At a recent fishing seminar, I was asked if the anglers can catch other kinds of fish like Brown Trout, Rainbows and Salmon on the western end of Lake Superior. The answer is definitely “YES”.

Actually why not? They live in the big lake. Generally speaking, most anglers use stick baits and spoons in the spring of the year and of course, they are catching the Coho Salmon early on and as the water warms, Lake Trout and Chinook Salmon. Little thought and actually, very little thought is given to the fact that there are very hungry Brown Trout leaving the rivers and streams and entering the big lake ready to fill their bellies with whatever food they can slam their jaws on. Remember, they just spent the winter in the river with little chance of a good meal. As a very favored food, insects like flies, moths or whatever critters which are in the insect family become high priority on the dinner table of a fish. So, why not introduce some fishing flies in your trolling presentation. It certain is not hard and you have to use those downriggers or sinker lines for something other than a “hope line”.

Trolling flies used on the western end of Lake Superior.

Trolling flies used on the western end of Lake Superior.

What you are looking at above are some of the flies I like to present to the spring fishery in the area from the Superior, Wisconsin entry and over to the Duluth, Minnesota entry and along those warming waters off both states shores. You should note that none of these flies have any stinger hooks added and they are used without added minnows or fish meat. They go “bare bones”, as one would say. You can add a slight amount of fish scent but I’d be careful as those fluids stain the color effects.

How To Set Up The Fly For Use

The types of flies you use is as always, your choice. My preference is the tube fly as it can travel out of the way of the fighting fish, avoiding being damaged by the action and teeth of the active fish. As we are talking about flies that are running without added minnows or meat, the only hook is a treble hook hidden within the body hair of the fly. Some anglers prefer single hooks in their flies but I subscribe to the treble hook over the single hook in this presentation.

As mentioned before, a fish scent can be used but remember those things stain the fly hairs and can discolor the fly which can affect the use. A mono-line of at least twenty to twenty-five- pound test is the lead or harness line of between fifteen to twenty-five inches in length. That is my choice, yours could be different but a harness line allows for the action behind the dodger or flasher you use. Looking below at the picture, when you look at the flasher and fly harness setup together or the lower dodger and fly harness setup one has to remember that the flasher or dodger gives movement or what is called chasing action to the fly. The upper fly is called the “Fruit Fly” and the lower fly is called the “Demon”. Both are very good flies either in the “bare bones” variety or as the deep runner with a minnow/meat with stinger.

Flies are often fished 15-to 25 inches behind a dodger. The upper fly is called the “Fruit Fly” and the lower fly is called the “Demon".

Flies are often fished 15-to 25 inches behind a dodger. The upper fly is called the “Fruit Fly” and the lower fly is called the “Demon”.

When using the flashers and dodgers, I prefer flashers and dodgers to be sized in double or triple odd size or lengths to five or six inches. Not overly aggressive in their actions. Again, your preference. The lead length between the flasher or dodger and the fly should be between fifteen and twenty-five inches.

Sending The Fly To Work

When setting the shallow running fly out to work, distance means a “BIG DEAL” as the fish are generally very spooky and cautious and always quick to move well away from the boat you are on. Using the downrigger, it is always best to use a micro-fiber line and not monofilament type lines. Monofilament line stretches quite a bit and often hides the hits you get because of stretching. Micro-fiber line does not stretch. If the bait is hit the pole reacts. You get better hookups and much fewer loses. Set the bait back from the downrigger ninety or slightly more feet back if the bait is running between the surface and sixteen feet. Face it, the fish know you are around and don’t care for that in the least. By the way, each of the downriggers baits should be the same distance back from the downrigger weight. That keeps baits and lines from tangling together. As your downriggers go deeper, you can shorten the distance between to downrigger and the bait but shorten the distance with care and shorten each of the downrigger to the same length. This also applies whether using a fly or a spoon and I don’t use a flasher or dodger with a spoon. Using a pole with a three-way swivel, 12 to 16-ounce weight leading a flasher or dodger fly combination you have to lower your bait a bit at a time. Generally speaking, this is better used at depths deeper than twenty feet and it can tangle easy with downriggers. When using a directional diver, it is best to adjust the diver to pull away from the boat so that it won’t angle into the downriggers if your using them. If you are not using the downriggers, then you don’t have worry about problems tangling in them. Just lower the diver until your finding the fish feeding depth. In the early spring, 3 to 8 foot depths should deliver results but remember you may have to adjust the depths from time to time. As the day warms and with more daylight, fish can go deeper. Just a habit they have. A bit of a tip here. When setting up a deep diver pole, it is highly recommended you use micro-fiber line with a nine foot to nine foot six inches in length type. The poles are generally rated heavy duty and rated for heavier lines. This type pole works very well with divers and weighted drop lines.

How To Care For And Store The Flies

When using your flies with fish scents, minnows and fish meat, you will notice that stains will become visible. No matter what you think, this is generally not a good thing in that it dulls the colors or even changes the colors to the point where the effects of color will mean nothing. It is best to rinse off the flies with fresh water and wash them in a cleaner which removes those stains without leaving a lingering smell that the fish don’t care for.

I prefer using a hand soap similar to Irish Spring. That hand soup works very well in a couple of ways. First it cleans off the stains and scent you applied. The second good thing about this hand soap is that it cleans off those cooking oil found on your chips you eat which definitely will make you baits unattractive to the fish. Some scent manufactures will produce a bait/hand cleaner as well. Consider using something to clean your flies but also be sure it does not remove the colors of the fly. Bleach is not recommended for cleaning fish baits. After cleaning the baits be sure you rinse them well. Those wet stains will just dry on the baits which is not good.

Now on to storing the flies in a way they won’t get tangled together. I prefer using the method where the monofilament harness is coiled around my two fingers and then fed into a one and a quarter inch straw piece. When the monofilament comes out the other end of the straw piece I put the hook through the loop and adjust it back to tighten. You can keep the flies in a clear plastic bag or case so you can see it’s color. It definitely will not be loose tangling into everything in you other baits and hooks container. You can also set them into a small piece if Styrofoam, maybe eight inches square and a half to an inch thick and easy to work with. You can also wrap the monofilament harness around either square or bar style styrofoam pieces. This method can be very good if your limited in space. You can also buy those leader line blocks and systems for storing your flies and leaders. I good habit to get into is to keep them separate which helps keep your tangles limited. These storing ideas work well for both the “bare bones” flies as well as the minnow/meat flies. Those stinger hooks on a short line add a bit of added thought but nothing you can’t handle or figure out.

Now It’s Your Turn

I think I have passed on my ideas on how to use and care for your “bare bones” trolling flies. I wanted to get the information out on this style of trolling fly first as it is the style you would be using at the beginning of the new fishing season. Used with stickbaits and spoons, the fly will add an additional tool to your fishing baits. I think you will enjoy your success with the trolling flies and let us know how you’re doing with them.

Authored and produced entirely by Captain Dave Koneczny
KDK Charter Service
4894 Drake Road
Duluth, Minnesota 55803
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