NEW ORLEANS — Fishing, like most sports, has some standard bits of information one participant suffering through a sub-par outing always seeks from a more successful colleague. And for local speckled trout anglers, there’s a top three.
The first: “Where’d you catch them?” (And, no, “In da water” is not an acceptable answer).
The second: “What’d you catch ‘em on?”. (Don’t even suggest “A hook.” It’s not funny when your ice chest is empty).
The third: “What color were you using?” (My favorite wise crack here is “Plaid.”)
There is no disputing the importance of the first two. But the third always provokes debate, especially when spring arrives and speckled trout become as thick as lawyers at a train wreck. The arguments are not about which hue is the most effective — but over the idea that color is even that important.
Friday was a case in point. The camps at Four Bayous were surrounded by trout — and anglers. My two colleagues were on the bow pulling in specks on every cast. When the clicker hit 10 and I still didn’t have a fish, I went to Question No. 3 and got two different answers: Tuxedo and Opening Night.
Before I could make a change, the chartreuse I’d been casting was in the mouth of a speck. Within an hour, our total was more than 60, and the colors we used were clearly irrelevant.
The trays in our tackle boxes contained plastic baits in a list of colors that could have filled several rainbows, but did it matter?
I put that question first to Nash Robert III, the fishing guide whose training as a meteorologist prompts him to use the scientific method when faced with fishing riddles. His answer was quick, and emphatic.
“To be perfectly honest, when the trout are biting I don’t think it matters what color you’re using,” Roberts said. “No one is going to want to hear that, because a lot of guys have favorite colors. But, really, if they’re feeding, it really doesn’t matter much.”
Roberts believes the presence of fish, the action on the bait — and the skill of the anglers — are far more important than the color of the lure.
“I use black with a chartreuse tail almost all the time, and I catch specks and reds both,” he said. “I won’t rule out color. I’ll change up if nothing is happening, But, honestly, I don’t think that really matters, because once you find the fish — and they’re feeding — you can change to any color and still get strikes.”
Summer speck fishing is more about casting baits into large numbers of fish that are almost always feeding because they are almost always spawning — an energy-depleting activity that requires plenty of refueling. Roberts had an experience last week to support that argument.
“My customers were using live shrimp on the beach and were catching one trout after another,” he said. “Finally, I got tired of constantly hooking shrimp up, and started throwing plastics. And they didn’t skip a beat.
“The fish were there, and they were feeding. We could have thrown any color in the box and caught them.”
Looking for a second opinion, I went to another guided who had a vested interest in disagreeing: Dudley Vandenborre, expert trout angler and manufacturer of the famed Deadly Dudley baits, which come in “at least 50” colors.
“Honestly, I only use about three different colors,” Vandenborre admitted.
Vandenborre believes color is important only in matching clear patterns to clear water, and darker patterns to cloudy water. Research and experience has shown lighter colors are easier to see in clear water while darker colors show up easier in murky water.
But beyond that, the various shades of light and dark matter little.
“I think color is more important to the fishermen than the fish,” Vandenborre said. “And that’s because of lot of the success of any lures comes down to how much confidence a fishermen has in that bait.
“We make about 50 colors, but I’m almost always using my favorites — Opening Night, Blue Moon and Slammin’ Sammy. I might start using one of my new colors, but if I don’t catch a fish after about 15 casts, I’m going back to my favorites.
“Now — and here’s the thing I noticed — I’ll stick with that favorite for 20, 25 casts until I catch a fish, but I wouldn’t stay with that new color that long. Why? Confidence.
“When I wasn’t catching fish the fish just weren’t where I was throwing, or they didn’t like the way I was working the bait. It wasn’t the color. It was the confidence.”
Vandenborre, like Roberts, believes the action of the bait is more important than the color, a factor that becomes even more important when the fish are not on an active feed.
“If they’re not on the bite, you have to make them want to feed, and that means placing the bait in the right place and working it the right way,” he said. “A lot of time when I’m fishing the trestles, guys will see me catching fish and they’re not getting a bite in their boat, so they ask me what bait or what color I’m using,” he said.
“But they’re not getting strikes because they’re not hitting those (bridge supports) at the same angle I’m casting from, which means the bait isn’t getting to where the fish are holding.
“It’s not the color. It’s seldom the color. It’s the fisherman.”
Which means plaid will work. Well, as long as Vandenborre or Roberts are throwing it.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com