Everett Steelhead and Salmon Youth Organization

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EVERETT — The first time Jim Brauch tried to teach grown-ups about trout fishing, three men showed up for class.

"Males won't admit they don't know squat about fishing," said Brauch, a retired Everett police lieutenant and a longtime volunteer with the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club. "So I got the brainstorm to call it a kids trout clinic, and the kids are allowed to bring an adult." 

The result? His latest class at American Legion Memorial Park reeled in 20 adults, mostly men, who accompanied about 30 children. The clinic, sponsored last week through Everett Parks and Recreation, was timely: Saturday is Opening Day for the freshwater fishing season.

Brauch began fishing as a child, and by age 6 he was sneaking alone down to the old Highway 2 bridge to cast his line into the Snohomish River. That maverick streak followed him into adulthood. His best anecdotes, and he loves to tell them, are about breaking the rules followed almost religiously by some fishermen. His punch lines always involve the empty-handed experts — the old-timers, the "fly Nazis" or the expensively equipped hobbyists — telling him why his techniques won't work, ignoring his boatload of scaly evidence to the contrary. 

Over the years, he's codified his fishing lore into what he calls the Five Rules of Trout Fishing.

  • Fish where they is, not where they ain't.

"When they tell me they're going to put 16,000 fish in Lake McMurray (in Skagit County), guess where I'm going to be Opening Day?" Brauch asked rhetorically.

At the start of the season, hatchery-raised fish swim near the surface because that's what they're accustomed to, he told the class. As the season progresses, they go deeper. They like water best at 55 degrees.

Don't expect to find fish in any particular place, no matter where they were last time. If they're not biting, move.

  •  Match the hatch.

The "hatch" is what the fish are eating at any given moment, which is not as easy to determine as it sounds. If nothing is working and you catch a fish by accident, gut it and study its stomach contents. Then pick a fly that matches its last meal.

The best bait to use on Opening Day, when the fish are fresh from their hatcheries? Brauch grinned and pulled out a jar of "hatchery formula."

"Figure out what they're biting on and give it to 'em," he said.

  • If what you're doing isn't working, change what you're doing.

Change location, lures, baits, scents, colors, lines, casting techniques, fishing depth. Try everything. The most unlikely flies sometimes will work when all the standard ones fail.

"Change, change, change until you find out what they're going to bite on. It will not be the same thing they bit on last year, and it will not be the same thing they bit on five minutes ago," Brauch said.

If someone else is having better luck, ask what they're using and try it.

Years ago, Brauch asked to see another fisherman's setup and found he was using identical lines and lures. But the other guy had a black swivel, the metal doohickey connecting the lure to the line, instead of a standard brass one. Brauch switched, and fish immediately bit.

  • Use persistence, not patience.

Ignore the adage "you've gotta be patient to be a fisherman," Brauch said again and again. Patience makes no difference when you're sitting 10 yards from all the fish. If you're not catching anything, move.

"Patience is doing the same old thing the same way all day," Brauch said. "I am the most impatient person you'll ever meet in your life."

  •  Keep it all in perspective.

The point is to have fun, especially if children are involved. Enjoy the water and the company.

But most importantly, bring snacks. Lots of snacks.

"I always brought lots of Coke, lots of chips, lots of Kentucky Fried Chicken," Brauch said, recalling his tricks for entertaining his own children when they were young.

Near the end of class, he and several other volunteers from his fishing club passed out free reconditioned fishing rods to every child present. Earlier, they each had received a free jar of brightly colored Power Bait. Not bad for a $5-a-kid class. (It's free for parents.)

Third-grader Dallas Mee-Redford assumed his rod was a loaner, just to look at. When he realized it was a gift, his eyes grew big. "I get to keep this?" the Mountlake Terrace boy asked. His grandmother, Evelyn Mee of Edmonds, chose the class when she realized how badly Dallas wanted to fish. He'd shown her a stick and some rope, saying now all he needed was a safety pin for a hook, she said. "He was going to go the Tom Sawyer way," she said, laughing. They both enjoyed the class immensely. "This was just cool as all get-out," she said

Courtesy of the Seattle Times 2004 Written by Diane Brooks