Troll Fly Fishing: Taking the Trolling Fly to the Fish

Trolling Flies are designed to look like natural trout prey, attracting the trout’s attention enough to investigate a possible food source, while being pulled through the water. However these flies can only do this when they are in the vicinity of the fish and that means they need to be fairly deep in the water…

Joan Lake
Joan Lake, author of Trolling Flies articles.

There are several types of trolling gear that will accomplish this action. The cheapest, easiest and most effective gear to take your fly to the fish is the Lead Core line set up.

Lead core line consists of a lead wire wrapped in a braided line. It comes in several strengths 12,18 and 27 pounds. The two lighter weights are for freshwater fishing and the 27 lb for saltwater fishing. The braided wrap on the lead wire is colored with a color change every 10 yards. This allows for a fairly accurate knowledge of how deep your trolling fly will be presenting. To fish deeper you need only let out more line, to fish more shallow just reel in the line. Trolling speed plays a role in this process, as the slower you troll the deeper the lead line will stay. The pressure of the water at faster trolling speeds will cause the line to rise slightly.

Lazer Spinner Trolling Flies
Lazer Spinner Trolling Flies

A level wind reel is the only practical reel to hold the bulky lead core line. Most freshwater level wind reels can easily hold three to five colors and will be enough line if you first wind on 100 feet of backing line. The backing line allows plenty of line to play a large fish that tries to empty your reel.

The fishing rod can be any light pole that will allow the level wind reel to be attached.

The leader is a most important part of this lead core line set up. It should be a minimum of 30 to 40 feet in length and as light as you can get away with. A 2 to 3 pound test leader will give you the best results even if you lose a few fish from breaking of the line in the process. This long fine length of the leader effectively separates the trolling fly from the boat and the heavy lead core line. This also allows the fly to look like a naturally swimming trout prey, with no connection to you the boat and your equipment.

Large Lake Spinner Trolling Flies
Large Lake Spinner Trolling Flies

Managing the lead core line set up can be tricky at times. There is so little weight in the trolling fly and light leader that it can be hard to deploy the long leader. Swinging your rod in a fast arc can apply more drag force to the leader helping to get the leader off the reel. Increasing the trolling speed while deploying your line will help prevent tangles.

Be sure to keep your thumb on the spool of the reel to prevent backlash. Once the lead core line enters the water its’ weight will speed the process.

A great advantage of this lead core line and long leader set up is the fight at the end. After the lead core line is wound back on the reel, the light rod, and light leader are optimum for playing the fish delicately.

About Joan Lake

Joan Lake, of Republic, Washington, has been creating and selling trolling-flies since 1990. She started and previously owned Lake Trolling Flies Web site at


“Taking the Trolling Fly to the Fishs” first appeared on in January 2005. Reprinted by permission. Trolling flies photos taken with Joan Lake’s permission from