I had just eased the throttle back to neutral before Tom Dahl wrestled his rod from the holder and raced to the front deck. His brother, Glen, flashed a knowing smile and whispered, “I told you he was competitive.” In spite of the fact that I had stopped at least two casts short of the flock of gulls methodically snatching shrimp off the surface, the younger Dahl was determined to take advantage of the melee with one mighty cast. His herculean effort was immediately followed by a distinctive sound that I fortunately hear very seldom. Five hundred dollars worth of rod and reel instantly plunged out of sight well out of “diving in range” followed by expletives not suitable for print.

“I hate braided line because I knew that was going to happen to me some day,” announced Tom. “I am even sorrier that I mistakenly picked up your rod instead of mine,” he sheepishly admitted to his brother. Knowing there was a considerable length of line lying on the bottom connecting the rod to a quarter ounce jig, we spent the next twenty minutes trying to foul hook the high dollar outfit. The wind quickly blew us out of the immediate area and we eventually wrote it off as a casualty of haste.

A couple of hours and several flocks of gulls later, a pair of anglers in a small bass boat ran right up on top of us before I could even put the troll motor down. I will usually leave birds that I am already working and go hunt another group rather than deal with other boats, but these two fellows had at least appeared to be chasing us rather than birds all morning. They were less than a boat length away before shutting down the big engine!

Before I could ask for some relief, the young man driving the boat stood up and shouted, “Mr. Colburn … we’ve been trying to catch y’all, but you leave every time we get close. We saw you trying to hook that rod and I think my brother caught it after you left.”

They had indeed snagged Glen’s rod. They could have very easily ridden away with their expensive catch and no one would have ever known, but they chose to take the time to chase us down in an effort to return it to its owner. Much to their delight, they were commended for their honesty and well-compensated by the Dahl’s for the good deed.

I came close to launching my own rods on several occasions after first converting to braid, but deemed the increased sensitivity worth the risk. I have since eliminated that problem by launching longer casts with two hands. The unexpected jolt produced by even a minor backlash with braid can instantly loosen the strongest of grips using one hand.

When the fish are chasing shrimp across the surface with reckless abandon, the sensitivity factor afforded by braid is not as big an issue. Anyone that fishes more than two or three months out of the year, however, knows that phenomenon is the exception rather than the rule. When faced with a more discerning bite on most days, there is no substitute for being able to detect the more subtle strikes and you sacrifice that critical advantage with monofilament.

I continue to wrestle with the benefits of adding several feet of mono or fluorocarbon leader material, but at least for now, opt to use it most of the time. I do find it easier to tie a broader range of knots with and it enables your lure to sink a little faster. I consider the leader to be an unnecessary liability, however, when fishing a spinnerbait, spoon or live bait.

Aside from, “Exactly where are you catching fish,” the most frequently asked questions I field concern the pros and cons of using braided line. I use Power Pro because I like its strength to diameter ratio, suppleness, and competitive price, but there are other choices of quality braid on the market. I basically stick with 15 to 30 pound test braid with diameters ranging from the equivalent of 4 to 8-pound test monofilament depending on the spool capacity of the reel.

We will start catching our largest trout of the year by the end of the month, but the bite will get significantly tougher than it is right now.

Bites are generally few and far between and numb fingers are hardly an asset. If you are willing to freeze your tail off for a shot at the trout of your dreams, why take a chance on not even feeling the hard-earned strike?

For my money there is no single piece of equipment that I can recommend that will make a greater difference in your catching, not only throughout the year, but more especially on a cold winter’s day. Give braid a try one reel at a time, be patient, and you will feel bites that you never felt before.

Hopefully, if you do throw a rod and reel in the water, an honest youngster will be around to fish it out for you!