common reply, "Just wobblin' away the time."
Some may confuse the response to indicate a weekend of heavy drinking, followed by a woozy trip home.
However, fellow anglers will readily understand, since a Lake Clear Wabbler is possibly the most popular method for fishing rook trout.
Although commonly pronounced with an "o", as in wobbler, the proper pronunciation for the device is wabbler, as in Elmer Fudd's 'wabbits'.
Wabblers are not a lure, in the typical sense, rather they are an attractor, with a flash and action intended to attract fish to bait or other offerings such as streamer flies or nymphs.
Regardless of pronunciation, Lake Clear Wabblers are usually responsible for putting brookies in the boat.
Several Adirondack communities claim credit for their invention, which has been a point of contention for many years. Most can only agree that wabblers were designed by a local fishing guide, a very, long time ago.
Since 1957, the Delaney family has exclusively produced Lake Clear Wabblers in Gilbertsville, N.Y. They now come in three sizes, featuring an array of colors, including some that actually glow in the dark. Despite the colors, I still use traditional brass, copper or silver, according to a combination of water clarity, weather and the species of bait fish in the pond.
The largest wabbler, a Number 1 is the most popular size for trolling, while the medium size, Number 2 is either trolled or cast. The smaller, Number 3 is mostly used for casting.
Regardless of trolling speed, it remains difficult to achieve depths beyond 8 to 12 feet deep when using monofilament line. This is about the ideal depth for fishing trout in the early season.
However, when trout move into deeper waters seeking cooler, more oxygenated water during the summer's heat; experienced anglers will utilize lead core line to reach the proper depths.
The wabbler is intended to imitate a fleeing school of baitfish. The spoon's steady beat also imparts a darting motion to the bait or fly trolled behind. Many believe it is the motion that provokes a 'strike response' which causes fish to attack.
Wabblers come packaged with an attached 0-ring used to connect a snelled hook. The opposite end is connected to the fishing line by a high quality, ball bearing snap swivel.
I use a 6-foot, medium action rod, with 8-12 lb. line. I prefer a 12 to 18 inch snelled hook tied with fluorocarbon tippet material. Tippet spools are available at most fly shops.
Fluorocarbon monofilament line is nearly invisible and its elasticity will absorb the shock of a hard strike.
For a number of reasons, I prefer to snell my hooks with tippet material that is roughly half the strength of line on the reel. If the rig gets snagged, I'll only loose an inexpensive hook, rather than a $6 wabbler.
I don't use this rig simply because I'm cheap. I once witnessed a gruesome scene where a kingfisher dove underwater for a wabbler that was snagged on a submerged tree.
The bird had likely mistaken the wabbler for the flash of fleeing baitfish. It was tangled in the line and could not escape. Despite efforts to free the ensnared bird, I could only watch as it struggled and drowned.
It could have easily been a loon or a bald eagle, and ever since, I've used light tippet for snells. I've lost a few wabblers, but fortunately, no birds.
Most anglers prefer to tip their hooks with a piece of nightcrawler or leeches, and some use streamer flies or a small lure.
On a fly rod, I like to use a Number 3 wabbler trailed by a large stonefly or dragonfly nymph. I've also had success using a tandem of Hexigenia mayfly emergers.
A key to fishing wabblers effectively, whether trolling or casting, is to determine the proper speed by trolling next the boat.
At proper speed, the rod tip will have a slight and steady cadence and the spoon will rotate only 180 degrees or less.
When casting, it is important to retrieve line by lifting the rod, and picking up the slack line with the reel. With this method, it is easy to detect a strike and avoid twisting the line.
I use the same method of retrieve to check my bait after a strike. The easiest way to ruin a day is to reel a wabbler directly.
Even the best snap swivel will not prevent line from becoming severely twisted. Line damaged in this manner will literally explode off the reel when the bail is opened and in an instant, it will be a bird's nest of monofilament.
In traditional style, I row a guideboat to maintain a consistent trolling speed. Generally, I'll run the wabbler about 75 feet back. I use a bungee cord stretched across the gunnels to hold my rod within easy reach. With a hard strike, the cord can actually set the hook.
When trolling with a rod in hand, I fight the instinct to set the hook on the first strike and allow the fish to get the bait.
On rare occasions, brookies have been foul hooked when they hit the wabbler and embed a fly in their tail. They put up quite a battle coming to the net backwards.
Lake Clear wabblers are also effective for rainbows, lakers, salmon and even for bass or pike. Essentially, wabblers are an attractor, but due to the natural cupping of the spoon; they also impart a regular darting action that most fish can't resist.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.