The Giants Come Marching In

There are few things more magical than spring in upstate NY. The ice thaws, flowers bloom, and the finger lakes come alive with the most impressive trout fishing of the year, especially on Cayuga Lake. For just a few short weeks these impressive bruisers will abandon their deep water homes hundreds of feet below the surface for the shallow shores and the bounty of forage held there.

cayuga lake sunset
Sunset over Cayuga Lake, Ithaca NY

I learned about this from Dave Tierno, who is one of most knowledgeable anglers in NY. Dave taught myself and Dan Drake where to go, what to use; all things that cut our learning curve way down. As you can see, Dave has been very successful there, having landed this brown trout and many like it. Dave has also bagged giant lake trout and landlocked salmon on his trips here during this time of year.

dave brown trout
Dave Tierno with a gigantic Cayuga Lake Brown Trout

I’ll admit, Drake got a lot more consumed with this than I did. I can only troll for so long before I get bored, and that’s primarily what we do. We might stop and take a few casts from one or two places we have found to have held decent numbers of fish year after year, but otherwise the boat is at a steady 1.9-2.7 mph, with anywhere from 4-6 lines in the water, each tipped with one of our favorite style jerkbaits. Dan and Dave can do this for hours. It’s cold, often snowing. The water is likely not yet reached 50F, and we want it to stay cold as long as possible. You want to start in around 10 feet of water and work parallel to the shore. Make a pass and then start to work out deeper. Your best action will come from 5am-11am, and then just before sunset, on overcast days with a little wind. If it is raining or snowing, that’s probably even better.

dan brown with brown trout
Dobyns Pro Staff Dan Drake with his first Brown over 10lbs

These monsters are only here to breed and chase the tiny baitfish that are there for the same reason. It’s something that everyone should see at least once. The water can almost appear to “boil” when they chase the schools of baitfish to the surface. Once the water warms, the baitfish will retreat, and the bigger fish follow. While you can still catch them when they’re suspended in 200, 300, even 400 feet or water; it’s not the same. This really is the time of year to do it and put an end to your cabin fever.

5 lb. brown trout
Dan Dain with his first 5lb brown

So remember to troll at 1.9-2.7 mph (using a drift sock if you have to), with stick baits that are bright and colorful. I prefer a Yozuri Tobimaru (it’s actually a saltwater bait) in the clown color, or a Husky Jerk in chartreuse.

yo-zuri tobimaru clown color

rapala husky jerk