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I fished Chilhowee yesterday morn. Things started slow. There was fog just upstream from the ramp. We put out two plugs and a hoochie. When we got up into the fog there were logs, sticks, leaves and pollen everyplace. We had to go upstream past this mess before we could troll effectively. Once we got into the clear we put out two lines and caught some fish. My buddy Rusty caught the first fish, a 17" Largemouth on a plug. Then I hooked 3 Rainbows and landed 2 of 'em on my little purple plug, the Rapala ultra light Shad with a purple back. The two I landed were 16". The one that got away was a little bigger. All the Rainbows jumped like crazy. On the way downstream I put the hoochie line out again and I caught a Yellow Perch on it. We didn't fish much past noon. I had a Trout dinner and Rusty went to a Smokies Baseball game.

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They're thin by Chilhowee standards. Two springs ago the flooding was so long lived that few, if any, fish were able to spawn successfully. When the baitfish population fully recovers, 16" 'Bows like those two will weigh more, about a half-pound more I reckon. Chilhowee has far more fish food in it than Calderwood and Cheoah, even in an off year like this it's still probably so. Last spring was good, so, next year will likely get back closer to the long range average. Chilhowee produces obese 'Bows when everything is in sync.

Here's my brother holding a rare Brown out of Chilhowee. This one might have come down from upper Abrams Creek or the TWRA guys might have stocked it...??? The TRWA guys from Tellico Plains go around stocking Golden Rainbows and Browns most springs. They raise them at the hatchery on Tellico River. I've had several discussions with TWRA concerning Lake Trout and Browns in Chilhowee. I've urged them to forget the Lakers and stock some Browns. I hope they take my advice. Chilhowee has gotten a bit warmer over the years same as the two little lakes upstream. That Brown liked one of the green hoochies I made. It's a shame it was his turn when we got that bite!

It's only a matter of time till Chilhowee is over-run with dinner minnows again.....

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Discussion Starter · #64 · (Edited)
Find yourself a Rock or Hump in 15-20 ft of water on your electronics. Tie on a one ounce trolling sinker with no lure. Make a few passes and see if you can hit it (bottom) at 1.5 mph. Make a note of your speed and how much line you have out when you finally make contact. This will give you some valuable information....D
The Jay Fair trolling fly system...
I think you could use Jay's flies with flashers and put your rods in rod holders.
I went out yesterday to my local lake to try out some things. The water is warm and fishing slow in that lake, and it's slam full of shad...and I believe the fish are also slam full of shad. I remember this from last year, couldn't buy a strike for love nor money. Wish I had taken my cast net to gather some catfish bait. I ended up skunked. That said, I really wanted to try a few things and wasn't seriously interested in catching.

I learned a few things.

Trolling weight: Indeed what I was wrong in what I thought I was doing. I went over points from deep to shallower to deep. I started with 1/2 oz weight & a neutral buoyancy Rapala. Not getting to 10-12' I added another 1/2 oz. which hit bottom at that depth at 1.5 - 2mph. My best guess was 75-90 ft behind the boat. Depending on speed and length of line out I can hit bottom around 15-18'. I suspect I can achieve deeper too.

A hoochie behind a dodger has little action without the lip. (I realize y'all know this already) I have some lips on order from Mack's. In a pinch, I think just a dime size piece of plastic punched into a disc with a hole in the center for the line, riding against the front of the hoochie may impart action. Dunno, haven't tried it.

I went to the deep water and dropped the downrigger with a hoochie to around 35', 45' etc, just to try it at deeper depths. No issues. Actually pulled through several balls of bait (shad) at 35'.

I marked a number of what appeared to be balls of bait, as noted, some suspended at 35' . I marked very few fish. There were large schools of shad on the surface. So... Don't know if that was shad or something else at that depth.

I learned you don't make a relatively sharp turn with the downrigger. At least not to the right. With the blowback on the ball then your line above the clip could potentially get in the prop. Don't ask my how I determined that.

And guessing at how much line is out is, well, just a guess. I've suddenly become acutely aware on the necessity of knowing how much line is out. So, I have a line counter reel on order. (Actually ended with 2 on order, don't ask, may keep one and return the other, may just keep both.)

I watched the Jay Fair video. Very interesting setup leaving one to wonder how he came up with that system. Obviously it works. I doubt I'd set up that, but I have done a few look-into's about trolling flies. I like his flies and being a fly fisherman and fly tyer, I sort of replicated with a couple patterns. Black with olive and olive with black (I've had great success over the years with those colors of Wooly Boogers) I'll add some orange/brown too. I may try these sometime. Maribou in water just looks ALIVE unlike any hard bait. I also scratched around and found some forgotten fly spinners that may add something. I don't recall having ever used them.

