Jigging for Trout
Jigging burst upon the conservative world of trout fishing 20 years ago, but it still remains the preserve of a small minority of anglers. Originally modelled on a technique that took New Zealand saltwater angling by storm in the nineteen eighties, it has since been refined and developed into the most deadly method of catching trout in deep water.
The surface waters of most of New Zealand’s lakes become too warm during the summer and autumn. In lakes that are deep enough, trout are able to retreat below the thermocline–the border between warm surface water and colder deep water–where they find conditions more comfortable. Unfortunately for the angler, they often retreat into water too deep to reach with conventional fishing methods.
Jigging allows the angler to target fish and bait concentrations with pin-point accuracy. By using his sounder, an angler can locate individual or schooling trout, or concentrations of smelt. Find the smelt and the trout won’t be far away.
Originally, trout jiggers used a smaller version of the fish-shaped metal jig that proved so deadly on saltwater fish. This lure was lowered to the bottom from an anchored or drifting boat and worked gently up and down, with occasional retrieves to the surface. Not surprisingly, it worked well. In fact, the technique was very similar to ‘thread-lining’ as practised for many years on deep lakes like Rotoiti, near Rotorua. To this day, anglers tie up to overhanging trees, cast out as far as they can, then sit back while their spoon sinks all the way to the bottom. The lure is then worked slowly back to the boat. It’s a highly successful method, responsible for many large trout.
These days, the single metal jig has been largely superseded, most often by a small, streamlined lead weight, and as many as three flies fished off droppers tied to the main line. Flies give better results than the metal jig and offer much more action for less effort. Jig fishers soon learn to keep their jigging movements to a minimum, concentrating on miniscule movements of the rod tip to better imitate swimming smelt.
Tackle for jigging usually consists of a reasonably light 2–2.5m overhead or baitcasting rod and a matching reel, spooled with 200m of 4-5kg monofilament or superbraid. Some anglers favour mono, others swear by superbraid. A good-quality fishfinder is vital and some anglers also use a drogue to slow the rate of the boat’s drift on a windy day.
  The best places to jig are on the edges of drop-offs, in deep holes set amongst shallower areas, and close to sunken structure. Always look out for concentrations of bait, even if they’re not associated with structure. The best jigging seems to be in water between 20 and 30m deep, but sometimes fish are found in much shallower or deeper water.
Jigging is possible from an anchored or drifting boat, since trout move around a lot. If anchoring, try and position the boat so that you fish over a drop-off and be prepared to wait between bursts of activity as schools of trout move through. For best results, be sure to fish right through the water column, regularly altering fishing depths.

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