August 2011

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August  2011

TRADITIONAL TROLLING

by Larry E. Stefanyk

Downriggers have created great changes in trolling techniques by permitting precise depth control, as the line pops free of the cannonball when a fish strikes, anglers have the option of using relatively lightweight tackle, for most trolling situations it is hard to beat their efficiency. Be this as it may, old-fashioned "flatline" trolling is still popular for fishing with large spoons and plugs, especially in often crowded areas where Chinooks congregate in relatively shallow water close to river mouths.

There are two types of flatline trolling: rowed or motorized. On a per capita basis, there are probably more rowboats used off the Campbell River mouth than anywhere else along the West Coast. There, on the world-famous Frenchman's Pool and Tyee Pool, most anglers are intent on landing Chinooks of 30 pounds or more, which qualifies for the exclusive Tyee Club of British Columbia.

Whether trolling plugs or large spoons, experienced rowers watch their rod tips closely. They know how the action of each lure affects the rod tip, and by using oar manipulation, they can speed up or slow down a lure's action, make it swim forward, hold in the tidal current, or even drift backwards.

While rowing is an interesting and challenging way to fish, it is somewhat specialized and does not lend itself to all situations. For this reason, motor trolling is most common as it extends an angler's range and speed, and is more comfortable for extended periods. A typical area where Chinooks are targeted on open, less crowded waters is Qualicum Bay, where fish are intercepted while gathering for spawning runs into the Qualicum and Little Qualicum rivers. Downriggers can be used in this situation, but many anglers still prefer flatline trolling with lightly-weighted lures, working in patterns that swim them through Chinook staging areas.

Single-action or multiplying, reels have one thing in common: ample line capacity, the basic rule in choosing line for Chinook trolling is to select one strong enough to pull the heaviest combination of terminal tackle intended for use, plus a reasonable margin of safety. Simply trailing a length of monofilament behind a moving boat causes it to stretch; a combination of the line's weight and the water's friction. Adding a lure to the end increases tension, as does clipping on a sinker. Obviously, large lures and sinkers are more water-resistant, which causes a line to use up more of its stretch. A dangerous combination is light line used with large, heavy terminal tackle. When a fish hits -- not necessarily a big one, either -- the shock may be enough to snap overstressed line.

There are no absolutes in fishing, but a fairly reliable rule for selecting line test is eight- to ten pound for small lures with no more than one-ounce of sinker weight; 12 to 15 for medium-sized lures with sinkers of two to four ounces; 20 to 30 for six ounces and up; and 40 to 60 for towing large, water-resistant plugs or spoons with eight ounces or more.

Fixed sinkers are popular for mooching and trolling bait or lures fairly close to the surface, but for every ounce of weight the possibility of hooks pulling free while fighting a fish increases accordingly. For this reason, sliding sinkers are preferred. A typical practice is to attach a sliding sinker 20 to 50 feet ahead of a lure. This improves a lure's action, and should the sinker pick up any weeds there is less chance of it spooking fish.

Some sliding sinkers have a hole through the body in which the line is threaded. While they are popular for mooching, the most common for trolling are keel-shaped Peetz sinkers that can be installed or removed without cutting the line. A wire spring clip at the rear secures the sinker to the line. When a fish hits,
the line pulls loose and allows the sinker to slide freely, thereby reducing pressure on the hook. The debate over the efficiency of treble hooks versus singles continues today. Commercial salmon trollers use singles. They make their living by fishing, which is a good enough recommendation for most of us. Most motor trolling is done with the rod in a holder, so anglers do not set the hook when a fish strikes. If ever there was a need for sharp hooks, this is it. Whether you favor trebles or singles, ensure they are sharp as possible.

SPOONS
Some of the earliest spoons used for West Coast salmon fishing were little different in size, shape or action to those popular today. Most common were the Gibbs Stewart, Improved Stewart and Wonder Spoon. These early spoons were usually of thin gauge copper or brass, some of which were totally or partially plated with silver or nickel. Painted finishes had never caught on, and despite the introduction of chrome plating and prismatic Mylar tape, many trollers still favored the original finishes. Today most anglers use a painted spoon.

Ideally, a spoon should wobble rhythmically from side to side when drawn through the water. Too slow, it ploughs sluggishly; too fast and it spins. Spoons of supposedly the same shape and size may differ noticeably in action, so knowledgeable trollers sort them into sets that work well together at specific speeds.

PLUGS
Traditional salmon plugs are of one piece and have a sloping, dished-in face that gives them a distinct tail-wagging action when trolled slowly, and a darting action when speeded up. By the 1970s wooden plugs had been pretty well replaced by moulded plastic. Some dedicated trollers were not enthusiastic about this change, for the action of wooden plugs could be altered to suit individual taste. Judicious scraping or sanding along the sides and tail exaggerated their action, which allowed plugs to wobble somewhat faster than normal at dead-slow speeds. This was especially favored for holding, or even backing up in tidal currents.

