1 HEAD OF THE POOL
Drift your bait through the boulders in fast current, down to where the bottom drops quickly to deeper water.
[EARLY AFTERNOON] Drift the Rocks
As long as the sun is on the water, smallmouths remain deep, at the heads of pools and close to structure. Pick a bait (hellgrammite, small crayfish, minnow, cricket, or crawler–in that order) or lead-headed plastic, and cast to the head of the pool. If you’re flyfishing, toss a weighted nymph or Clouser streamer. Let the bait or nymph drift back with the flow; it should wash through the shade of the boulders. If you’re flyfishing with a Clouser or jigging with a plastic, retrieve just ahead of the current.
Bass leave the cover of deep water near the bank to feed in the main flows.
[SUNSET] Ply the Pool
As light leaves the water, bass move out from cover and into the main flows. Fish live bait with less weight. Cast and retrieve plastics, and add crayfish-patterned crankbaits and spinners to the repertoire. Flyfishermen can try casting Woolly Buggers across stream, being prepared for a strike on the swing.
3 TAIL OF THE POOL
As the sun sets, bass move to the surface or feed in the shallows.
[DUSK] Fish the Surface
Smallmouth streams come to life in the lingering twilights of summer. Bass move farther from cover, into midstream riffles and associated current seams or the tails of pools. Spinfishermen can turn to floating Rapalas and Pop-Rs. Fly anglers should consider a White Wulff, a good imitation of the cream-colored mayflies that hatch during summer evenings. Deer-hair bugs and traditional cork poppers also work, as do Marabou Muddlers fished through the tail of the pool so that they throw a tiny wake as they swing.
Gear This is light-tackle fishing, with 4- to 6-pound-test line and 1/32- to ¼-ounce jigheads. Twister-tails, tubes, 4-inch Yamamoto worms, or small plastic minnows like Finesse Fish or Slug-Gos are deadly choices for stream bass. Old standards like Mepps spinners, crayfish-patterned Rebel crankbaits, and Pop-Rs and Rapalas (for topwater) also work well.
Flyfishermen will want something between a 5- and a 7-weight, floating line, 6-foot leader of 6- to 8-pound-test, and some beadhead Woolly Buggers (black, brown, and olive) and Clousers for bottom work; and Marabou Muddlers, White Wulffs, and deer-hair bugs for the surface.
You can get by with sneakers, but my 55-year-old ankles do better in wading shoes. A fishing shirt with big pockets carries all the gear you need. Don’t forget a small flashlight. Though the smallmouth bite on most rivers ends with full dark, the last half hour of light can be the best of all. If nothing else, a flashlight will help you find your way back to the car after you’ve caught one last bass.
NOW ON FIELDANDSTREAM.COM
Good smallmouth streams are everywhere. If you know of a river that had good trout fishing back in May, chances are that same water (or its lower reaches) has good bass fishing in August. For a list of the best smallie rivers in the country, including maps, tips, and guides, go to fieldandstream.com/smallmouths