Brown trout & bass

I fished and filmed in downtown Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago. We were fishing for brown trout. The weather was mild, we had a good time, caught a lot of fish and I reaffirmed a lesson that I've known for some time. You've heard me say it before — a fish is a fish.

Before that trip my personal best for brown trout was in the 4-5 pound range. I know that's nothing to brag about, but it is what it is. Now my personal best is pushing the 20-pound mark. That's a lot bigger.

It happened because we didn't get stuck in the traditional bait and traditional technique rut. Faced with a tough bite, we analyzed the situation and fished our gut. We reminded ourselves that we were fishing for predator fish, nothing more and nothing less.

Instead of using salmon eggs or in-line spinners we used a Tennessee mountain reservoir technique known as the float and fly. Basically it's a small jig, about 1/32-ounce tied on a small hook I'd estimate to be around a No. 8. (In Tennessee they call that style of jig a "fly.")

We tied our flies — white — under a bobber using 6-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. We adjusted the distance between the bobber and the fly — the depth of our jig — according to conditions. Sometimes it was 2 feet, other times 10.

We fished our float and fly rig on long, limber rods around docks in a huge harbor. We didn't do anything different than had been done by a thousand anglers before us — we fished docks.

What we did do different was adapt a Tennessee suspended smallmouth technique to brown trout holding under docks in Milwaukee, Wis.. We didn't let a change in species fool us. We understood that a brown trout is nothing more than a fish.

I refer to this as crossover fishing. It's the sort of thing that'll work on more than one species of fish. It's common among successful anglers.

Far too often we, as bass anglers, suffer from tunnel vision. We think that bass are something different, that they're somehow special. That leads us to believe that they'll only respond to a lure with the word "bass" on the package, along with a picture of a great big leaping largemouth.

The truth is a predator fish is a predator fish. I'll agree if you tell me that each species has its own unique characteristics. But in the end those differences are minor. They're predators. They live where they're born. They eat what's available.

If one species will bite a certain type of lure there's no reason the others won't. They don't make their world. They live in the one given to them. Forget that and your fishing — bass, brown trout, panfish or whatever — will suffer.