Bull trout are large, strong and they will snap your trout leader without hesitation. In areas where you can legally target big bulls, like our waters in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, carry a designated outfit to handle the large fish in fast water. Leave the tapered leaders behind. Instead, build your own leaders and rig your big stick to increase the odds of landing a trophy fish.
Here are four rigging tips when fly fishing for bull trout:
Rod and Line Choice
We like a 7-weight rod for big streamers and sinking lines. A 6 weight is a good minimum, especially for fishing indicator rigs. An 8 weight might be a little big for the smaller fish, but it’s still a safe bet. Go with a fast action rod to help move heavy lines and wind resistant flies.
We like a 200-300 grain sink tip for streamer fishing. Alternatively, you can use a floating line with a sinking leader like the Rio Versaleader to get your flies down. Either way, we recommend lines that are weighted heavy and designed to throw big streamers. A line that’s a half line-size heavy or even a full line-size heavy is a good bet. The Scientific Anglers Titan Taper is a good example.
Forget about tapered leaders and light tippet. 3x is even too light. Go to your local fly shop and grab a spool of 12-pound fluorocarbon. A single spool will last a very long time.
A single streamer tied on a large hook will get the job done. Go with a minimum of a size 2. Articulated streamers have a little more action and are very effective. Use a short leader with your sink tip. Tie 4-feet of fluorocarbon directly to your sink tip and then use a non-slip mono loop to tie on your fly. The open loop style knot is less constricting and allows more movement than a traditional clinch knot.
Double streamer rigs are deadly for bull trout. The tandem streamers create a chase scenario and the dominant bull trout will attack one or both flies. Casting two large streamers is tiring but worth the effort. Use the same rigging as you normally would to the first streamer. Tie a 2-foot section of fluorocarbon to the hook shank and use the non-slip mono loop to connect the second streamer.
Indicator rigs save your arm from casting all day and they are very effective for bulls. Use a large indicator to handle the weight of a streamer. Conehead buggers in white or black and yellow with rubber legs are great options. Either do a double bugger under an indicator or a bugger with a large San Juan worm. A surprising number of bull trout will eat the worm. It will also double as a trout rig. Don’t worry about a drag free drift with this rig. Make a mend downstream and add action to the rig with your rod tip. This will swim the bugger and make it look alive. A depth of 5 to 7 feet under the indicator is normal. Make adjustments based on the depth.
For more information on fly fishing trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, including bull trout fishing expeditions, please see our Fly Fishing Page. Please contact us with any questions.