Trolling for Trophy Trout at Sheridan Lake, British Columbia

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Trolling for Trophy Trout
Sheridan Lake

The following is a copy of a guide that was provided to the guests of Sheridan Lake Resort.

It is reprinted by kind permission of Sheridan Lake Resort.


This guide is aimed at increasing your odds of catching one of the trophy trout Sheridan Lake is famous for. There aren't any real secrets to make success a sure thing, but by following a few simple rules you can increase your odds greatly.


  1. Go fishing whenever you can & stay with it
  2. Use good equipment
  3. Use good knots
  4. Sharpen your hooks
  5. Make sure your lure or fly is working properly
  6. Use proven lures and flies
  7. Find the proper depth and speed and stay with it
  8. Be observant and keep records
  9. Be safe and courteous
  10. Practise good sportsmanship

Go Fishing Whenever You Can & Stay With It

Most regulars on the lake feel the fish will be on the bite at some time during the day. The problem is predicting when it will be. You have to be there when they are biting. Sheridan can have a very active bite anytime of day and many swear the fishing is best in the middle of the day. Others say first time in the morning or late evening. The peak bite changes through the season and can change daily. But generally, if you put in the time, you will determine the best times to be on the water. If you're not a die hard and do not want to spend the whole day on the water, you are probably better off going out numerous times during the day instead of concentrating all your fishing in one period.

Use Good Equipment

Remember you are fishing for trophy trout and that "wall hanger" can bite anytime. In fact, many of the average-sized trout can put up a battle that bad equipment won't stand up too. Any kind of set up can be effective for trolling, but most of the old-timers stick with a fairly soft 8 to 10 foot rod, using either a small mooching reel or revolving spool reel with enough capacity to hold at least 100 yards of 12 pound backing line, with a minimum of 120 feet (4 colors) lead core, and 90 feet of 4-6 pound monofilament leader. Fly rods with full sinking lines and long leaders can be very effective as well.

If fish are taking offerings on the surface, a spinning outfit rigged with 6 pound monofilament can be the way to go. But day in and day out, the lead core setup has been shown to be the most effective. The most important part to remember is being sure you have a very smooth drag system for whatever reel you use.

Light leaders are the rule and a reel that can stand up to long runs without seizing up or sticking is critical. Every year the common story about the "one that got away," is ended with, "my drag was too tight" or "it stuck." Trophy trout are hard enough to get and land without your equipment failing. Listed below are some proven equipment suggestions.

A. Rods:
1. "Sheridan Lake Special" from Rich-Make, a special 9 foot rod made for fishing lakes with lead line. 2. Light mooching or steelhead rods with a soft action. 3. Fly rods 8 to 10 foot in 8 wt.

B. Reels:
1. Small salmon single action mooching reels. Daiwa or Zebco make reliable reels with smooth drags but remember to "let 'em run" with these type of reels. 2. Revolving Spool Trolling reels. The drag system can be more forgiving on this type reel as it will slip even when you turn the handle. The Penn 109 or 209 have plenty of capacity for the lead core and smooth drag systems. Many other brands with adequate capacity can do a fine job, you will find the levelwind feature very helpful. 3. Large capacity fly reels are adequate for trolling as they only have a clicker system. Providing the drag is up to you. They are probably best used by the more experienced fisherman.

C. Lines:
1. Lead core line that changes color every 30 feet is available in various breaking strengths. The 18 pound size lets you get more on the reel and will sink a little deeper than the heavy lines. 2. Backing can be any good monofilament in 10 to 15 pound. Maxima line has been a good choice for years. Make sure it's fresh each season and doesn't have any weak spots. It's a good idea to check it at least weekly. 3. Leaders are the most critical part of your trolling setup. Long light leaders are the rule on Sheridan Lake. The standard leader is 60 to 90 feet of 4 to 8 pound line. Go as light as you feel comfortable with. We have found Maxima UltraGreen Monofilament to be a very good performer over the years. The new small diameter monofilament like Dai-Riki and Dragonfly allow you to go to a heavier leader without increasing the visibility to the fish. Many of our customers have switched to these premium lines.

Regardless of the type and strength of the line you choose, be sure to check it frequently and replace the whole leader at the first indication of roughness, kinks, or other signs of weakening. Many find it beneficial to change the leader every few days if they are fishing hard. It's cheap insurance for the big one.

Remember, to retie your lure any time you notice a kink or abrasion. It's not a bad idea to retie the lure after every fish you catch.

D. Other Necessary Equipment:

A good long handled net is a necessary accessory if you intend to keep your catch. It's awfully difficult to put a 6 pound trout in the normal sized short handled net.

