Fly Patterns for Bass

by on December 14, 2010

Pound for pound, it’s hard to beat the scrappy smallmouth bass on the fly rod for fun. Although many anglers target only trout while fly fishing, the smallmouth bass is also a favorite and can be readily caught using a variety of fly pattern imitations.

The smallmouth bass can be found in a variety of waters including rivers and lakes. Although generally speaking, bass are often thought of as a “warm water” species, the smallmouth is found throughout many of the northern US States and far into Eastern and Central Canada. It is just as at home in rivers as it is in lakes. Even in some rivers, it can grow to four and five pounds and a smallmouth of this size will put up a terrific battle!

Although many bass fly anglers know how much fun it can be to use large top water flies including poppers, these are not the only patterns that smallmouth bass will attack. Bass are like other fish in that they have a wide variety of food sources and will prey upon nymphs, leeches, hatching insects, chironomids, crayfish, and smaller fish. They can be quite greedy and it’s not uncommon to hook and land a bass that not only has your fly in it’s mouth, but perhaps a small minnow that it hadn’t gotten around to swallowing before taking your fly.

In rivers, smallmouth bass will take the same nymph patterns that brown trout will. If you’re targeting these voracious fish, be sure to experiment with common nymphs such as Bead Head Hare’s Nymph, Turkey Tail Nymph, and Ian James’ very effective Muncher Nymph. On one particular fast flowing river under a waterfall, Monte Smith’s Midnight Blue pattern was fished all day and took several dozen smallmouth bass.

Just like trout, smallmouth bass can have a heavy reliance upon chironomids for their diet. Fished in the same way when targeting rainbow trout in stillwaters, fly patterns that imitate chironomids such as epoxy buzzers (another Ian James pattern, the Brass Ass, comes to mind) should be experimented with. If you fish chironomids too fast, you may discover the bass following your fly, seemingly curious about it but reluctant to take it. If you notice this behaviour, slow down your retrieve considerably!

Leeches are another favorite food of this scrappy fish. There are times when nothing but a big fat juicy looking leech pattern will provoke a strike from the smallmouth. While black is an excellent colour, be sure to try others such as the Viva Zonker.

Smallmouth bass enjoy a meal of crayfish and there are quite a few fly patterns that effectively copy this crustacean. Uncle Joe’s Crayfish is one such pattern that will invoke the wrath of a hungry smallmouth looking for a substantial meal.

Just like many other species of fish, smallmouth bass are a lot of fun when using the fly rod, whether fishing rivers or lakes. If this is one of your favorite species, be sure to learn as much as you can about a variety of fly fishing techniques in order to increase your chances of fishing success!

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