Trolling Flies: The Ultimate Guide For Trout Fishing

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A lot of people think you can only use flies to catch trout on a fly rod but that’s not true at all. Trolling with them is one of the best ways to catch trout and in this post, I’m going to be talking about the gear, rigs, and techniques you can use to troll for trout using flies.

In a lot of the busier fishing spots, not a lot of people are using flies and that’s one of the ways you can stand out and have a higher chance of catching something. I like to use flies throughout the year but my favorite time to use them is when I’m fishing shallower water (less than 20 feet).

You can use them in deeper water and you can toss them on a downrigger but I’ve had the best results in shallower areas. The size of the fly will depend on the fish you’re after and so will the color. Continue reading or watch the video below for the full details on how to troll flies for trout (skip to 2:22).

Trolling Gear For Trout

The first thing you’ll want to make sure is that you have the gear that’ll do the job. This isn’t going to be the only way you can do things and it might not be the best way, but it’s what I do myself and it seems to work well.

Let’s start with the fishing rod and reel. The simple answer to this is that you can use whatever rod and reel you want. You could use a fly rod, spinning rod, baitcasting rod, or whatever else you have. You can also use a $400 combo or you can use a $40 combo. The type of rod and reel you use won’t make that much of a difference and you should use whatever you’re comfortable with. I’ll generally use a medium-heavy baitcasting or spinning rod.

After that, you’ll need to toss on the right fishing line. The type of line you use isn’t going to be that important but the one thing you’ll want to make sure of is that you don’t use a line that’s too heavy. If you’re using a 20 lb test to catch 2 lb fish then that’s going to be overkill.

Trout can see fishing lines in the water so you’ll want to make sure you’re using the lightest line you can get away with. I’ll generally use a 20-30 lb braided line with a fluorocarbon leader (4-6 lb for small rainbow and 10-15 lb for bigger trout). Here’s how to connect them:

The next thing you’ll need to have is an action disk, and a bobber stop. The action disk is going to sit ahead of your fly and it’ll give it some action as it moves through the water. The bobber stop will keep the action disk in the right spot.

The final (and most important) thing you’ll need is a fly. The size and color you use will all depend on what you’re after and where you are. I always like to be prepared so I’ll have a bunch of different colors and sizes. The thing you’ll want to think about is what the trout are actually eating. If their main food source is shinners then you probably won’t want to use a red fly.

I’ll mostly use a black, white, or brown fly and I’ll have those in different sizes. My favorite is the Arctic Fox trolling flies (comes with action disk) or the Woolly Bugger flies. See our favorites here.

How To Rig Trolling Flies

Once you have all the gear, the next thing to do is rig everything up. The first thing you’ll want to do is attach your fly line to your leader line. I like to use fluorocarbon (sinks) but you can also use monofilament (floats) if you want. The leader length should be around 4 feet long.

The next thing you’ll want to do is slide on your action disk and then your bobber stop. The action disk is what’s going to give the fly some movement through the water. Otherwise, it’ll look pretty bland (but can still catch fish). The bobber stop is what’s going to keep the disk in the right spot (more on this later).

The final thing you’ll need to do is attach your fly. You can use whatever knot you want but I generally will use a Palomar knot. I’ll leave a video for that below but I find it holds the best and it’ll never come undone. Again, think about what the trout are eating and start with a fly that’s that color.

If you’re going after bigger trout then you’ll want to use a bigger fly. It’s pretty obvious but a lot of people overlook the size of the fly they use. A lot of the time, they won’t want to chase something that’s too big and would much rather have an easy meal. I always like to start with the basic colors and then move brighter if nothing is working. If you’re targetting brown trout or fishing in the morning, go with a black fly. If trout are eating baitfish, go with a white or silver fly.

What Is The Best Speed To Troll For Trout

The speed you want to go when trolling for trout will depend on the time of year but it’ll generally be faster than if you were trolling for kokanee. They seem to like chasing things a bit more and that’s why you’d want to speed up a bit.

The average speed I’d troll for trout would be around 2 MPH. If it’s quite cold out I’ll slow it down a bit because trout want to conserve energy and aren’t willing to chase as much. If it’s hot out then I might speed things up a little bit. There’s really no right speed though because I’ve caught them going 1.5 MPH and I’ve caught them going 3 MPH.

It’ll all depend on the day so you’ll most likely have to test to see what’s working. Each lake will be slightly different but I almost always start at 2 MPH and then switch it up from there.

The speed you go will impact where you have your action disk. When you’re trolling slow (under 2 MPH), you’ll want to have your action disk right at the nose of your fly. This will give you fly a bit more action as it moves through the water. When you’re trolling faster (above 2 MPH), you’ll want to have your action disk around 4 inches ahead of your fly. This will lower the amount of action your fly has and keep it under control as you move faster.

Until next time, happy fishing. If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

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Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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