We know from both a myriad of scientific studies and the personal observation of thousands of anglers that bass instinctually kill and eat ?injured? prey. They are ?genetically? coded to do this.

In most situations where bass exist, they are right at or near the top of the aquatic food chain. As such, they are genetically predisposed to attacking and eating the sicker, weaker, or injured among available prey. Just as the lion will single out the weakest in a herd for it?s dinner, so the bass keys on the injured or weak among it?s prey. They are ?easier to catch?, thus less energy is expended.

Those are the ?facts?, but what does it ?mean? to us as anglers that want to catch bass with a fly rod?

Words like ?erratic? when used to describe how to work a fly sound good. I?ve used them. But how, exactly, do you work a fly ?erratically?? Or, what do you do to make a fly look like it?s ?injured? or ?weak? to the fish?

Starting with the basics, we?ll look at baitfish (that?s any fish the bass is likely to eat?). What happens to a fish when it?s injured or ?sick? or ?dying??

It can go several ways. The fish might float to the surface of the water (or ?towards? it), and struggle to swim back down. Or, the fish might settle towards the bottom and struggle to swim upwards. It might also swim in circles, blindly running into any obstructions, or do ?loops? in the water, suddenly change directions at random, or some type of unusual maneuver. Most are hard to mimic with a fly, but the first two aren?t, and they are effective techniques that we can use to catch bass.

In the first instance, the prey is struggling to remain swimming underwater. It dives under and then floats back in an ever weakening series until it?s just flopping around on top of the water, finally it?s just quivering in place, then it dies (provided the cycle isn't interrupted by a hungry bass).

We can easily ?do? this with a fly. We can do ALL of it, from the repeated diving/surfacing, to the final quivering ?near death? stage.

The second instance is basically just the physical reverse of the first. The fish has lost it?s ability to remain buoyant in the water. It is sinking towards the bottom, then struggling to swim away from it. The doomed fish gets weaker and weaker over time, finally settling down to the bottom where it expires.

Again, something we can do, and pretty easily, with a fly.

All you need for the first instance is some type of floating fly that dives when you pull on it. Lots of those out there, from deer hair divers, flies made with foam, even a few constructed with diving lips. You can vary the speed and length of the ?pulls?, from fast and hard jerks of the rod tip, to gentle pulls with the line. Not hard, very effective. If we put the same fly on a sinking line, we can do this at different depths.

The last part, the quivering and dying phase, can be done with just about any floating bug, popper, slider, whatever, as long as it floats.

The second instance is even easier for us. All you need is a fly that sinks, either inherently or weighted to do so. This one can be done at any level in the water column that you care to fish, from right under the surface down to as long as you are willing to wait for it to settle.

Again, you can be very aggressive to very subtle with this. Control how fast or slowly the fly sinks by it?s construction and weight. Control how ?fast? it moves by how you manipulate it . Jerk or rip it with the rod, work it fast or slow with strips of the line, or glide it slowly by just raising the rod tip.

This ?lift and drop? retrieve is probably the one thing that most of us do that is effective day in and day out. It?s inherent in the tackle we use, since, unlike those using a spinning or casting reel, a steady retrieve of a fly using just your hands to pull in the line is really impossible.

In any event, these two ?techniques? are effective and simple. I know there are other ways to get similar ?actions? from our flies.

Anyone else have any ?dying baitfish? techniques they want to share?

Good Luck!