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Smallmouths: The Ultimate Fly Rod Fish?

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June 07, 2011

Smallmouths: The Ultimate Fly Rod Fish?

By Kirk Deeter

For better or worse, the fly fishing world revolves around trout. Don't get me wrong... I love trout. I respect their fickle nature. I think they're graceful animals...deceptively powerful in strong currents...and noble adversaries vis a vis the tug. And they're more predatory than most of us give them credit for being (at least the big ones are). If you don't believe that, go throw a mouse fly in a trout river at night, and see if that won't change your mind.

But I'm starting to think smallmouth bass might be taking over as my favorite fish to catch on fly rods. Dave Whitlock and Bob Clouser have had it right for years.

Smallies are never going to be on anyone's "Most Beautiful" list. I think they're the wild turkey of the water. They're wily, sometimes explosive, and found in lakes and rivers throughout the country, from the Columbia River to the Delaware River. They're resilient. They're native.

And all you need to play is rod, reel, line, leader...and a handful of Clouser minnows (I like the ones with chartreuse accents best).

The fly fishing world has done a good job in promoting the sport beyond traditional trout boundaries in recent years. There are very few fish you can catch on conventional gear that you can't catch on a fly. And many fish, from carp to pike and panfish, might just be more appreciated from the business end of the fly rod.

I'd certainly put smallmouth bass in that category. In fact, they're at the top of my list.

Comments (31)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I love catching bronze, but most of my bass buddies move the boat too fast for me to effectively get on them with a clouser.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I was always told to think of smallmouth are warm water trout when I was younger, now that I have gone after both I will definitely agree with you on this topic, true there is something more pure about fishing for trout in a cold stream with a dry fly, but there is nothing more fun then hooking into a big smallie on a fly rod.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Gotta love em. Very powerful fighters.
Next to steelhead, they're my favorite.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Ya know, the more I think about it, I can't say that I have a favorite fish to catch on a fly rod, but fish I just like to catch, period. Some fish may be taken with specific methods and equipment much easier than others, but when it comes down to it, it's all about the take, then the fight. Accomplishments are measured in achievements based upon preference, but like all things debatable(ie. dries vs nymphs) it doesn't matter one lick what the other guy thinks.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I hold a special fondness for smallies. The first fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a smallie using a yellow streamer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

How could you not love all of that fight on a fly rod? So far I've only caught them out of ponds, but in 3 days and 9 hours I leave for my first smallmouth float with 5 good fishing buddies, 13 miles on the Kings River in northwest Arkansas. Should be a blast.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Number 1 in my book. I've got a reservoir near me loaded with big ones, my gear of choice being a 4 weight Orvis Tip-flex rod and my beat up old Battenkill. Hooking in to even a 4 pounder is so exhilarating on that light tackle. Nothing beats a Joes Hopper or cricket twitched on top on an 80 degree day at two o'clock in the afternoon. Ka-BOOM!!! They hit so hard, jump so high, and make multiple incredible runs. Everytime I hook one I get the biggest, goofiest grin that lasts for an hour after it gets tossed back.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BassforBNuts wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

As someone who recently started fly fishing and just landed my first fish on the fly(7" Brook), I am very excited to get a smallie. There is a reservoir near me that is loaded with them. I am an aved "spinner" and have c&r many nice bass on my spin setups while watching many kayackers hammering them on the fly thinking about how it looked like so much more fun than spinning... we will see what the summer holds!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Go get 'em! Good luck on your trip ckRich. Too bad you're not very fired up about it...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Catch smallies on dries do you? Lakes come in 2nd to rivers given a freshwater choice to fly fish. But great promo..might reduce the numbers of anglers on my rivers.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Ha, sorry Kirk, I thought I had put an ! at the end of that. I am pumped! This will be my first experience fishing from a drift boat. I haven't been in a river in over a month, due to the heavy rains we were getting. I never thought I would miss the Lower Illinois so much, good ol' slack water blues...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tkbone wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I think they are great fly rod fish because of their accessibility and the much greater chance of catching a 3-4 pound smallie than a 3-4 pound trout, at least in the Southeast. They're not always easy to catch, either, and that also helps. But for my money, tailwater stripers are the ultimate river fly rod fish because of their superior size, power, and the way they take flies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I like to catch smallies on any rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Part devil they are - just look into those fire red eyes.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from backcast wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

