Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass are celebrated for their power and fight. Even the small bronze fish surprise many anglers because they represent like much larger fish. And what better way to “kick it up a notch” than to catch smallmouth bass on a fly rod? However, I have been making some mistakes on the Allegheny River.

Bass Fly Fishing Techniques

The first two tips are from Lamar Underwood’s book, “1001 Fishing Tips” when fly fishing for saltwater “Silver King” tarpon but they can apply to fly fishing for smallmouth bass too, especially in slow, clear, shallow water.

  1. Cast where the fish cannot see the fly land on the water. And while I’m at it, an awkward slap across the water by my floating fly line, thanks to the frequent fly-snatching brush at my back, can’t be helping either.

  2. Work the fly away from the fish, rather than strip line to make it swim to the fish. Bass want the impression of a prey item trying to escape.

  3. Minimize the “decision window.” In the slack water of river eddies, my fly offerings were getting many looks and follows but the fish were allowed to examine the fly too long. The reaction strike may have occurred more frequently if I had stripped the fly away faster or presented the fly to fish in faster moving water where the decision to hit or pass must be made more quickly.

Fly Fishing for Bass with Small Bait

Flies for smallmouth do not need to match a hatch as with a trout. Bite size flies representing minnows, crayfish, leeches, or grasshoppers should do the trick, providing you use a stealthy presentation. And when you do head out to battle smallmouth bass and lower hanging limbs with a fly rod, make sure you have your fishing license.

Have you had success with fly fishing for smallmouth bass?

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.