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Fly fishing for Bass


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#1 Lokithx

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 09:44 AM

Anyone here willing to offer some advice on fly choices for SMB? I've got some spots I'd love to do it, but I've had modest success with it. I've tried a variety of streamers and big bugs, some of them garnering interest of the fish of a moment but ultimately the success rate has been sub par.


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#2 Brent

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 12:48 PM

Only on occasion and under specific circumstances will fly fishing out-produce spin fishing for bass (just based on my experience, so of limited value) :D  But I'd take a handful of smallies on a flyrod over a boatful on hardware.  The biggest challenge is setting the hook, I find.  You can't very effectively set it using the tip of a light rod; you need to point the rod at the fish and strip-set with the fly line itself, especially for the larger ones.

First, the flies I find most productive: large yellow muddlers with a bit of a red throat hackle; lightly weighted black wooly buggers with an orange marabou tail and some crystal flash ribbing; large natural buck bugs and carter bugs (esp at dusk); clouser minnows; and commercial poppers like the chartreuse Sneaky Pete.

 

Where flies come into their own is in thin water and small streams.  I live on a small stream that might be 15m wide at its widest, and has pools no deeper than 5 feet this time of year.  I had a 9 fish afternoon (10 to 18", most over 14") which may not be much for a big river or lake, but was plenty for my needs.   I have found large smallies schooled up in very shallow water where the crash of a rapala or spinner bait would have sent the lot of them scattering, but a fly dropped near them causes no reaction til you impart movement.  If you gut a stream smallie, you'll find even the larger fish have a lot of larvae in their stomach, like dragonfly larvae, but also small stuff that likely is caddis or mayfly nymphs.  They also seem to eat a lot of small eels, so the black wooly bugger (and even a wooly worm) seems particularly effective.

Should you be so fortunate as to be on the water during a gray/green drake hatch, the bass will go nuts for dryfly versions of them, in #10 and #8.

The dry flies, bugs, Petes and muddlers, I drop on the water and let sit til the ripples disappear (just like floating stickbaits), then a light tug, then a wait, then a few strips. 

Clousers, MMMinnows and buggers I let sink, then strip in fairly erratically. 

But I've seen them take #16 dries and soft hackles, too, when they are of a mind to. And almost always will take a nymph if they are eating at all.

I've caught 18" smallies and 18" brookies on my 3wt rod, and at the risk of being asked to leave the province,  I can say without doubt that the smallies outperformed the brookies by a wide margin. 

You guys seem to have very good luck on your home waters in terms of both numbers and size; not sure you're going to replicate that with a  fly rod. But if you can hit them when they are in the shallows of that larger river (say, dusk/dawn/deep overcast) I'm guessing you'd be pretty amused.

Good luck; and keep us posted!

brent


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#3 Domino

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 12:48 PM

I was just messing around with flies with a bobber and had some luck with ones that looked like a mosquito fly. Nothing of size though. What about popper flies.

 

http://www.cabelas.c...pper-assortment

 

something like those guy (out of stock in Moncton)  


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#4 Lokithx

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 01:29 PM

Only on occasion and under specific circumstances will fly fishing out-produce spin fishing for bass (just based on my experience, so of limited value) :D  But I'd take a handful of smallies on a flyrod over a boatful on hardware.  The biggest challenge is setting the hook, I find.  You can't very effectively set it using the tip of a light rod; you need to point the rod at the fish and strip-set with the fly line itself, especially for the larger ones.

First, the flies I find most productive: large yellow muddlers with a bit of a red throat hackle; lightly weighted black wooly buggers with an orange marabou tail and some crystal flash ribbing; large natural buck bugs and carter bugs (esp at dusk); clouser minnows; and commercial poppers like the chartreuse Sneaky Pete.

 

Where flies come into their own is in thin water and small streams.  I live on a small stream that might be 15m wide at its widest, and has pools no deeper than 5 feet this time of year.  I had a 9 fish afternoon (10 to 18", most over 14") which may not be much for a big river or lake, but was plenty for my needs.   I have found large smallies schooled up in very shallow water where the crash of a rapala or spinner bait would have sent the lot of them scattering, but a fly dropped near them causes no reaction til you impart movement.  If you gut a stream smallie, you'll find even the larger fish have a lot of larvae in their stomach, like dragonfly larvae, but also small stuff that likely is caddis or mayfly nymphs.  They also seem to eat a lot of small eels, so the black wooly bugger (and even a wooly worm) seems particularly effective.