They are gluttons and brutes, take flies topwater and below, fight like heck and stare you down with those red eyes when and if you land them. What's not to love? What I like best about Smallies is the way they flip their tails and splash you when you release them, no trouty reccessitation needed...kinda like they're flippin' the fish finger at you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Hell if you thank their fun on dry flies too out a rebel crayfish out with an ultra light spinning reel and watch what happens ALL DAY LONG.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Hell if you thank their fun on dry flies try out a rebel crayfish out with an ultra light spinning reel and watch what happens ALL DAY LONG.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

No. No. No. The ultimate freshwater fish on the fly is a slough-shark, the Northern Pike, Esox lucius. BIG sculpin pattern, #8-10 x 9'rod and tackle.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Brian, I will agree NP are dynamite on the fly, especially on poppers. Nothing excites me more than seeing a washtub size swirl break the water beneath a popper. But when it comes to pure craziness, like a rabbit on fire, my nod will have to go to the bronze demon.

Speaking of NP, it's cousin the muskie should be taking topwater about now. Tied up a few leaders yesterday and bought a handful of poppers ($24.99/ea. Ouch!) Time to wear the shoulder out casting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Rust wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Funny, after all of the smallmouth fishing I have done, I have never, ever caught one off of a clouser. It's either a popper or a cone head wooly bugger for me. I've tried using them, but never had any luck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Rust wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Funny, after all of the small-mouth fishing I have done, I have never, ever caught one off of a clouser. It's either a popper or a cone head wooly bugger for me. I've tried using them, but never had any luck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from joaxe wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

I had smallies hit nymphs (Hare's Ears and Pheasant Tails) pretty consistently, too!

Joe

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gladysman wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

I hadnt been fishing i a few years So i got the itch and,I remember when i was a kid and catching bass on a Thin-Fin lure & Jitter-Bugs,So i went on ebay bought some lures,And when i got one of the thin-fins i opened up the box,and the guy said that he put in a extra lure as a gift,and i looked at it and it was a,3"1/2 STORM-THUNDERSTICK-WALLEYE/DORE,and i thought it was just a repala nockoff,so i went to a local farm pond,and with the first cast with the jitterbug WAM,and broke my line so i put on the THUNDERSTICK,and the first with it WAM,I CAUGHT A 21" SMALL-MOUTH,IT WAS HUGE,BUT SHE WAS FULL OF EGGS,I WANTED TO MOUNT IT BUT I JUST PUT HER BACK,THEN I MADE ANOTHER CAST AND WAM AGAIN,IT WAS ANOTHER SMALL-MOUTH,19"1/2,ITS ON MY WALL NOW,THUNDERSTICKS ARE UNREAL,I HAD READ IN FIELD & STREAM ABOUT A BLACK MAN CATCHING A HUGE BASS IN A RESERVIOR ON A RAINBOW TROUT THUNDERSTICK,I HAVE ABOUT 9 DIFFERENT THUNDERSTICKS,AND BASS EAT THEM UP,I EVEN CAUGHT SOME SMALLIES IN A NEAR BY RIVER WITH THEM,BUT THE BEST FLY I HAVE USED WAS A (TRIPPLE-DECKER-FOAM-FLY)IT LOOKS JUST LIKE A REAL GRASS HOPPER,GOT THEM ON EBAY,I HAVE CAUGHT EVERYTHING ON THESE,SMALLIES-LARGE MOUTH,CRAPPIE,AND BLUE-GILL TEAR THEM UP.BUT ITS STILL HARD TO BEAT A NIGHT-CRAWLER!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Silver salmon are my favorite fish on a fly rod. They like clousers too! Big, fast and high flying, They are a dream fish on a fly rod. I've even had days where they take poppers on the surface too!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

tarpon is the ultimate on a fly in my book. but smallies ranke pretty high up there too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Are there any tarpon in the Churchill River in northern Canada? I thought at a key word here might have been "fresh water".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Cooper wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

flyfishing for bass is a riot and a half ,just got a couple doubters to try it last week ,and well we are going again this weekend

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from breeze717 wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

The first fish I ever caught on my fly rod was a red eye, I love catching them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mattrevors wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I JUST got started with smallies on the fly & absolutely loving it. The take, the fight, the only-5-minute-drive-from-home to get to them...they're just a great time! I chose smallies today over sea-run trout & Atlantic Salmon. I was lazy & left a 4x trout tippet on my 5wt, had a 13" smallie hit...I was giggling for the entire 3-4 minutes it took to land it (I then changed my tippet!)!!

