In every state (except Alaska) and in every province in Canada, they can be found.
They swim in waters of the Great Lakes, small farm ponds, wide rivers and small streams.
Kirk Deeter called them the ultimate fly rod fish.
They are (usually) willing to eat and they fight like demons when they’re hooked.
And, most importantly, they are 10 minutes from my door.
They are smallmouth bass.
Up until last November, I was a trout guy. Three-weight or five-weight in hand, I would spend my days chasing trout: sea-runs in May & small-stream residents into the summer months. Only after the season closed on September 15th would I bother driving the hour or so to the Miramichi River for Atlantic salmon.
The redfish trip to Louisiana in November changed all that.
It opened my eyes to catching fish other than trout, and to traveling to catch them (there’s a future post on this, by the way…). I’ve caught some pretty cool fish since then, and plan on catching many more (hopefully). But the one surprise has been smallmouth bass.
It started with an invite to a bass tournament from a friend who needed a spare partner. I told him yes, but that I was bringing fly gear too. Being the country gentleman I am, I waited until we caught our limit for the tournament before piecing together my fly rod.
I caught two, using my 8-wt with a chartreuse & white Clouser minnow. One of them was almost big enough to keep for the weigh-in. Being May 1st, the fish were pretty sluggish & the 8wt easily handled landing them. But they were fun, and it opened my eyes to fly fishing for smallies.
I went out a few weeks later with another friend. Water temperatures had warmed up a bit, and this time I brought my 5wt trout setup. It was almost a mistake. Though it was a battle to throw Clousers, Buggers and poppers with the 5wt, it definitely paid off once they were hooked. I thought they were going to break my rod!
And I was hooked, too.
Never one to require much of an excuse to get more gear, it was quite apparent I ‘needed’ a bass-specific set-up. A quick scan of Redington’s webpage put me onto their 6wt Predator rod paired with a Rise reel (Disclosure: I use Redington’s guide program for discounted gear).
The six-weight allowed me to throw the bigger, heavier flies while still maintaining the ‘holy crap!’ factor of fighting the smallies. And fight they did.
As we moved deeper into summer and the water temperatures got higher, the bass got bigger, hungrier and feistier.
The more I went bass fishing, the more I caught, and the more addicted to fishing for them. What was not to like about them? Not as finicky as trout, no hour drives like salmon, more prevalent & more willing to eat than muskie.
Parachute Adams in size 20 are fun, but when you can throw stuff big ol’ deer hair poppers & watch them get annihilated in smashing takes…wow!
Redfish were amazing & I would go south again for them at a drop of a hat. Deceiving trout on my three-weight on a small stream, away from the masses, is fun. The almost-audible slam from an Atlantic salmon hitting a swung streamer is addictive as heck. Muskie & (respectable-sized) stripers still elude me, and I won’t be giving up anytime soon. The 40″ northern pike & 17lb chinook salmon will always be a great memory. Steelhead, tarpon, permit, bonefish, sailfish and many more species are on my list.
But my go-to, home-water fish from now on?
For more information on fly fishing for smallmouth bass, check out:
- L.L. Bean Fly Fishing for Bass Handbook, by Dave Whitlock
- Fly Fishing for Bass, by Lefty Kreh
- Fly Fishing for Smallmouth in Rivers & Streams, by Bob Clouser
- Tim Holschlag’s smallmouthflyangler.com
- Doug Rorer’s Smallmouth Fly Box