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Thought of camping for a few days this weekend and spending a couple of days at Calderwood and specifically try to find some structure to target; points, humps, rocks, etc. but the weather is looking iffy at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #65 ·
Each color of lead line is 10 yards. Each color of lead line will take you down 5-6 feet. 6 feet if you're going really slow. Determine how deep you want to fish, say forty feet, you need 8 colors unless your lure has diving ability to add on.

I rigged an outfit just for fishing Chilhowee with hoochies. It has 4 colors and 120 feet of leader. It also has backing before the lead line. In Chilhowee I never want more than 4 colors out. Most of the lake is 45 feet or less deep. When I troll upstream and get to the part that's only 30-35 feet deep I'll pull in one color.
So you don't spool on the whole 100 yards of leadcore, cutting off just what you need? Long leader, 4 colors ( x 5-6' depth per) gets you where you want to be. Behind that is backing. If you want deeper do you let out some backing too or is this for NO deeper than around 45'?

Use 12 lb lead core.....I use Sufix. Use a Ball Bearing Swivel at the end.....it will save your line.

I generally troll with 70-150ft of lead core out......a 1-3 ounce trolling sinker.....an attractor and 4-5 ft leader with the lure of the day.
And you're using as much as half of the leadcore, but only half, and with a short leader. Do you spool on the whole 100 yards of leadcore or only use half? And you're using that WITH a sinker? Is that just so you can get to somewhat significant depths that would otherwise only be possible with a downrigger?

Yes, I realize I'm overthinking this. But it seems to be sort of like using a double taper fly line on a fly reel, the only real advantage is to take up space on the reel, and when the business end gets worn it can be removed and reversed utilizing the previously unused portion.(Which makes double taper a good bargain compared to a weight forward, for instance) I suppose leadcore could be done the same way, or it could be cut and one 100 yard spool could supply two reels?

Again, don't mean to be overthinking but trying to decide how best to go about spooling up leadcore on these reels I have coming or use one with braid and inline weights. As stated, always more than one way to skin a cat!
 

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Nicely Done.....there is No substitute for experience on the water.

I use only lead core on my reels....no backing. I add a weight because I want Control. Once you start catching Trout....you will find Repeatability is Key. The fact that you are realizing you need a Line Counter is important. I personally want to be able to get down to 20-25 ft in less than 100 ft....preferably 75 ft. You have to take into account the drag from the Dodger and Lure. Also, the More line you have out, the Less Control you have and the slower and more complicated any turns are.

It also takes Time to reel in that much line on most line counter reels.....and I change things often until I find what the Trout want. I troll Specific areas. It takes 20 - 30 minutes to set up and make a successful pass at 1.5 mph. If you do the math.....I'm only getting 2 or maybe 3 passes per hour. The day goes by quickly and that doesn't count motoring time and exploration. In the Fall and Winter, the days are short.....so Time Matters.

Below is a pic of the rig I developed in 2017. I used this exact rig last winter. I have streamlined it for this year....but, I have no pictures. I use a Seps Sidekick Dodger and that's a Mack's wiggle hoochie (top) and one of my custom wiggle hoochies (firetiger below) I use a 4 ft leader between the Dodger and Hoochie. This may clear things up further for you.

The Best time to Troll for Trout will be here in 30 - 45 more days. Happy Fishing!....D

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I have 2 Lead-core outfits with the large Okuma Cold Water reels. I also have an Okuna Convector CV-45 that's the same size. The only thing I dislike about it is that it's way too easy to accidentally hit the line counter button. I have 10 colors on all three. All three reels are on 6.5 foot Cabelas Depthfinder rods. They all have 18 pound lead line. I mainly use them at Watauga. I used to use them all over the place and change the leader as needed.

I have 3 lighter lead rigs using Okuma Walleye rods. I like them for hoochies and plugs or even spoons occasionally. I have two Okuma 303 reels and my Chilhowee special outfit has a Shakespheare counter reel that's just barely big enough to hold 4 colors, backing, and it's leader. At this point it has about 3.75 colors of lead line. It's enough. If I ever change the line, I may just go with 3 colors. I've caught some Lakers on the 303 outfits at Watauga when the Lakers were not super deep. I was actually targeting Rainbows with small plugs but Lakers got it first. That happens a bunch at Watauga. It's over-run with Lakers. Some days it's hard to find the Rainbows because they're hiding from the Lakers. Or, so it seems!

