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 “lizard” 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.