Of course, this means a few new fly patterns to learn...and maybe a new, dedicated smallie rod...maybe the smallie line from Rio...it's a slippery, slippery slope!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Cooper wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

this site is so well maintained its scary who is in charge here ,come on im tired of reading post"s from a year ago.lets go peaple. update the site already

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Koldkut wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Ya know, the more I think about it, I can't say that I have a favorite fish to catch on a fly rod, but fish I just like to catch, period. Some fish may be taken with specific methods and equipment much easier than others, but when it comes down to it, it's all about the take, then the fight. Accomplishments are measured in achievements based upon preference, but like all things debatable(ie. dries vs nymphs) it doesn't matter one lick what the other guy thinks.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I was always told to think of smallmouth are warm water trout when I was younger, now that I have gone after both I will definitely agree with you on this topic, true there is something more pure about fishing for trout in a cold stream with a dry fly, but there is nothing more fun then hooking into a big smallie on a fly rod.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Gotta love em. Very powerful fighters.
Next to steelhead, they're my favorite.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I hold a special fondness for smallies. The first fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a smallie using a yellow streamer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

No. No. No. The ultimate freshwater fish on the fly is a slough-shark, the Northern Pike, Esox lucius. BIG sculpin pattern, #8-10 x 9'rod and tackle.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Brian, I will agree NP are dynamite on the fly, especially on poppers. Nothing excites me more than seeing a washtub size swirl break the water beneath a popper. But when it comes to pure craziness, like a rabbit on fire, my nod will have to go to the bronze demon.

Speaking of NP, it's cousin the muskie should be taking topwater about now. Tied up a few leaders yesterday and bought a handful of poppers ($24.99/ea. Ouch!) Time to wear the shoulder out casting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Cooper wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

this site is so well maintained its scary who is in charge here ,come on im tired of reading post"s from a year ago.lets go peaple. update the site already

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I love catching bronze, but most of my bass buddies move the boat too fast for me to effectively get on them with a clouser.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

How could you not love all of that fight on a fly rod? So far I've only caught them out of ponds, but in 3 days and 9 hours I leave for my first smallmouth float with 5 good fishing buddies, 13 miles on the Kings River in northwest Arkansas. Should be a blast.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MATroutslayer wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Number 1 in my book. I've got a reservoir near me loaded with big ones, my gear of choice being a 4 weight Orvis Tip-flex rod and my beat up old Battenkill. Hooking in to even a 4 pounder is so exhilarating on that light tackle. Nothing beats a Joes Hopper or cricket twitched on top on an 80 degree day at two o'clock in the afternoon. Ka-BOOM!!! They hit so hard, jump so high, and make multiple incredible runs. Everytime I hook one I get the biggest, goofiest grin that lasts for an hour after it gets tossed back.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BassforBNuts wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

As someone who recently started fly fishing and just landed my first fish on the fly(7" Brook), I am very excited to get a smallie. There is a reservoir near me that is loaded with them. I am an aved "spinner" and have c&r many nice bass on my spin setups while watching many kayackers hammering them on the fly thinking about how it looked like so much more fun than spinning... we will see what the summer holds!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Go get 'em! Good luck on your trip ckRich. Too bad you're not very fired up about it...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Ha, sorry Kirk, I thought I had put an ! at the end of that. I am pumped! This will be my first experience fishing from a drift boat. I haven't been in a river in over a month, due to the heavy rains we were getting. I never thought I would miss the Lower Illinois so much, good ol' slack water blues...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tkbone wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I think they are great fly rod fish because of their accessibility and the much greater chance of catching a 3-4 pound smallie than a 3-4 pound trout, at least in the Southeast. They're not always easy to catch, either, and that also helps. But for my money, tailwater stripers are the ultimate river fly rod fish because of their superior size, power, and the way they take flies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

I like to catch smallies on any rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Part devil they are - just look into those fire red eyes.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from backcast wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

