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Five Tips for Catching Bass on the Fly

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July 29, 2013

Five Tips for Catching Bass on the Fly

By Tim Romano


The fish above was caught last week in upstate New York on Raquette Lake inside the 6.1 million acre Adirondack Park. I spent the better part of two weeks up there with my family on vacation and absolutely hammered both largemouths and smallies on spinning and fly gear. While I had the chance to fish for rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, and brook trout, I concentrated my efforts on both large and smallmouth bass as that seemed the right thing to do this time of year up there. Plus it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Bass fishing on the fly is something I've always done, but I've been more and more into it the past few years. While on vacation I had the time to really hone some of my fly-rod-specific techniques and I learned quite a bit fishing for these critters almost every day.

Not unlike carp, bass are found in all 48 contiguous states and even Hawaii. They eat readily and can be fished for most of the year. With the advent of flies like Umpqua's "Game Changer" and "Schmidterbait" it's never been easier to target these fish with the long rod. Here are five tips that should help you catch more bass on the fly.

1. Fish slowly with the top water bug: I'd say nine times out of 10, when I wasn't paying attention to my popper, is when it was eaten. This tells me that I ought to slow it down and let it sit more than I think I should. 

2. Use a constant retrieve while nymphing for bass:  It's almost impossible to discern a bass eat underwater with a nymph, even with an indicator. A constant retrieve of your bug, slow or fast, will help you feel the eat and catch more fish.

3. Find fish in big water: This one can take time, but is essential if you want to be consistent on a larger body of water. Learn one lake and fish it consistently. Fish with a local and ask a ton of questions. Find the structures like old creek channels, drop offs, old buildings, roads, etc. and you will eventually find the fish.

4. Time of day matters:  Of course you can catch fish throughout the day, but if I put in time at night or early in the morning with topwater bugs, I've found fish are far more receptive.

5. Don't be afraid to toss soft plastics on the fly rod: This one is going to get me in trouble I'm sure, but it works. At night, when it's tough to see vegetation, nothing works better than a light weedless rigged "lizzard" or a four inch worm.  Heck, half of all bass fishing "flies" are basically lures to begin with. Why not try what works when the going gets tough? You're still doing it on a fly rod.

Comments (6)

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from buckhunter wrote 37 weeks 4 days ago

All my bass rods have Boogle Bugs tied to them. The bass have been hammering them. Both large and smallmouth.

Have not fished the Game Changer yet or the new lipped popper but both look very appealing. Flures (fly + lure = flure) are nothing new. I know fly patterns with spinners and lips that go back to the 30's.

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from ejunk wrote 37 weeks 4 days ago

good list! I devoted a solid year to fly fishing for bass. I fared poorly. I felt like I was learning nothing (which was problematic since I didn't know much about bass fishing in general), so I bit the bullet and started fishing with spinning/casting gear. I've learned a lot about bass this way (and caught a few monsters...!) and I plan to start sneaking fly tackle back into the mix.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Tim,
You should try and take a trip there when the bass start their fall feeding frenzy, those lakes do not get any real pressure and they hold some hogs, great times!

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from haverodwilltravel wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I fish Smallmouth, Largemouth and Stripers. Since most of it takes place in Lakes and Ponds where drag isn't a problem, I lower my rod tip just above the water and point it at the fly. Try it, it will dramatically increase your hook ups.
The Game Changer looks like a sweet fly.

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from Jeremy Verdugo wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I'm from western NY and regularly fish inland trout streams. We've had a ton or rain lately and about a week or two after the runoff rush calmed, I've been using a red and white big eye tarpon streamer. I cast at about a 45 degree angle across and downstream and let it drift through deep runs and rip it fast back to me. You get it just right and the smallies can't resist it. Also, had a lot of success drifting stoneflies and hellgrammites patterns.

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from dthawks wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Do I smell a bass slideshow from this recent trip? I'm definitely a bass guy at heart. I've been chasing bass here in central North Carolina since I was a kid, as most Carolinian anglers do. I picked up the fly rod for bass a few years ago and haven't quite committed fully to the long rod for them, but it's the preferred method if conditions call for it. We have plenty of small lakes in the area but those larger bodies of water can be a bit intimidating when going after fish with flies. However, your tip on learning one piece of water and fishing it consistently may just be what I need to do. That or I'll have to succumb to chasing carp in the shallows....

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from ejunk wrote 37 weeks 4 days ago

good list! I devoted a solid year to fly fishing for bass. I fared poorly. I felt like I was learning nothing (which was problematic since I didn't know much about bass fishing in general), so I bit the bullet and started fishing with spinning/casting gear. I've learned a lot about bass this way (and caught a few monsters...!) and I plan to start sneaking fly tackle back into the mix.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dthawks wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Do I smell a bass slideshow from this recent trip? I'm definitely a bass guy at heart. I've been chasing bass here in central North Carolina since I was a kid, as most Carolinian anglers do. I picked up the fly rod for bass a few years ago and haven't quite committed fully to the long rod for them, but it's the preferred method if conditions call for it. We have plenty of small lakes in the area but those larger bodies of water can be a bit intimidating when going after fish with flies. However, your tip on learning one piece of water and fishing it consistently may just be what I need to do. That or I'll have to succumb to chasing carp in the shallows....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 37 weeks 4 days ago

All my bass rods have Boogle Bugs tied to them. The bass have been hammering them. Both large and smallmouth.

Have not fished the Game Changer yet or the new lipped popper but both look very appealing. Flures (fly + lure = flure) are nothing new. I know fly patterns with spinners and lips that go back to the 30's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

Tim,
You should try and take a trip there when the bass start their fall feeding frenzy, those lakes do not get any real pressure and they hold some hogs, great times!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I fish Smallmouth, Largemouth and Stripers. Since most of it takes place in Lakes and Ponds where drag isn't a problem, I lower my rod tip just above the water and point it at the fly. Try it, it will dramatically increase your hook ups.
The Game Changer looks like a sweet fly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeremy Verdugo wrote 37 weeks 3 days ago

I'm from western NY and regularly fish inland trout streams. We've had a ton or rain lately and about a week or two after the runoff rush calmed, I've been using a red and white big eye tarpon streamer. I cast at about a 45 degree angle across and downstream and let it drift through deep runs and rip it fast back to me. You get it just right and the smallies can't resist it. Also, had a lot of success drifting stoneflies and hellgrammites patterns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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