Monday, July 18, 2005
It's A Hot Time To Think About Bass Fishing
Bring on the heat. The hotter the better. I'm talking about the kind of heat that sears your bare feet as you step in to your aluminum jon boat.
Yet, this is exactly the type of uncomfortable weather that draws me to my fly rod and my favorite bass waters.
As a rule, when summer temperatures become unbearable, bass become vulnerable to the fly rod. And, it is the angler who approaches bass with a fly rod and a handful of assorted flies who will experience multiple-fish days.
Time and time again, my good friend, Will Ryan, has outfished me on summer bass waters as he flailed the water with both top-water and subsurface flies.
Concurrently, I fish rod-and-reel bass rigs - from rubber worms to Zara Spooks. As a rule, Ryan will catch three or four fish to my one.
Thankfully, fly fishing for bass isn't rocket science nor is it as technical as fishing for cold-water trout. Fly fishing for largemouth bass is all about casting large flies and popper bugs, and most largemouth fly fishers recommend an 8-weight outfit that measures anywhere from 8 to 9 feet in length. Most 9-foot rods are used on bigger waters or while casting from float tubes.
Smallmouth bass fly fishers will use rods between 6- and 8-weight, while a 7-weight rod is ideal for most smallie action.
In contrast to trout fishing, leader selection for bass isn't that critical. Generally, a straight piece of 10- to 12-pound high abrasive monofilament will work under most conditions. Simply tie a 3- to 5-foot piece of mono to your flyline and you are in business. And don't worry about the heavy line as largemouth bass are not particularly line-shy. When a largemouth decides to strike a fly or popper bug, they could care less what size line is attached to the eye. More importantly, however, is the castability of shorter leaders. A short leader will enable you to accurately cast a heavy fly into tight cover. Also, most fly casting for largemouth is done at short distances, unlike the type of casting required to fly cast to trout. So, long leaders are simply not needed.
Smallmouth leaders can be a bit smaller, depending on the water and depth you are fishing. If you search for smallies in deep water, longer leaders should be used with sinking line. However, short leaders are preferred for tossing poppers or deer hairs to small- to medium-river smallmouths.
Most summertime bass anglers will tell you the most exciting and productive fly used is a top-water popper. A top-water popper is the perfect search bait. Watching bass put the chase on a surface popper is what makes flyrodding so fun and challenging.
When bass are feeding, I'll begin with a fly rod hula popper. This bait, consisting of many color variations and patterns, is the perfect bait for drawing strikes from bass poised to ambush bait.
Early in the morning, before the harsh sunlight strikes the water, I'll cast a black popper. The black bait, viewed from below, creates a large silhouette, and it's loud pop on the water is simply too much for feeding fish.
As the sun strikes the water, change the color of the popper to a frog pattern or a red-and-white stripe pattern.
Short, snappy strips of the fly line will create the necessary noise to attract any nearby bass. As a bass strikes a top-water bait, your first reaction is to set the hook. However, one must exhibit patience as the popper disappears from view. Top-water fly fishers generally wait a second or two before lifting the rod tip. Without fail, each season I always miss the hookset on my first half-dozen top-water strikes. Not until I begin to relax and concentrate on the strike will I start hooking fish.
One of my favorite top-water bass fly patterns is the deer- hair frog. Made weedless with a piece of heavy monofilament line, this dynamic fly is absolutely deadly in and around weed lines or lily pads in rivers, ponds and lakes.
On calm days, both the deer-hair and popper-bug patterns create tons of commotion. But when bass are finicky and settled down in the water column, the muddler minnow is often called to action. This particular fly in sizes 4 through 8 represents a number of different bass foods. The muddler can be fished deep, midway or stripped just below the surface, and the muddler can be found or tied in an assortment of colors and body tinsel. Muddlers can also be tied with marabou.
Minnow-imitating patterns like the Matuka and variations of the Dahlberg Diver are also great additions to a fly fisher's bass fly box. So, too, are the various Clouser patterns.
One of the most productive patterns for subsurface fly fishing is the Woolly Bugger tied in black, olive and maroon. This is a simple all-around pattern that will catch just about anything that swims and can be very deadly in bodies of water that hold both largemouth and smallmouth bass.