Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Techniques
The most fun you can fly fishing for smallmouth bass is catching them when they are feeding on the surface. Nothing beats the fun
and excitement of seeing a five, pound smallmouth come up from the bottom of a clear water stream and crash an imitation of a
frog on the surface. It is often easy to attempt to set the hook before the fish actually has the fly in its mouth. The problem is, day in
and day out in the typical smallmouth lake or stream, they are not feeding on the surface. Far more often than not, they are
feeding beneath the surface and often near the bottom. Unless you just want to be a part time smallmouth angler, you better learn
to fish to fish you can't see as well as those that feed on top.
Finding Smallmouth In Small Streams and Creeks:
There are two types small streams and creeks. There are those large enough to float and those that are too small to float or
restricted by regulations that do not allow boats. The techniques required to fish from a boat, small aluminum boat, pontoon boat,
drift boat, kayak or other type vessel are quite different from those used wading. Many streams that hold smallmouth bass are just
to small to float. You have to wade or fish from the banks to fish them. Fly fishing for smallmouth from the banks of a stream,
usually limits what you can do.
Wading Small Creeks and Streams:
When wading, you have to be use stealthy approach. Keep in mind, in water clear enough for you to see the fish, the fish can also
see you. You also have to wade quietly, not kicking or moving rocks and gravel around on the bottom of the stream. The bass can
also hear you, or detect subtle vibrations in the water. Ripples you create when wading can also spook the bass.
Any small stream that supports a good population of smallmouth bass will have some deeper holes or pools. A big smallmouth can
be found in a small hole or pool, but those that are rather large, usually hold the larger size smallmouth. There should be some
holes that are seven to twelve feet deep. This is necessary for the smallmouth during the hot summers and cold winters. During the
spring and fall months, they are usually found much shallower. These are not hard rules, just general ones, so be aware this varies
with water temperature, clarity and amount of light.
In some cases it is possible to sight fish to smallmouth. This is not only effective at times, it is a very exciting way to fly fish for them.
If you slip up to a pool and the water in front of you is fairly deep with good structure, but you fail to see any smallmouth, give it a
little time. The fish can be hiding under something or just out of sight and you won't be able to see them until they move. They can
be spotted moving much easier than they can when they are not moving.
Keep in mind that water with large rocks and boulders, or downed trees or deadfalls, create breaks in the current and provide
hiding places for smallmouth bass. Areas of wide open water with little to no structure isn't near as likely to hold very many fish.
That written, in such cases, keep in mind that the only structure in such an area usually hold the only fish there, so don't overlook
A point to keep in mind, is during the warmer months of the year, smallmouth relate to the current and will never be far from it. You
should position yourself downstream of boulders and eddies, and cast upstream, allowing the fly to drift drag free to you. As a
general rule, smallmouth bass will be positioned behind the rocks and boulders on the downstream side. This isn't always the case.
They can be positioned in from of larger rocks and boulders in swift current because there is usually a relatively small dead area of
almost still water.
Fishing Small Creek and Streams From A Boat:
Most small streams can be waded, but many don't have the proper access points to wade from the banks. Others are too deep to
wade and require some type of a boat or a float tube to fish. Float tubes are handy for those that don't mind floating around half
submerged in the water. Some streams move to fast to fish from a float tube. The water in the stream need to be very slow moving
for their use, or otherwise, you can get into trouble fast.
As far as the use of boats, often the one or two man type pontoon boats are most practical They are easier than most boats to tow,
load, unload and launch. Other small streams fish well from small aluminum or fiberglass john and/or v-hull power boats. In many
small streams, the best vessel is a canoe. It all depends on the particular water and the number of people you need to
accommodate. Some streams prohibit the use of gasoline powered boats and require electric motors or paddles.
In each situation, you have to take into consideration where you can access and exit the stream and how long it takes to get from
one point to another. You have to know the stream well, or make absolutely certain there are no points you will encounter where to
water too fast to handle, the water to low to navigate, or numerous other obstructions or dangerous situations you could possible
encounter. Knowing these types of things is critically important in some cases, because you can become stranded in a stream after
dark if your not careful. In other situations, you can reach your take out point much earlier than you want to, limiting your time to
fish. Even worse, you can find yourself in a dangerous situation due to conditions and circumstances you were not aware of. Each
stream much be carefully analyzed for any possible problems, not to mention the practical problems of catching fish.
Finding Smallmouth In Lakes and Large Rivers:
In clear lakes and large, clear rivers, smallmouth will travel great distances to take a fly during the middle of a sunny afternoon. If
you can see the bottom of the stream or lake, chances are they can see your fly very well. In fact, they can see extremely well in
clear water. The first and foremost way to fool them into taking your fly is to make sure your they look as realistic as possible. You
have to try to take advantage of the fact they can see them well. You need to disguise your flies by matching them to the size, color
and shape of the local forage. You can also use erratic movements to fool them, or in other words, keep the fly moving such they
don't get too good of a look at it.
Sky conditions and water clarity affect how well the smallmouth see your fly. If your fishing the fly on or near the surface, wind can
also affect how well they can see it. During the middle of the day in water less than ten feet deep, you can often fool the bass by
imparting short twitches with the rod to make the fly dart from side to side. You can allow the fly to sink to different depths and
begin the twitching action and rhythm. Often, the smallmouth will crush the fly and other times they tend to just follow it as if they
are just curious about it. When this happens, it often works to just let the fly sink deeper and then resume the twitching rhythm.
Often the key is finding the bait. You can sometimes see the bait but it not, a fishfinder, or sonar device can find it. When you spot
globs of baitfish holding over structure, you will often find smallmouth feeding on them. In this case, it is usually best to mark the
spot with a buoy, back off and return to drop a streamer in the area of the baitfish. This works well if the bait is staying in the same
area, but often they are on the move, not holding in one area over structure. When they are on the move, smallmouth feeding on
them will follow them. In this situation, you can't just go back to where you caught them the day before and count on catching them.
You usually have to relocate them on your fishfinder. If the smallmouth are not feeding on or near the surface,on the banks of the
lake, and you don't find the baitfish, your probably just waisting your time casting.
You don't have to use a fishfinder to catch smallmouth. Many anglers prefer to do it visually. The most obvious locations in lakes
that are clear are rock shoals and drop off points. As mentioned in our other articles, smallmouth bass are predators that rely on
hiding and attaching their prey, as well as chasing it down in open water. The fish usually relate to some type of object or structure
such as a rock, log or weeds. They can also be found in schools. When they do congregate in schools, you will usually find the
smallmouth bass are near the same size.
Most lakes and large rivers require some type of boat to fish. Some are suited well for tube floats and others are too dangerous to
fish from a float tube. Boats can range from a large variety and types ranging from motor boats of many different types; small boats
with electric trolling motors; pontoon type vessels ranging from the one-man type to larger pontoon boats; drift boats; and kayaks,
There are some lakes and large rivers that have areas of water with smallmouth bass that you can wade and fish. These places
can be accessed in some cases from the bank and others require a boat to access the areas you intend to wade. It all depends on
the particular water.
The fly tackle, gear and equipment you need, greatly depends on which of these type of fishing methods you use. That will be
covered under the gear, tackle and equipment section of this website.
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Copyright 2017 James Marsh