Ladyfisher
Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

February 23rd, 1998

Four Letter Word?



Bass is a four-letter word. Technically it has four letters, but that's not what they mean. Most trout fisherman would not be caught dead at a "bassorama."

On the other hand, fly fishermen are hardly in a position to poke snide comments at others. Especially since some fly fishermen have the nerve to put bobblers on their leaders and call them "strike indicators." Or nymphs and streamers that look more like bait than bait. They are artificial bait!

No email or phone calls on fly fishing for bass from the purists out there. I've got your number too. Remember, I've seen you at Henry's Fork with a Rocky Mountain Whitefish (we called them suckers back east) on your line. And you thought it was a trout. Come on.

Or a local guy with the flounder who thought it was a king salmon. He was thrilled until he got it to shore. I even caught a dog fish (sand shark) one evening that cleaned me well into my backing. Everyone on the beach thought it was a salmon too.

Fly fish for bass on purpose? Well, why not? It's fun! Not only that, I knew several people who fly fish for carp and pike. Think a big one doesn't put up a fight? Think again I've done it.

Let's face it. We are faced with declining numbers of trout and salmon. Even worse, finding a local place to fish for trout can be discouraging. Trout like cold, running water if they have a choice. You may have some trout in local lakes. But lakes near population centers often have been so heavily fished they are line and leader shy. Without terrific presentation and perfect float your chances are really limited.

Bass however, live in warmer water. They like it! That gives us more fish to fish to. Fish that have not been so over-fished they won't even look at a fly. My personal preference is small mouth bass. I like their attitude. Frankly, the guy on tv who kisses the bass on the mouth is a little too much for me. He does know what he is doing 'tho. Except for one thing.

He uses hardware, smelly stuff, and artificial lures made from pig hides. If someone taught this guy how to cast a fly rod, he would really have it all. He could probably win all the tournaments.

Okay, how do you fish for bass? Start with an understanding of what bass eat. They eat the same things trout eat. Duh. All fish live underwater how many choices do they have? Will they take a dry fly? Sure, just make sure the fly represents something that is actually there. Warm water lakes and ponds have active insect life. Mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, damsels, mosquitoes, all trout and bass food. Grasshoppers in late summer and fall will catch fish.

Wet stuff? Back to basics, leech-type wooly buggers in a black as well as dark olive green work. Small minnow streamers work. Deer or elk hair caddis work. In other words, the very same stuff you would use for trout works for bass.

Then there are bass poppers. They usually look somewhat lke mice or frogs. I haven't purchased any in years, but they are still made. You can tie both using dyed deer or elk hair, packed and trimmed to frog or mouse shape. The trick is not to tie them too big, unless you plan on hunting down the granddaddy bass or monster brown trout. Will they eat them? You bet!

Rods in 3-weight and up to 5 or 6-weight will provide lots of fun. The same size rods you would use for small stream stuff for trout. The choice of lines is the same too. A nice high-floating line for the dry flies, and a sink tip for the wet. An intermediate full-sinking line would be desireable if you need to get down deep.

Getting down deep, fishing the shaded water, or undercut banks is the strategy for bright sunshine days. Overcast days, water with a ripple from wind gives better opportunity for dry flies. All fish are less spooky when broken water is over them. Underwater growths like weed beds, near shore cattails, and lily beds are perfect for poppers and grasshoppers.

Fish grasshoppers and poppers by casting right at the vegetation and then bouncing or twitching the fly off onto the water. Very effective.

If you were a fish, where would you be? On a hot bright day you would prefer the shade. Cool, overcast day? Maybe not in the shade. Really hot? How about the deepest water you can find.

Another clue. Cover is important to trout. A partically submerged log or tree, rocks and boulders and in lakes weed beds all provide protection. Bass are no different. They will use what cover they find too.

What if you hook one? Be prepared for a fight. A small mouth bass will outfight a rainbow of a much larger size. One more thing; blue gill and sunfish may not be as big but still loads of fun on a fly rod. Darn good eating too. If you're thinking about getting a kid interested in fly fishing it may be the perfect introduction.. ~ The LadyFisher

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