A common mistake while trolling plugs is to toss them over the side, adjust the boat's speed, and then drive around in hopes a fish will bite. Even more so than spoons, individual plugs have a "best action" at a certain speed. Further, some track right or left, while others run perfectly straight. Some anglers code the backs or bellies of their plugs with paint or waterproof pens to identify them. For example: SL indicates a plug functions best at slow speeds and tracks left; MR means medium speeds and tracks right; FS for fast speeds and tracks straight. If three lines are in use and a situation calls for slow-running plugs, one each marked SL, SR and SS are selected, then the boat speed is adjusted to produce optimum action.

Tying a line or leader directly to the fixed connecting loop of a plug deadens its swimming action -- the heavier the line the more effect. Most manufacturers mount large, soldered rings on the eyes of their plugs. If you chance on one without a ring, a large split ring will serve as a suitable replacement, but ensure it moves freely in the loop.

That flatline trolling is alive and well is beyond dispute. It is a sporting, time-honored method of fishing, and for those who pay attention to detail, both satisfying and productive.

Huxley’s Run: 

The Virgin

by Dr. Adipose Huxley

I pulled into the last bit of civilization we would see for three days. It was a small convenience store and gas station. “I’m going to fill her up,” I told Fred. “Any last thing you need, amenities, anything, get it now or go without.”

Fred squirmed uneasily in his seat and said, “Maybe I should…” then his face told me he was deep in thought. “No, I’m okay.”

I topped off the tank, refreshed the ice in the cooler and added two bottles of water and chocolate bars to the already well-stocked camping gear. Within minutes we turned off the logging road and admired the beauty that only autumn can bring.

We had two hours travel ahead of us and after the first hour Fred squirmed and said, “Oh, oh.”

“Oh, oh?” I queried.

“Gotta go,” he grunted, lifting one cheek of his arse and emitting a gaseous precursor of things to come.

I put my window down and pulled over to the side of the road. Fred sat there looking ahead and then at me, looking ahead and then at me. “What?” he asked. “Why’d you pull over?”

I handed him the roll of toilet paper from the console. His face contorted into a look that indicated my hand was actually full of what the toilet paper was intended to address. “Here?” he asked incredulously. “Oh no, I’ll wait to use the camp facilities.”

I laughed. Obviously Fred hadn’t paid attention to the details of this trip. “There are no facilities,” I said. “In fact, there is no camp, until we make one that is. So here, there, makes no difference.” I held the toilet paper out again.

Fred looked straight ahead. His eyes didn’t blink. He was concentrating. “I’ll hold it,” he said, as if the mere effort of speaking was painful. I explained we had another hour to go to our destination. “I’ll hold it until we get back to that store,” another grimace. I told him we were camping for two nights, it would be three days before we came out and that, definitely, I wasn’t going back to the store now. “I’ll hold it,” he said stubbornly.

I have heard of this fear of bushitting and, being somewhat of a doctor I should know the proper name of the phobia. But I didn’t, nor did I know the cure. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care. After all I knew that a solution would be found one way or another. It was the ‘another’ that had me worried because said pants were sitting on the passenger seat of my vehicle. Wet dog smell is one thing, but…

I drove on, amused and alarmed as Fred’s hands reached for the dashboard and his legs straightened to absorb the bumps of the potholes. It wasn’t long before the Indians were sending smoke signals and even with all the windows rolled down, their message was plain and agonizing. They were going to start using live ammo any minute.

Fred hung in stoically and stinkingly until we arrived. “We’re here,” I said, “now get it over with.” I got out, but Fred didn’t. I went around and opened his door. “What’s wrong?” I asked, noticing a definite stiffness in his body. “I can’t move,” he said. “The boys are on the cliff face and they’re going to jump any second.”

I pulled him out by the arm quickly and minded to keep my body far enough away to avoid any friendly fire. Fred stood still like there was a pineapple between his legs. And then he confessed. He was a virgin. He had never done it before. I was shocked that he actually asked ‘how to’ questions. And equally shocked that I was giving the answers.

The call of his boys proved too much and he stiff-legged it towards the bush. Then he stopped and turned around, a quadrant at a time, before he was facing me. “You got anything to read?” he asked, before hastily stilting off under a hailstorm of gravel road.

I was busying with the two-man tent when I heard Fred. “Ohhh Momma!” he yelled, and then, “Doc you gotta come and take a look at this. Talk about air time. It must have flown four feet, six inches.”

The six inches bothered me for some reason. I put the tent back into its case. It would be a good night to sleep under the stars, I thought. Even if it rained.

 

 

 

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