If I ever make another lead line outfit, it might have one or two colors and have some things in common with Jay Fair's rigs. I don't think I'd use any fly line. You may not need more than 2-4 colors of lead line unless you need to run really deep at Fontana, Watauga, and maybe a few other places...???

You should find Angler West's show about fishing Eagle Lake for Rainbows. It's on U-Tube. This lady named Val is on there. She used to fish and guide with Jay Fair. She says that she and Jay saw Rainbows turning over rocks to catch the food on the bottom in Eagle Lake. I believe her. I've seen Rainbows do equally weird stuff, like gorge on wild strawberries.
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
Okay, so this is very helpful.
I'm beginning to understand the setup time involved to make a pass over an area. I had to move out, turn around, feed the same amount of line back out, and approach the point at the same speed just to run the test. Question is, what is the "area". I assume structure where fish have been found before.


What I'm seeing from both of you is differing setups both of which work. I have a smallish Okuma Magda line counter reel. I ordered a Cabelas Combo which included their depthfinder rod, only to find after the fact the rod is out of stock, yet the reel is on the way. So I found an Okuma rod on Amazon. Also found a Shimano rod on FishUSA and ordered it. So I have the components for two trolling specific setups. All are very inexpensive as far as gear goes but have fairly good reviews. Both reels are line counter and my thought was to set up one with lead core and one for inline weights with braid. But now I've started thinking perhaps the full leadcore line is unnecessary. Both of the reels are the smallest size and I cannot imagine I would need more than 50 yards/150 feet/5 colors on either one. So potentially I could set both up with leadcore and backing. Then vary leader length as needed.

I had hoped to go up toward Robbinsville for the weekend up coming and spend some time on Caulderwood just motoring along to find some underwater structure and learning this leadcore setup. That lake being, essentially just a river channel I question where to find structure. I suppose I would concentrate on the inside of those big bends, and the mouths of the small coves where creeks enter, thinking there may be essentially a "point" there extending underwater. However the weather is iffy this weekend but the rain chance in the forecast has diminished since yesterday.
I hope to get these rigs setup in the next day or so. Thanks so much to you both for the info!
 

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I think that the only thing you'll find that resembles underwater structure at Calderwood would be down timber and the roadbed/rail bed along the north shore. If you want to find underwater structure, maybe Santeetlah Lake would be a good place to explore and fish. There's so many kinds of fish in Santeetlah that you would have good odds of catching something. There's plenty of Black Bass, White Bass, Walleye, Perch, and both Rainbow and Brown Trout. You might even catch a Catfish...? Santeetlah is full of humps that were the tops of little hills along the streams before they got buried into the lake.
 

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Discussion Starter · #70 ·
I think that the only thing you'll find that resembles underwater structure at Calderwood would be down timber and the roadbed/rail bed along the north shore. If you want to find underwater structure, maybe Santeetlah Lake would be a good place to explore and fish. There's so many kinds of fish in Santeetlah that you would have good odds of catching something. There's plenty of Black Bass, White Bass, Walleye, Perch, and both Rainbow and Brown Trout. You might even catch a Catfish...? Santeetlah is full of humps that were the tops of little hills along the streams before they got buried into the lake.
Okay, so how do you fish Calderwood? (Or Cheoah?) Do you just troll down one shoreline and up the other or utilize some other strategy?

And Santeetlah. I'd probably launch at Cheoah Point and then....? You have any other specific direction to point me to or should I just motor around, look for a point or underwater hump where I see fish on the depthfinder and go from there?
(I see your information on the other thread as far as suggested depths.) Like him, I don't want to get caught up in a bunch of boat traffic. My little Gheenoe won't like wakeboard boats!

I have decided to go up this weekend, as I have an upcoming medical procedure starting next week that may sideline me a bit, but hopefully not. I'm staying at a campground off Santeetlah. (I considered Cheoah Point campground but at my age, prefer some more amenities/comforts)
 

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In the upper end of Calderwood I troll right down the middle. If I want a lure closer to a bank, I'll use a planar board to place it. I won't put anything but shallow running lures next to the banks. There's so much downed timber all over the place! Down near the dam I'm still cautious about trolling too close to the banks. I've caught Trout out in the middle and closer to the banks. If there's a shadow on the water, I'll try to go through it or near it. Trout don't have eyelids or sunglasses. Trout roam all over the place. Like Art' says there's places he always finds them but they don't stay there. I think that Trout are rather like Racoons in that they work a circuit. There's minnows over here. There's crawdads over there. There's nymphs up that way. They just swim around their circuit looking for goodies. You might catch them between their places, particularly 'Bows. I think that they move more and faster than Browns.
 

