Darrell Carter

If you’re lucky enough to live near, or have access to a river which holds trout, then immense fun can be had catching these beautiful fish with lures, in particular crank baits.

With the trout season officially commencing on 22nd March and continuing through the summer until 30th September (local variations may take it to the end of the first week in October) it provides the lure angler with an opportunity to try their hand at catching these fantastic predators outside of the traditional coarse fishing river season.  

Before setting off it’s wise to check with local authorities if the stream, brook or river you intend to fish has any restrictions, such as single hooks only, and also if there are any free fishing areas in your vicinity. Certain chalkstreams across the country offer free fishing through town centres, all you need to be in possession of is a current EA licence.

I’m fortunate enough to be located very close to a lovely little river that holds a number of wild brown trout (and the occasional escapee rainbow from the local fish farm). No more than eight feet wide and generally a few feet deep (although there is the occasional deeper hole), it meanders through fields and hamlets for 30 miles through the Shropshire countryside before reaching the mighty Severn.

A typical UK trout stream. The overhang on the bend is a good fish holding area.

The river by me is wildly overgrown, and during the summer months it’s almost impossible to fish due to the burgeoning undergrowth. But through April and May it’s just about possible to access and a great time to be targeting trout with crank baits.

Being comfortable and wearing the correct clothing is an absolute must for me. As most of my fishing for trout is done from the bank, wearing a good pair of trousers that can withstand brambles, hawthorns and nettles is important, the Fox Rage HD Trousers being more than capable of tackling the worst bits of undergrowth.

I like being as mobile as possible when I’m out, so it’s vital that all my belongings such as lures, forceps and so forth are kept securely while being easy to get as and when needed. The Voyager Camo Rucksack is perfect for the job, comfortable and lightweight and offers good-size internal space for extra items.

Crank baits are a great way of targeting wild river trout.

Having a landing net that can extend is also a useful piece of kit, especially when fishing from a bank where access down is difficult or dangerous, especially if the river has been in flood and the banks are still muddy. The 2.4m Carbon Street Net is my preferred option and clips nicely to the side of my rucksack, adding to my mobility.

 Reel-wise I use the Prism 1000 which offers fantastic performance for the money and pair this with the Salmo Hornet Pro Light Rod. At 240cm it provides me with enough length to clear reeds and snags on the nearside bank, with 5-20g offering the finesse of casting small crank baits (and bigger if needed). Plus, it’s got the backbone to tame even the most acrobatic brownie when needed!

A beautiful wild river brownie.

Next I’ll tie a Drop ‘N’ Jig Fluorocarbon leader 0.30mm of about three feet. At 13.8lb breaking strain it gives me just enough to be able to free the lure if it snags on any debris in or around the river and supple enough to work the crank well in clear water.

On the business end I’ll clip a Rattlin’ Hornet, with my go-to crank being the 3.5cm in Chartreuse Blue. Depending on the conditions I may switch to a different colour or size, but if I had to choose one crank to target wild river trout it would be this one! Trout absolutely love it, whether it’s down to the colour, the internal rattle, the movement or a combination of all three.

At a running depth of 1.0-1’8 m it works brilliantly in smaller rivers and streams, bouncing off the bottom and enticing the trout to chase and snatch at it. To aid this, and avoid unwanted snagging on bottom debris, I will usually remove the bottom treble. By doing this I can still ‘feel’ the bottom as I crank it down, but there is less chance of getting caught on branches and anything else littering the bottom. Granted – I may lose the odd fish or feel the bite without actually hooking up – but this is usually few and far between.

Salmo Rattlin’Hornet does it again.

A good set of polaroid glasses is also vital when trying to spot trout (and for just about all other types of fishing, too). The new range by Strike King offers something for everyone, with the different coloured lenses working a treat in various conditions (grey and brown for general use and cutting down glare, blue helps define contours).  

Trout love cover, so when stalking them I’m casting in and around any branches that might be lying across the water, weed beds, reeds and debris that might be holding on a bend in the river. Bends also tend to have ledges under the waterline from the force of the river eroding the bank in floods, another good holding area worth investigating.

By casting down the river, then letting the crank float down in the current, I can search quite large areas on the retrieve, steadily reeling the lure back and feeling for any sudden takes. The action can be explosive when trout decide to take a lure, so make sure you’re ready! I tend to keep my rod tip fairly close to the water to prevent air acrobatics from a hooked fish, maximising my chances of getting it into the net.

There’s a reason trout are nicknamed river rockets… Even the small ones offer an incredible fight.

All trout will fight hard and almost to exhaustion, so it’s best to try and unhook them as quickly as possible and let them recover before returning. Keeping the head upstream and letting the river flow past and through the gills will aid recovery, allowing you to return these beautiful fish unharmed to live and fight another day.

So, what are you waiting for! There’s no better time than now at trying your luck and catching these feisty little river predators.