Should you be so fortunate as to be on the water during a gray/green drake hatch, the bass will go nuts for dryfly versions of them, in #10 and #8.

The dry flies, bugs, Petes and muddlers, I drop on the water and let sit til the ripples disappear (just like floating stickbaits), then a light tug, then a wait, then a few strips. 

Clousers, MMMinnows and buggers I let sink, then strip in fairly erratically. 

But I've seen them take #16 dries and soft hackles, too, when they are of a mind to. And almost always will take a nymph if they are eating at all.

I've caught 18" smallies and 18" brookies on my 3wt rod, and at the risk of being asked to leave the province,  I can say without doubt that the smallies outperformed the brookies by a wide margin. 

You guys seem to have very good luck on your home waters in terms of both numbers and size; not sure you're going to replicate that with a  fly rod. But if you can hit them when they are in the shallows of that larger river (say, dusk/dawn/deep overcast) I'm guessing you'd be pretty amused.

Good luck; and keep us posted!

brent


Well, my shopping list is started. What are your thoughts on large articulated leech patterns? I've never tried pitching them and figured they might be the closest to my normal presentations on spin tackle.


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#5 Brent

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 02:21 PM

Domino:

Yep, those are great.  The first two in the middle row are Sneaky Petes, but the rest of the cupped 'poppers' will work, too,  Killers for sunfish, as well, and you should consider a fairly heavy leader (say, 15lb) with them, cause they have a habit of triggering slashes from chain pickerel, too.

Lokithx:

Never tied up the articulated leeches, cause I'm already carrying too many patterns but they look very effective.  I'm guessing you'll need a 7 wt or so to throw them.  I got to thinking that my comments were a bit biased toward smaller flies.  That's because I use a light rod, and it simply won't cast larger flies.  But where you fish, I'd say larger flies would be the way to go, esp. if you're using a salmon rod or heavier trout rod.   I just don't know anyone around here who ties/sells them.  I tied up some huge, ugly, flamboyant shiny streamers on 2/0 hooks for trolling northern pike in Labrador, (I call them the Pole Dancer Series), and I expect they'd work quite well for larger bass, too.  I can sort of lob them with a 9 wt.

brent


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#6 Lokithx

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 02:38 PM

I got a sage 8 wt handy that would probably do the trick. I'm going to keep an eye out for those and try light and heavy tackle. :)


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#7 Brent

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 06:09 PM

lokithx:

sent a pm.


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#8 Old Guide

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 06:09 PM

Ralph and I were out a few times Fly fishing smallies. He ties Poppers that we had some real fun with .. he can be found @ Goodfly.ca

Here  he is with a smallie.

IMG_20150709_205732_zpst9vraxp4.jpg


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The Son of a Coal Miner and Dam proud of iT !


#9 Lokithx

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Posted 23 July 2015 - 08:38 AM

Will I be shamed if I admit I have a stash of spin poppers that would make many bass anglers jealous yet I've not had the patience to catch a bass with one? Maybe I'll spend my year dedicating my time to using new and alternative techniques.

Also thats a beaut smallie.


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#10 Saint Johnny Sox

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Posted 23 July 2015 - 12:31 PM

pm sent


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#11 chasingtrout1

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Posted 23 July 2015 - 12:31 PM

they like to hit the cone beed muddlers


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#12 duckboy2010

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Posted 23 July 2015 - 09:42 PM

I'm also a fan of muddler minnows

 

 

Will I be shamed if I admit I have a stash of spin poppers that would make many bass anglers jealous yet I've not had the patience to catch a bass with one? Maybe I'll spend my year dedicating my time to using new and alternative techniques.
 

 

A top water bait will rarely out-fish an underwater bait. Particularly for big fish. You just have to decide that you want the thrill of seeing bass break the surface and accept that you will catch fewer fish and maybe not the lunker.


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#13 Brent

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Posted 24 July 2015 - 10:08 AM

Duckboy:

That's a very valid point!  It seems to me that bass are almost always feeding below the surface, given the right trigger, but only occasionally feeding on the surface.  Given the difficulty of stripping a fly (vs retrieving a lure with a spinning rod) and the fact you don't get to see the take underwater, I find it more satisfying to get the few fish that will slam a floating fly.  But for consistent success, I find I have to rely on subsurface flies.

