By Mike Carey
Some new products are truly unique, for example, Wiggle Fins. These products create and define new methods and fishing techniques. Other products take a great idea, refine it and make it better. In this category falls a new kokanee fly produced by Arctic Fox Trolling Flies. I had the opportunity to recently tackle test this product on Lake Conconully and came away very impressed. It’s going to be a “go to” lure in my kokanee arsenal.
Denis Peirce, the owner of Arctic Fox Trolling Flies, sent me some flies to try out. He told me they were based on an eighties steelhead fly pattern, the Krystal Bullet. Of course, just making a copy of an old fly is not going to cut it in today’s world of new and innovative kokanee products. Denis knows that, having been in the trolling fly business since 1993. He knows the industry and, more importantly, he has a wealth of knowledge and information about trolling for game fish. Thus far his focus has been on salmon and trout and he has teamed up with Wiggle Fins to make a phenomenal line up of larger trolling flies. It was a natural evolution with the recent explosion in interest for kokanee that Denis turned his knowledge and expertise to kokanee flies. Hence, his new series of kokanee trolling flies.
My wife JoAnn and I took our annual trip to Conconully to try the flies out. We stayed at our favorite resort, Liar’s Cove on the lower lake. The ambiance is family-friendly and the fishing in Conconully around Memorial Day is off the charts! Both the upper and the lower lakes have excellent trout and kokanee action. The upper lake the past few years has produced the larger kokanee so we decided to start our test there.
We ran four lines, two off downriggers and two off leaded core long lines. Each rig had an Artic Fox Trolling Fly and a dodger in front of it. Leader length ran 8-10”. The flies come without leaders. This is actually something I appreciated. If you’re like me, over time a successful lure gets bit a lot and the leader becomes frayed and needs to be replaced. Unlike hoochie or spinner rigs, single flies are quite easy to quickly replace the leader. Another option I like is the ability to adjust the leader to conditions. For Conconully we ran 12 pound fluocarbon leader. We ran some flies with no attractor, some with a small spinner blade, and some with a Mack’s smile blade. All rigs had a piece of corn on both the primary fly hook and the trailing treble hook.
We started fishing at a leisurely 8am. The action began slow but gradually began to build. At the start, we caught a fish here, a fish there. I can’t say that there was a significant difference between the flies that had attractors and the flies that were “naked”. We ran the downriggers at 35 and 45 feet deep, chasing meter marks. Last year, the downriggers performed well for us. This year, it was a leaded line show. We eventually reached the point where the action was fast enough that the downriggers got put away and we just ran two rods with leaded lines. We trolled with three colors out, and 60 feet of mono leader, trolling at 1.1 to 1.4, using an itroll from ifish solutions to vary the trolling speeds automatically.
The fish at the upper lake were a plump 14-15” fish, shiny bright. Much to my surprise, later after cleaning the fish I had one hen that spilled mature eggs out. Other than that it was mostly bucks in our bucket. The hotspots for us were up lake of the houses to the narrow north end of the lake. Close to shore, middle of the lake – the kokanee are everywhere right now. Watch out for floating logs and debris. The lake has received more runoff than in past years so there is a lot of debris to avoid.
The Arctic Fox Trolling Flies were an obvious hit with the kokanee. Denis has definitely created an effective series of flies for kokanee.
The Arctic Fox Trolling Flies Kokanee series come in seven different colors. Five are fluorescent chenille and mylar. Denis reports that under UV light these flies are very “hot”, meaning they have excellent underwater color reflection. The two non-fluorescent flies are fire red and purple with silver core chenille. Purple remains visible at depth, while red is one of the first colors to be filtered out by water depth, meaning it turns grey-black at depth. The mylar, however, gives it a nice contrasting UV orange that continues to reflect available light at depth.
With seven color choices you’ll be able to fish whatever conditions you’re presented with, from cloudy Pacific Northwest to bright Central Washington days. You’ll also have a sufficient variety of colors to find what the finicky kokanee want on any given day.
For us the hot set up was without a doubt the orange with 10” of leader and an orange crush wobbler run at three colors out. The fish were just slamming this set up!
One concern I had when first checking out these flies was the size of the hooks. The main fly is tied on a #8 long hook, and the trailing hook is a #10 treble hook. Denis uses gamakatsu hooks and I will be the first to attest that these hooks are sticky sharp! Our experience was that the combination of these two hooks was incredibly effective. We had few lost fish and noted several that missed the main body hook but were secured by the treble hook. Remember when I started this article and mentioned “refining” the pattern? Well, Denis has taken the treble hook and secured it using a loop of stainless steel leader that creates an articulation for the treble hook that the fish have a hard time throwing. Put another way, the treble hook is free to move around meaning the fish can’t get leverage on it to pull the hook free. I’ve reviewed underwater footage of kokanee and one thing that struck me was that once a kokanee is hooked it does incredible body shakes and spins in a desperate attempt to get away. It’s amazing we catch any of these acrobatic fish at all! Any small edge an angler can have against these wild gyrations will help land more fish. I would say our hook to catch ratio was higher than trips using standard kokanee lures.
JoAnn and I continued to pull in plump, healthy 14-15” kokanee and over the two days of fishing and easily got our limits. I came away very impressed with the Artic Fox Trolling Fly kokanee series. I’m definitely moving it into my first tier of kokanee lures. I like the smaller size profile compared to the majority of the kokanee lures on the market. It gives kokanee anglers an option to downsize when the fish are looking for a smaller presentation. With the articulated treble hook I don’t have any concerns about losing fish due to the smaller hooks.
Give these flies a look see! You can order them online at Arctic Fox Trolling Flies.