They are gluttons and brutes, take flies topwater and below, fight like heck and stare you down with those red eyes when and if you land them. What's not to love? What I like best about Smallies is the way they flip their tails and splash you when you release them, no trouty reccessitation needed...kinda like they're flippin' the fish finger at you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Hell if you thank their fun on dry flies too out a rebel crayfish out with an ultra light spinning reel and watch what happens ALL DAY LONG.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Hell if you thank their fun on dry flies try out a rebel crayfish out with an ultra light spinning reel and watch what happens ALL DAY LONG.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Rust wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Funny, after all of the smallmouth fishing I have done, I have never, ever caught one off of a clouser. It's either a popper or a cone head wooly bugger for me. I've tried using them, but never had any luck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Rust wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Funny, after all of the small-mouth fishing I have done, I have never, ever caught one off of a clouser. It's either a popper or a cone head wooly bugger for me. I've tried using them, but never had any luck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from joaxe wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

I had smallies hit nymphs (Hare's Ears and Pheasant Tails) pretty consistently, too!

Joe

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gladysman wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

I hadnt been fishing i a few years So i got the itch and,I remember when i was a kid and catching bass on a Thin-Fin lure & Jitter-Bugs,So i went on ebay bought some lures,And when i got one of the thin-fins i opened up the box,and the guy said that he put in a extra lure as a gift,and i looked at it and it was a,3"1/2 STORM-THUNDERSTICK-WALLEYE/DORE,and i thought it was just a repala nockoff,so i went to a local farm pond,and with the first cast with the jitterbug WAM,and broke my line so i put on the THUNDERSTICK,and the first with it WAM,I CAUGHT A 21" SMALL-MOUTH,IT WAS HUGE,BUT SHE WAS FULL OF EGGS,I WANTED TO MOUNT IT BUT I JUST PUT HER BACK,THEN I MADE ANOTHER CAST AND WAM AGAIN,IT WAS ANOTHER SMALL-MOUTH,19"1/2,ITS ON MY WALL NOW,THUNDERSTICKS ARE UNREAL,I HAD READ IN FIELD & STREAM ABOUT A BLACK MAN CATCHING A HUGE BASS IN A RESERVIOR ON A RAINBOW TROUT THUNDERSTICK,I HAVE ABOUT 9 DIFFERENT THUNDERSTICKS,AND BASS EAT THEM UP,I EVEN CAUGHT SOME SMALLIES IN A NEAR BY RIVER WITH THEM,BUT THE BEST FLY I HAVE USED WAS A (TRIPPLE-DECKER-FOAM-FLY)IT LOOKS JUST LIKE A REAL GRASS HOPPER,GOT THEM ON EBAY,I HAVE CAUGHT EVERYTHING ON THESE,SMALLIES-LARGE MOUTH,CRAPPIE,AND BLUE-GILL TEAR THEM UP.BUT ITS STILL HARD TO BEAT A NIGHT-CRAWLER!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Silver salmon are my favorite fish on a fly rod. They like clousers too! Big, fast and high flying, They are a dream fish on a fly rod. I've even had days where they take poppers on the surface too!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

tarpon is the ultimate on a fly in my book. but smallies ranke pretty high up there too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Are there any tarpon in the Churchill River in northern Canada? I thought at a key word here might have been "fresh water".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Cooper wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

flyfishing for bass is a riot and a half ,just got a couple doubters to try it last week ,and well we are going again this weekend

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from breeze717 wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

The first fish I ever caught on my fly rod was a red eye, I love catching them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mattrevors wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I JUST got started with smallies on the fly & absolutely loving it. The take, the fight, the only-5-minute-drive-from-home to get to them...they're just a great time! I chose smallies today over sea-run trout & Atlantic Salmon. I was lazy & left a 4x trout tippet on my 5wt, had a 13" smallie hit...I was giggling for the entire 3-4 minutes it took to land it (I then changed my tippet!)!!

Of course, this means a few new fly patterns to learn...and maybe a new, dedicated smallie rod...maybe the smallie line from Rio...it's a slippery, slippery slope!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 45 weeks ago

Catch smallies on dries do you? Lakes come in 2nd to rivers given a freshwater choice to fly fish. But great promo..might reduce the numbers of anglers on my rivers.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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