Good rod holders let you fish more hours and keep you from losing that expensive new outfit overboard. Many regulars think you will lose less fish by leaving the rod in the holder until the fish is well hooked and has completed its first run. There's an instinct to set the hook and that jerk can be the one that breaks your light leader.

Long needle nose pliers or hemostats will make releasing fish easier with less wear and tear on you and the fish. Even if you normally kill all your limit, you will need the pliers to gently release any "spawners" you catch. Who knows, you may find it necessary to release that ten pounder as you already killed your limit of over 50cm big ones.

A cooler or burlap bag will keep your catch fresh and cool. Keeping your catch on a stringer in the lake is not the best way to good eating. A wet burlap bag is much better and a cooler with ice is even better.

Warm and waterproof clothing to keep you comfortable no matter what the weather brings. It's hard to follow rule one of "staying with it" when you're wet and cold.

A good hat with sun-visor and sunglasses can be very necessary on those hot bright days of summer.

A pair of nail clippers or scissors to cut your line.

Use Good Knots

The knots you use are the most critical and weakest link in your trolling setup. Learn the proper knots and tie them correctly. Your leader to lead core and backing to lead core should be connected with a needle or a nail knot tied properly. The nail knot is as close to a 100-percent knot you can use and it will go through your rod guides without hanging up. It's a good idea to put a drop of SuperGlue on the knots or some other glue like Pilobond to make them even more secure and smoother going through the rod guides. We have instructions available for trying the needle knot and will be glad to tie them for you, but you should learn so you can change the leader frequently. You need to be able to tie the line to your lure quickly, even when it's cold. A good knot is the "Trilene Knot," which is a modification of the clinch knot which doubles the light leader through the connection to the lure. The improved clinch knot is also a very good knot for connecting your lure. We can also show you these knots so you can learn to quickly tie a new lure or fly on.

Some rules to remember when tying any knot with a monofilament; be sure to moisten the knot before you tighten it up, or you will burn the line and weaken it. Be sure to tighten the knots completely, inspect the knot and test the strength every time you put a lure out, be sure to cut the line with clippers or scissors, never burn the stub off as it will weaken the line.

Remember to retie the lure anytime you notice any signs of weakness or abrasion. I always retie all my setups every day when I first start fishing. It doesn't take long and could be one less excuse for the big one getting away.

Sharpen Your Hooks

No lure or fly comes from the store sharp enough to fish with, it only takes a few strokes with a file or hook sharpener to make it sharp enough to stick to your thumb nail. Three colors of lead line and 80 feet of leader allows the fish a lot of stretch before setting the hook. Dull ones won't stick. Using dull hooks is probably the most common mistake trollers make.

Make Sure Your Lure or Fly is Working Properly

Get in the habit of checking the action of your lure or fly along side the boat before letting your line out. Plugs should run straight and not spin. Trolling speed can be critical to how well they run, if by changing speed you can't get them to run right, you may need to fine tune the lure by bending the eye in the proper direction to get them running right. The instructions with the plugs tell you how. You will find FlatFish and KwikFish plugs very sensitive to going too fast when trolling. Be sure to tie your line to the connection provided by the manufacturer, for example the little snap supplied with Hot Shots are critical for the proper action. Most trollers don't use swivels with any of the plugs or spoons commonly used here. If you are going the right speed and using properly tuned lures you won't need them.

Spoons like the popular Wells Spoon or Dick Nites can be trolled at a greater speed then the plugs, they should dart back and forth and seem to swim and never spin. Tuning is not necessary, just get the speed right. Another reason for checking your lure's action every time, is so you can duplicate the action of the lure after you catch a fish. This is especially important with the spoons. Flies should be connected directly to the leader, they should swim in an upright manner (hook down) and never spin. If they are not tracking correctly, you can usually correct the problem by adjusting the knot on the hook eye or straightening the hook itself.

Sometimes with really bulky flies it is necessary to twist the body of the fly gently to get it to swim right. Gang Trolls are not too popular on Sheridan Lake, but at times can be very effective. Brass or Half and Half blades in very long trolls are the most popular. You should use heavier line and good swivels when using the Gang Trolls, as they put a lot of strain on your tackle. Landing large fish can be very difficult with the Gang Trolls, and a rubber snubber can help keep the short leader tight. Another reason for checking the lure action along side the boat, is to make sure the trolling speed is acceptable for each rod and set up being used.

Each type of lure has its optimal speed and if a lure is not working properly, it won't catch fish no matter how "hot" it's supposed to be. It is very difficult to find a speed that will allow you to fish both a plug and a spoon at the same time. Also the fly may be tracking correctly but is still being fished to fast if your spoon on the other rod is working correctly. Because of these difficulties, many find it best to stay within lure types when fishing multiple outfits, flies with flies, spoons with spoons, Flatfish with Flatfish, and so on, they just vary the size and color to find the hot lure or change flies to find the right one.