One lake I fish every year will produce bass all day long, rain or shine, on a slowly trolled/retrieved wooly bugger. But at dusk and dawn, they go nuts for large wulffs, bombers and rat-faced McDougalls in the shallows around the inlet.  And I'd happily give up the six hours of slow trolling for that 45 minutes of insanity at the end of the day.

brent


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#14 Mustang

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Posted 24 July 2015 - 10:57 AM

A lot of great advice posted here.  I've had my best year yet for SMB (caught and released approx. 100 fish so far), most on LiveTarget Perch plugs and wacky-rigged Senkos.

Would love to catch some on the fly using my 8 wt rod, especially if I can get them to take topwater.

 

For reasons I don't understand, bass in New Brunswick just don't seem to be nearly as aggressive for topwater as what I was used to growing up in Ontario (Rideau Lakes).  In my experience there, they would hit surface lures all day long if the water was calm - especially in swampy bays.

 

I'll have to get out some more now with the fly rod.   Something tells me I should check the book for regulations on "weighted" flies, because some of the hybrid flies I have in my box have bodies and may not be allowed.

Tight lines,

Mustang


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#15 Brent

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Posted 24 July 2015 - 12:03 PM

Mustang: the whole business of 'unweighted' flies will only apply to designated fly fishing only waters.  If you only fly fish where you have been LEGALLY fishing with hardware, it should not be an issue.   Good luck!

brent


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#16 Mustang

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Posted 24 July 2015 - 01:09 PM

Mustang: the whole business of 'unweighted' flies will only apply to designated fly fishing only waters.  If you only fly fish where you have been LEGALLY fishing with hardware, it should not be an issue.   Good luck!

brent

Hey Brent,

That's the thing....my best bass spots are now fly-fishing only as of July 15  (legal for regular gear up to that date)

May give it a go with some Wolly Buggers in my salmon kit.


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#17 Brent

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Posted 24 July 2015 - 02:29 PM

Yeah, I wondered about that, given the end of the province you're living in.  Muddlers, buck bugs, bombers, lefty's deceivers, balsa poppers and unweighted buggers, I guess.  (Must admit, most of my 'bass' wooly buggers have about 1/2 inch of lead wire wrap just back of the eye - gives 'em a nice dipping action on a slow, erratic retrieve.)  

A lot of the more productive bass flies like bob Clouser's  clouser minnow use barbell eyes and such.

I wonder if this will become more of an issue in the future, if climate change and our land use practices continue to turn the lower stretches of our old trout waters into more 'bassy' habitat? 

brent


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#18 duckboy2010

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Posted 25 July 2015 - 10:45 PM

 

For reasons I don't understand, bass in New Brunswick just don't seem to be nearly as aggressive for topwater as what I was used to growing up in Ontario (Rideau Lakes).  In my experience there, they would hit surface lures all day long if the water was calm - especially in swampy bays.

Mustang were you fishing for smallmouth or largemouth in the swampy bays? They would have to feed more in the warmer water and may have been more aggressive. Also, while I shouldn't generalize, you can't compare the number of bass in New Brunswick to the Rideau Lakes. The Rideau lakes are way more productive (ie more fertilizer->more algae->more zooplankton/ invertebrates->more minnows->more largemouth and smallmouth bass).  Thus they may not have been more aggressive,  there was probably just more fish looking at your topwater bait so you had a better chance something  would bite.  


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#19 sjclhn

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Posted 26 July 2015 - 07:25 AM

Mustang, I was on the Hammond last night and landed 5 small, small mouths with a little white wolf.  Hope that helps, none were very big, largest being a little over a pound.  


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#20 Mustang

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Posted 27 July 2015 - 05:55 AM

Thanks Guys,

Bass fishing on the Rideau Lakes between Ottawa and Kingston is 90% largemouth.  The St. Lawrence Seaway between Kingston and Brockville (1000 Islands) is great for both largemouth and smallmouth.  When I was a kid in the 70's we used to fish with live green frogs on a weedless hook using a fly rod in those swampy bays on the Rideau.  You could drag that frog over logs and lily pads and the big bass would just erupt through the weeds to grab it.   Our favorite topwater lure for calm water was a Jitterbug.   It was all pretty low-tech with fibreglass rods and Mitchell 300 spinning reels, but we caught a ton of bass using those systems and good ones would often run 4 lbs.   Pan fried bass was on the breakfast menu every summer weekend and there seemed to be an endless supply  (I think I've only eaten fish that I have caught in NB about 3 times in the last 5 years)

 

No question there are more bass there and the water is warmer for sure.   Although I still haven't found the aggressive surface strikes here, I've had my best season for SMB in years and I'm looking forward to exploring more good fishing spots like the Mactaquac headpond and Lake Utopia.


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