Trolling Fly Lines Tips

By: Craig Mumby

This under rated trolling technique may be one of the most successful...

By Craig Mumby

If there is one technique that not many people consider when heading to the lake it's trolling fly lines and it can produce some of the best fishing imaginable. This technique hasn't had a real chance to prove itself as fly fishermen don't do it often because a lot of the joy comes from casting and using finesse to persuade the fish to bite. If they're going to troll why not just break out the spinning or bait-casting gear. On the other side of the coin, non-fly fishermen tend to be intimidated by fly rods and think that it's both expensive and difficult to learn. Truth be told you can get a fly rod for a very reasonable price these days and it's actually fairly simple to pick up the basics with minimal practice. More expensive gear and different casting techniques comes with experience, but for this technique you don't need either. You don't even need to know how to cast!
There are a wide variety of fish you can target with this method. It is a great technique for all trout species, even early and late season lake trout. But also bass, walleye, pike and pretty much anything else that swims in under 25ft. of water can be fished this way. For me, this is the single most consistent method for catching still water trout.

Go get yourself a fly rod and as I said it doesn't have to be an expensive outfit though there are certain advantages to things like multiplier, or large arbour reels, as the retrieve ratio is greater and you will be able to gain line quicker on a fish running toward the boat. A standard 9 ft. rod is perfect; anywhere from a 5 weight to a 7 weight are ideal in most situations, but if you're looking for bigger fish go with a heavier weight; lighter for smaller fish. Personally I like to use a 7 weight because it has enough backbone to work a variety of baits. There is a wide variety of line on the market and the body of water you're fishing should dictate what "type" to use. There are six types of full sink line: type 1 - type 6. Type 1 runs the shallowest and type 6 the deepest. I use type 6 almost exclusively as it can get down faster and you can effectively fish around the 18 - 22 ft range with a lot of baits. An electric motor and fish finder are certainly advantageous as trout can be easily spooked and it can be crucial to know your depth so you can work your lines along the bottom structure properly. Bring along a good selection of flies such as shrimp and streamer patterns. It's always a good idea to check with the local tackle shops to see what's working. Lures like flatfish, quikfish, hot shots and rapalas are excellent choices to bring as long as they don't have much dive to them and have high action while trolling dead slow. Pick up some fluorocarbon leader material. Leaders in the 9 - 12 ft range are best. I usually use Berkley Vanish and if I'm using something other than a fly, which I usually do, always tie a swivel into the leader or you will have quite the mess on your hands.

"Ripping" flies is one of the most consistent techniques for picking up active fish. Make a nice long fluorocarbon leader, no need for a swivel down to your fly, all on your type 6 sinking line. Don't be afraid to use big flies! My best fly has always been a double shrimp pattern on a #2 hook. The key to ripping is exactly what it sounds like. Let your line out until the backing, keeping the trolling speed a little higher than what you might be used to and repetitively jerk the rod as hard as you can. The more power the better! This is another benefit of the heavier 7 weight rod; it makes this motion a lot easier on the arms. Essentially, this will make your fly almost swim through the water like a jerk bait and you get a lot of impulse strikes.
If you want to switch to hardware make sure you check the action of your lure at the side of the boat before you lower your line so you know how to gauge the speed for your troll. For example, flatfish are designed to have a lot of action at a very slow rate of speed, so by trolling dead slow you achieve the perfect action which you will notice on your rod tip, and be able to get deeper than lures that require faster action. So, when you want to get to some deeper fish with your type 6 line troll dead slow with a flatfish, kwikfish, or hot shots and you can effectively fish close to the 20 ft mark.
Getting used to the way the lines follow the boat is very important if you want to work an area properly. Let your line out to the backing if you're fishing deeper than 12 - 15 ft. Fly lines have much greater water resistance than standard line and due to the thicker diameter it won't cut the water like monofilament. For example, when you make a fairly sharp turn with fly line it will swing more with your turn and follow the path of the boat instead of cut across water and thus stalling your lure. This allows you to work your bait more effectively. When you get used to fishing this way you can estimate your depth and where behind the boat your fly, or lure, is running to within a few feet. Boat control is absolutely crucial when working deeper structure and you can actually work the lines to ride right up a drop off or sink down, whatever the case may be. So, if you're trolling in 20' feet of water and you see that the bottom is rising, all you have to do is gradually speed up so your line is elevated by water resistance caused by the speed of the boat. The reverse is also true when you come to a drop off; slow right down and let the line sink with the bottom and speed back up when your line is deep enough. This will put more fish in your boat and you'll find a lot fun out of concentrating on the bottom and trying to work it properly. Some of my bigger fish have been caught while stalling on a drop off to let the lines sink, then as soon as you kick into gear hold on!

Even though this is not a popular technique it is not due to its lack of productivity. The only reason is that people never think to do it. There are so many different situations where you can apply this technique. I've had enormous success fishing for bass, walleye and pike with crankbaits and flies. Another great place to give this a shot is salmon fishing on the west coast. I've done very well fishing for coho, pink and sockeye salmon on a third rod out the back in between my downriggers. One of the biggest things to learn in fishing is to be versatile if you want to be consistently successful. Give this technique a shot and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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