Use Proven Lures & Flies

This is not saying you shouldn't experiment, after all changing lures is part of the fun of fishing. However, you will probably have more success going with the proven lures and staying with them, rather than trying everything in the tackle box. The favorite lures change as the season progresses and we will be glad to tell you what seems to be working at the time of your visit.

Below are the lures and flies usually considered standard for fishing Sheridan Lake and can be effective at any time.

FlatFish or KwikFish in size 4 through 6, in perch, black, glitter, skunk and frog. Hot Shots in size 50 and 70 in black and silver, perch, scale, BPS, and frog.

Wells Spoon in both the large and small size. Dick Nite Spoons in brass and two sizes of Hildebrand brass spoons.

Horsehairs, Matsons, Black Leech, Green Leech, Red Woolly Worms, Green Woolly Worms, and Peacock are the standards, but the fish favorites change frequently, so be sure to check with us.

Find the Proper Depth and Speed and Stay With It

This is very easy to say, but can be difficult to do. Proper depth not only refers to what depth your is at, but also what depth of water you are fishing over. Speed can vary greatly depending on wind speed and direction. If you keep records, you will probably find that on a given day you caught most of your fish going either with the wind or against the wind, but not both directions. Speed not only affects the depth of your offering but the action (see rule VI). Trolling is not a haphazard exercise of randomly driving around the lake, but a set of exercises aimed at finding the fish and getting them to bite. Then repeating the conditions that worked, over and over. More about proper depth. Even if you have a depth sounder, you should have a topographical map of Sheridan Lake. You will note the bottom is a series of benches or flats of relatively uniform depth paralleling the shore.

Even without a depth sounder, you should be able to try various depths until you find the fish. Try to stay in the same depth no matter what part of the lake you decide to fish. This does not imply that you can't catch fish in various depths, but your odds are better if you stick with what works, as it is probably an indication of some kind of hatch at that depth the fish are keying on. In fact, rather than the usual "where are the fish biting?" query of successful anglers you would be better off knowing the lake depth. A few more words about the depth of your lure. Lead core and downriggers, have made this task easier than the days of sinkers. The downrigger lets you return to the exact depth time after time, regardless of speed, but if you maintain your speed you can return to the right depth time after time. For a rule of thumb, lead line will place your lure down about 8 feet for each color in the water at a speed that will troll a FlatFish properly. But what is more important is to go back to the same amount of line out each time, with the color coding, this is easy to do. The proper depth for the lure to run can only be determined by experimentation. With accurate fish finders, most trollers like to be 2 or 3 feet above the fish with their lure. Remember, fish cannot see down. It's easy to fish too deep, without fish finders most people start out with one color in the water and go deeper one half color of lead core until they find fish or are in fear of hitting bottom. Most of the guys with fish finders will tell you what depth they are marking the fish. Early in the season most people will be catching fish with one and a half colors in the water, and will go one color deeper each month until the water starts cooling in the fall.

More about trolling speed, as mentioned before, don't exceed the action of your lure. Most lures with spoons, will work at a range of speed, from dead slow to the pace of a fast walk. You should change your speed until you find the one the fish like that day. A very good way to change the speed and the depth of your lure is to trolling a zigzag pattern. The inside lines slow and drop, and the outside lures speed up and rise. Have you noticed how many times you have hooked a fish just after completing a turn?

This is the same principle at work. Many experts think the fish just follow the lure along, and with a sudden change in speed and depth, the fish are stimulated to strike. Whatever the reason, you will find you have better luck if you troll only one direction until you catch that first fish. Then concentrate your trolling to the downwind or upwind direction you were going when it hit.

Some guide lines for trolling speed with various lures: FlatFish and KwikFish should be trolled as slow as you can go, In fact, they will start to spin and be ineffective at very little speed. Hot Shots can be fished from very slow to a pace faster than that causing the FlatFish type lures to spin. They are a good choice for those windy days when you can't get dead slow.

The spoons can take quite a big of speed and should be trolled quite fast, but try them slow as long as the action is right....that might be what it takes on a given day.

Flies generally should be trolled as slow as you can go. If there is some a breeze that will allow you to drift over the area of the lake you want to fish, drifting with the wind can be deadly. Another good way is to "mooch" your flies by rowing your boat and drifting. Just row enough to keep the lines straight. If you drift or row, remember your lead line will be sinking deeper and to start out with less line out. The flies can be trolled with your motor as well, but keep the speed as slow as you can. Many people drag a bucket or sea-anchor when trolling flies to slow the boat down. As flies have no built in action, be sure to zigzag to make them appear more lifelike.

