There are several Trout species that tend to inhabit deeper parts of still-water lakes. Lake Trout, Splake and even Rainbows spend a significant amount of time feeding in the mid to deep range on stocked put-grow-take lakes.
To reach these deeper Trout, a fly angler has to find a way to deliver the fly into the strike zone and keep it there. One of the most efficient and easy to learn techniques I call Draggin’ Flies. A technique that I believe will consistently lead you to greater success in catching still-water trout in the 10-20 foot range. Think of it as yet another tool in the fly-anglers tackle box.
This trolling method uses full sinking fly line to get the fly down to the desired depth. Once the fly is in your planned strike zone, it stays there while you slowly paddle to potential hotspots. It’s an absolute killer technique that can illicit aggressive, heart stopping hook ups.
On an early spring trip to a backcountry trout lake last spring, I managed to catch three times as many fish than my friend who was casting out of a float tube. He couldn’t believe the success I was having with this simple technique. To me, it made total sense. I was covering 100 times the amount of water, varied structures and vegetation. His position (while off shore and in a float tube) was stationary; effectively limiting him to the length of his cast and what lies beneath.
I like to think of Draggin’ Flies as the great equalizer. An angler doesn’t even need to know how to cast!
I like to place the fly rod between my abdomen and belt line. This allows the fly angler quick access to the fly rod to add twitches and jerks between paddle strokes. If this technique doesn’t work for you, a rod holder placed close to your body is another option. Zig-zag across the lake hitting potential hotspots such as mid lake humps, drop offs, shoals and weed beds. When you get rocked by an aggressive trout, circle around and hit the same spot again. Soon enough you will develop a route that will continually target the most productive areas. Bites aren’t subtle. The Trout will smash your bait giving give you that instant shot of adrenaline all anglers crave.
For this technique, I choose an inexpensive nine foot, stiff action, five/six weight fly rod combination in the $100 range. A decent fly rod combo should already be spooled with floating line. For an extra $30-$40 you can buy an extra fly reel, and spool it with 100 feet of type 6 full sinking line. This gives you the ability to change your set up’s as needed. (Tip: Paint a one foot section on either side of mid-point of fly line with a silver sharpie. This gives you a visual clue as to how much line you have out. For example, 50ft of line behind the kayak sinks approx.10ft. The full length of line out to the back would sink to approx. 20ft.) For your leader, tie a 9 foot section of 6lbs fluorocarbon leader material such as ‘Berkeley Vanish’. A good sonar isn’t a must, but does help locate structure and fish.
Flies should be tied on a size four to eight hook. Streamers are the go to presentation for trolling. These are a good choice because they can imitate a variety of aquatic species such as leeches, minnows and crayfish. Streamers tied with rabbit hair or Marabou give the fly an undulating, life like look with each propulsion and pause of a paddle stroke. Bead head Wooly Buggers are another solid choice for this tactic. I’ve even caught Trout on Mickey Finn’s.
As always, experiment with color and flash. What works well in one lake may differ on another.
When Draggin’ flies, try starting out with a slow, gentle pace. Paddle slow enough that you are slightly moving, but not so slow that there isn’t constant tension on your line. A few paddle strokes forward, followed by a pause, then a twitch-twitch of the rod and repeat. If paddling into the wind, obviously you will need to paddle harder. Vice versa if the wind is at your back.
Setting the hook
As with any trolling technique in a kayak, the hookset is simply a few solid paddle strokes forward. With so much line out, the fish will hook itself. To further drive the hook home, simply pick up the rod, and firmly sweep it forward.
Draggin’ flies has been my absolute go to still-water Trout tactic. This tactic is highly effective and extremely efficient. It makes sense to cover as much water as possible. The important point when trolling is to find the right depth and speed to trigger a bite. Don’t worry, if you put the fly in front of fish, they will bite, and bite HARD!!
So tie on your favorite fly, go for a leisurely paddle, and get ready for some bone-jarring strikes. You’ll be hooked in no time.