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So....without going too deep into this......Find the Fish! It's as simple as that. In the beginning, you'll wander the Lakes looking for Nomad Trout. If you have two rods out.....run them at two different depths. This is where your line counters are priceless. When you make contact....note the depth and location. Revisit and explore these areas. Trout need Oxygen, Food and prefer Cooler temperatures....50-60 degrees. In my personal experience.....smaller trout prefer spinners....larger trout prefer plugs.

Find the Fish versus trying to tell the Fish where they should be! For MANY Years I did a ton of Mapping using Humminbird Autochart. I have lots of rich maps of Fontana, Santeetlah and the Gems. I used to believe I would discover a motherlode of fish that everyone had missed because of the lack of Maps for our Mountain Lakes. While it Helps me to this day.....I Never actually succeeded at predicting where the fish would actually be! Trolling ....on the other hand.....has helped me quickly zero in on areas......which I later inspect to see why the fish are there. There are two spots on Santeetlah that ALWAYS have trout on them. To this day, I have No Idea why? Currents? Oxygen? Food? There is No Discernable Structure. All I know ....is the Trout are predictably Always there.

Find the Fish. Then....then let the Trout tell you what's going on. There is No Substitute for time on the water.

Your "A-Ha" moment is coming......Happy Fishing....enjoy the scenery...Fishing is about more than catching fish.....D

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Discussion Starter · #73 ·
So....without going too deep into this......Find the Fish! It's as simple as that. In the beginning, you'll wander the Lakes looking for Nomad Trout. If you have two rods out.....run them at two different depths.

Find the Fish versus trying to tell the Fish where they should be!

Trolling ....on the other hand.....has helped me quickly zero in on areas......which I later inspect to see why the fish are there.

Find the Fish. Then....then let the Trout tell you what's going on.
I know how to find the trout in streams. And know how to find bass, crappie etc. in lakes. Well, correction, I know where to LOOK for them, I don't always find them!

So, to use your words, "without going too deep into it", quick question.
When you're on a new piece of water, do you just motor around using your electronics to find fish first, then set up to target them?
I've already found just blind trolling isn't the best strategy and can waste a lot of time.



An update: I set up the Okuma reel with the Okuma rod. It is a smaller line counter reel, a 15 size. This doesn't allow any backing along with any significant amount of leadcore. So I spooled the leadcore on directly with no backing. I got only 7 sections on or 70 yards. The spool is full with that. I cannot imagine having more than 4-5 sections out as that alone puts it 120-150' back. I'll use this with a fairly short leader. This is a start. I'd probably use your technique of adding weight if I need deeper. Significantly deeper...well I have have the downrigger.
I have another size 15 reel to set up and I believe right now I'll set it up with braid. I can use it on the downrigger or with weight as needed, but I'll have the advantage of the line counter. With some experience I may change it to leadcore as well.
 

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If I were heading out on Cheoah or Calderwood....Both being serpentine "River Lakes" with cooler waters.....I would study Google Maps for obvious spots like bends and creek mouths. I would pack refreshments and start trolling towards the dam.....up one side.....and back down the other. This will take most of your day...enjoy it! You won't need much weight as you should find any active fish in the10-15 ft level. Troll a bit shallower on the shore side....10-12 ft....and 15 -20 ft on the deeper side. Watch your depthfinder for Fish....and anything else interesting....making notes. Keep trying different lures....spoons, plugs, spinners along the way until you get some interest. Take some nightcrawlers and tip your lures. Always keep one line in the water and working. Spend a little extra time around the dam.....and head back up the other side.

On Santeetlah....as Troutgirl said.....you'll have Many more species to attract.....But, you'll have a "Hot Top" on the lake. You likely won't catch Anything in the top 15-20 ft of water. Many like to troll from the Marina past the town and campground and towards the launch. I actually prefer closer to the dam and up Santeetlah Creek arm. You'll want to be 20 to 30 ft deep to get any action. Santeetlah SERIOUSLY undulates....changing depth suddenly and quickly. Once you get to know it, you will start to unlock it's secrets. It has more fish.....but, is more complicated than Cheoah and Calderwood. Again....enjoy the ride.....stay glued to your depthfinder....and experiment until you get some interest. You'll see far more fish on Santeetlah. You will need at Least an ounce or two of additional weight.....the way I troll.

Enjoy yourself and let us know what happens....Good Luck!....D
 

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Discussion Starter · #75 ·
Very helpful, THANK you! I really want to target trout...walleye would be nice too, never caught or eaten walleye.

Anyway, time to stop talking and get fishing!

Thanks again.
 
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