Be Observant and Keep Records

Keep track of all the little things, and keep a log of what happens each time you go fishing. The log should not only contain information on what you caught, with what and when, but weather conditions, time of day, and speed you were trolling, depth of water and lure. Many of the regulars keep notes attached right on the map of the lake. It can be a place to start the next time you go fishing and the conditions match what you experienced before. Be observant of your location when you hook a fish, line up reference points on the shore and repeat the same exact trolling pattern on your next pass. Watch for signs of fish, you will see fish boil, jump, slurp and all the other things they can do to drive you nuts. But, if you see them working an area half the battle is won. You know there's fish where you are fishing, now it is up to you to catch them. One word of caution though, don't stay with an area too long if you aren't catching any fish, no matter how active they are. Sometimes they are actively feeding on some insect that you just can't match or duplicate the action by trolling. Be observant of other anglers. If the lucky ones are leaving the dock when you're coming in, or vice versa, you might be fishing at the wrong time. Watch for other clues to their success, most anglers will be very helpful if you ask for a little help.

Be Safe & Courteous

Practice good water safety, have all the necessary safety equipment and use it. Don't overload your boat. Watch out for yours and others' wakes. Be careful with fire around gasoline tanks in your boat. All the other common rules of safety should be followed.

A special note THUNDERSTORMS CAN OCCUR FREQUENTLY IN THE SUMMER MONTHS. They are always accompanied by high wind and lighting -- two very bad things on the water. You should try to get to shore before they hit, if you're in a small boat. If you wait too long to head for camp and find yourself caught out in the middle or start of the thunderstorm, go to the nearest shore and wait it out before heading for camp. The good news is, most of the storms only last a very short time. The middle of the lake can be very rough during one of these storms and your don't want to get caught on the lake in the typical fishing boat.

Give other fishermen room, don't cut off their path and don't follow too closely, no matter how many fish they're catching. You should not troll too closely to anchored bait and fly fishermen, be sure to give them room to make their casts, 60 yards is ample room. If you fly fish, don't block the trollers out of an area. Leave room when you anchor next to another boat for the trollers to fish through. Be especially careful of your wake when passing near anchored boats. If you are courteous, the regulars will notice it and they will be more willing to offer you fishing info.

Practise Good Sportsmanship

Follow all the laws and read the regulations. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Practice catch and release. Be extra careful when releasing fish, if the fish appears unharmed, many can be released just by giving them slack line and they will throw the hook.

If that doesn't work, try to release them without touching them or netting them! Long-nosed pliers or hook out pliers work well. The handling of the fish or netting them, removes the protective mucus they have and makes them more susceptible to diseases. If the fish is really spent and can't maintain it's balance, you should revive it before releasing it. This is done by wetting your hand and grasping the fish lightly by the base of the tail and pushing it back and forth to pump water through the gills. You will be able to tell when it gains strength, let it swim off when it is able to pull out of your light grasp. If you have to net a fish to release it, be very careful not to tangle the net in its gills and to keep the net and fish in the water at all times

You will probably catch some spawners at sometime when fishing Sheridan Lake. You will be able to identify them immediately by their lack of fight and dark coloration or egg extended bellies. It is not considered good sportsmanship to keep any spawners even though the law allows you to. They are usually not the best eating and certainly not a good fighter. Be especially careful when fighting and releasing spawners as they are in a very weakened state already. Most sportsmen try to land the spawners as quick as possible and horse them right in once they know they have one on their line. Then they quickly release them following the procedures outlined above. In fact, many of those fishing with flies just cut the line quickly and get the spawner free as soon as possible with a minimum of handling. Remember, the spawner you properly release now could well be the trophy you catch next time.

The spawners clean up quickly and are prime fish in a couple of months. If you find you are catching nothing but spawners, try speeding up and fishing a little deeper water.

Carry and use a litter bag, and a bottle or jug to urinate in.

Don't pollute the lake. Not only is it against the law, but it is the water supply for most of the people on the lake including this campground.

Take proper care of the fish you want to eat, keep them cool in a burlap bag or cooler until you can clean them in the fish house, (be sure to leave those heads on the fish, the conservation officer has to be able to determine their length). If you wish to freeze your catch, we will be glad to do that for you, as we have special freeze wraps for storing.

We hope these tips help you have a good time fishing Sheridan Lake. When you get that big one you wish to keep, bring it to the office, so we can get your photo for "the wall of fame."

Photos & article courtesy of Sheridan Lake Resort

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Trolling for Trophy Trout at Sheridan Lake, British Columbia