Trolling Notes 2.0

Written By: Cal Kellogg, September 20, 2012
Species: Kokanee Landlocked Salmon Trout

I just turned 45 and I’ve been trout fishing for nearly my entire life. I’ve been trolling for trout and landlocked salmon for the better part of 25 years.

Despite all this time on the water I still think of myself as a novice, because trout fishing is a lot like the universe. How? Just about the time that scientists think they have a handle on how many galaxies there are in the universe, they come up with a better more powerful tool for peering into deep space and what do they find? That’s right more and more galaxies.

Trout fishing is the same way. At first you are just happy to hook a trout occasionally. Then your goal is to achieve consistent success. Then as you mature your focus may turn to fooling big trout. Yet one thing remains constant. No matter how much competence you acquire as a trout angler, there is always a bunch more to learn and more approaches to experiment with.

A while back I published an article titled, “Trolling Notes”. It was basically a discussion of some things I’ve learned on my own and while trout and salmon trolling with others over the years. Consider my observations and perhaps they will help you catch more or larger fish.

Recently I’ve done a good deal of writing about top lining for trout and kokanee with either Vance’s Slim Willie flashers or Sep’s flashers. I catch lots of fish while pulling these rigs every season, but I’ve noticed something else that is worth mentioning even though it is circumstantial evidence at best…

I’ve noticed that when I have the flashers in the water, even if that rig isn’t getting hit, my partner and I (often Paul Kneeland) get more hits overall provided we have our other lines working in the top 25 feet of the water column.

When targeting salmon in deepwater trollers often attach ball trolls to their downrigger weights to draw fish into their spread of lures and baits. Could it be that my near surface flashers are doing the same thing, namely pulling fish up toward the top and into a collision course with all the gear behind the boat, not just the lure trailing behind the blades? Flashers definitely pull in and excite fish and when that happens the number of strikes you get should climb on ALL of your gear so long as it is running reasonably close to the blades.

I’m trying to be more observant and with this in mind I’ve gotten way more strategic about where I position the blades behind the boat. It seems to me that you want them working slightly in front of your other rigs. If our other rigs are running 75 to 100 feet back I’ll often strip the flashers out 50 or 60 feet and fish them right off the middle of the stern.

Moving on let’s step away from gear for the moment and think about conditions. “Wind is the angler’s worst enemy”…You’ve heard that. You probably believe it and you might have actually uttered those exact words.

Wind will cause you pain in the backside, but forget the idea that it’s your enemy. In reality wind can be your best friend. Anglers don’t like to troll in stiff wind because boat and speed control require constant attention, yet if you think about it, the actual trout bite is often pretty good when it’s windy and wind can actually cause kokanee and kings to move toward the surface.

Most trouters retreat from windy shorelines, while most bass anglers run toward them. I hate to admit it, but the bassers are exactly correct. That shoreline or point where the whitecaps are breaking is a smorgasbord of life. The wind creates current that pushed plankton and tiny invertebrates toward the bank. Minnows move in to feed on this concentrated protein source and trout and bass slide in camouflaged by the confused surface water and hammer the baitfish.

Paul Kneeland and I were trolling a lake with a fair level of success a while back, when a stiff breeze kicked up. We noticed that there were white caps breaking on a shallow submerged point. On the backside of that point there was a log and some other debris on the surface that was rotating in a big 50 or 60 yard circle. What we were seeing was an eddy created by current pushed by the wind. 

The area looked “fishy” and it was. As soon as we moved near the eddy our sonar unit started registering arches from the surface to 40 feet deep and we hammered one rainbow after another for about two hours. When the wind started to loose speed the eddy effect stopped and the fish quickly disappeared leaving us with clean sonar screen and memories of a darn good trout bite!

Let’s wrap this segment of “Trolling Notes” up with a tip that is sure to save you a good deal of frustration. Let’s say you a rolling bait or trolling grubs. Both of these presentations have reputations for creating lots of line twist that ends in tangles, so conventional wisdom dictates that while using these twist intensive offerings that you add ball bearing swivels between your leader and mainline to avoid twist.

Using one or more ball bearing swivels is good advice, but there are times for whatever reason that you’ll still get twist when using them. What to do?

There are a couple things you can do. You can get a commercially manufactured clear plastic rudder like those offered by Silver Horde to place between the mainline and the leader. These work great, but they can be tough to find.

A solution you can whip up yourself looks like this. Get yourself a section of 20 or 25 pound test fluorocarbon that is about 24 inches long. Tie a ball bearing swivel at either end. Attach you main line to one swivel and your leader to the other. The heavy line will resist spinning and act as a rudder and since it’s fluorocarbon the fish won’t see it and spook!

Well that’s it for now, but keep your eyes open for the follow up to this piece, Trolling Notes 3.0, where we’ll continue our discussion of tips and tricks for the troller.

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