Flying For Smallmouth

Fly fish

By Casey Ryan

Smallmouth bass belong to the sunfish family and are one of my favorite fish to pursue with the flyrod.

Smallmouth bass on average weigh up to six pounds, with females being the larger of the species. They may not grow as large as their more popular cousin, the largemouth bass, but pound for pound smallmouth put up the better fight of the two in my opinion. Some other names for the smallmouth bass are: bronzeback, brown bass, brownie, smallie, bronze bass, and bare back bass.

Smallmouth bass prefer clear-water lakes and cool streams with gravel or rocky substrate. In terms of appearance, the fish tends to mirror its surroundings for better camouflage but typically are a green or brown with vertical dark bands along the sides.

I like to use a 5, 6 or 7 weight flyrod for chasing smallies. Smallies are an aggressive predator that feed on crayfish, small fish, aquatic and terrestrial insects, worms, frogs and tadpoles. One of my favorite flies to us is an olive over white clouser in size 2-6 with a foxy clouser being my second pick.

There are a number of ways to target smallmouth bass but the most important element to having a successful day on the water is learning to read the water. When it comes to river fishing, smallies can be found hiding behind current breaks like logs and boulders where they can ambush prey and minimize their energy needed to hold themselves in key feeding areas. Other key areas are: tailouts, deep pools, eddies and edges where current and slack water meet.

Depending on the conditions and how aggressive the fish are being that day you can cast and strip the clouser back to you in varying strips making sure to always mix it up to give the fly an appearance of a wounded or dying baitfish. You can also swing the fly down and across the current, making sure the clouser passes over larger boulders or dark spots and any areas you think a fish could be holding. If its early or late in the season and the water is cold or the fish are not aggressive you can dead drift the fly under an indicator through likely holding spots. This can be very productive on high pressure days and days after passing cold fronts.

There is no better way to spend the day than wet wading in a cool rocky stream on a hot summer day for a no finer sport fish than the smallmouth bass.

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