Fishing for bass with a fly rod? Don’t hit it until you’ve tried it

Like many bass anglers, John Deshautors has an abundance of specialized equipment. Rods with a tough backbone to a broomstick and multi-speed reels that are engineering marvels. Tools to drop a jig in a teacup-sized spot and muscle to tackle a heavy, hard largemouth or smallmouth bass from a thick blanket.

Then, a few years ago, Deshautors, who lives in Vancleave, Mississippi, and who works as a fishing contractor and is part of several professional fishing-related teams, including Jackson Kayak, decided to add another tool to his fishing arsenal.

A fly rod.

“I started fly fishing for bass about six years ago when I saw a few friends doing it,” says Deshauteur.

Many – perhaps most – anglers associate fly rod only with trout fishing. And for good reason. Fly fishing for trout is steeped in fishing history, steeped in angling literature and at times – and somewhat unfairly – wears a bit of a snobbish air.

“Yes, I guess a lot of people associate fly fishing primarily with trout,” Deshauters adds. “But that’s the largemouth bass in my part of the country. And it’s a lot of fun.

Bass on the fly: Your equipment guide to tackle this new approach to bass fishing

John Deshautors, one of Jackson Kayak's professional staff, shows off his fly-throwing prowess on the Niagara River.  His advice for kayakers: “Always wear a personal flotation device - always.

Deshautors has not given up on his traditional bass tackle for the fly rod and has no plans to do so. Fishing is his business. But he now does fly rod for bass part of his time on the water and would suggest to his fellow bass traditionalists – and fly rod enthusiasts who haven’t targeted bass – not to. hit something they haven’t tried.

“It’s another tool to use. Just another way to fish, ”notes Deshauteur. “But the bass on the fly; I like it a lot, a lot.

Michigan-based angler and Simms Fishing pro Mike Schultz is another fan. He combines the handling of a long bass rod with archery hunting.

“Fly fishing for bass is a very unique experience, especially for anglers who have never tried it before,” says Shultz. “In my mind, the coolest aspect of targeting bass on the fly is that it really is a close connection to the fish. It’s a bit like comparing an archery hunt with a rifle hunt.

The bass is “everywhere”

Bass (large and small mouth) is the most common and popular sport fish in much of North America. Aggressive and relentless fish swim in streams, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and reservoirs measured over tens of thousands of acres. In other words, they live near you.

“Bass is pretty much everywhere,” says Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director of Orvis, the venerable Vermont sporting goods outfitter that has been synonymous with fly fishing since the company was founded in 1856. “They’re not that picky about the quality of the water. Most urban areas have bass. You can catch bass in New York. They are easier to chase when they are in shallow water. So they’re fairly accessible with a fly rod from the shore – by just walking along the shore – or from a boat.

Rosenbauer considers “shallow water” to a depth of about five feet. Even on scorching summer days, bass can usually be found tight to cover in the depth range from the surface to five feet.

He says prime times for bass fly fishing are early and late in the day.

“In the summer, the bigmouth will largely stay in shallower water, although they are in deeper cover,” says Rosenbauer. “It is usually best to get very close to brush piles or docks and they will be in dense grasses and water lilies and very close to the structure.”

He continues: “Small mouths (bass) are similar. They will often both go deep, especially in the large southern reservoirs. But fish can arrive at shallow depths where it’s easier to target them with a fly rod in the early morning – very early morning just after sunrise – and in the evening. These are the times.

Fly lapping for bass, unlike trout, is usually not a proposition that matches hatching. “Bass are generally not very picky about what they eat,” Rosenbauer notes. “It never hurts to imitate a frog or a mouse because we know they eat them. But (bass) will eat any bait fish that get in their way.

Fly rods and reels, line, leader and tip are available in a stunning range of choices. Rod prices range from less than $ 100 to over $ 1,000. The coils also cover a wide range of prices. Tippets speak a language of their own (5x, 7x, etc.). It can be intimidating, especially for someone new to sports. But it doesn’t have to be.

“You can catch bass on a standard 8-foot, 6-weight trout rod and people do that all the time,” Rosenbauer points out. “But if you want a dedicated bass rod for either one (big mouth or small mouth), it’s probably best to use a 9ft 8 weight rod.

Low on Ontario

The Niagara River borders the western tip of New York State, flowing north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Along the way, he stumbles upon one of the most famous waterfalls in the world.

About 15 miles downstream from the falls, the river empties into Lake Ontario. Overlooking this strategic point is a stone fort which dates from before the founding of America. French, British and American flags flew here. Today, Fort Niagara State Park attracts almost as many visitors as the exceptional fishing offered by the waters it protects.

Captain Frank Campbell, who runs the Niagara Region Charter Service, takes a look at his electronics, picks up a 9ft, 8weight fly rod and, with a handgun throw practiced, drop a chartreuse and white Clouser minnow near a break where the depth slides 11 to 20 feet.

The water temperature is 46.7 degrees.

“We’re at the start of the season,” said Campbell. “But if you’re looking for a largemouth bass, you try to time it until the water (temperature) is around 50 degrees. It’s big fish time. Later you will see more fish.

In the shadow of Fort.  Niagara State Park, Captain Frank Campbell battles a smallmouth bass that has caught a Clouser fly in about 12 feet of water.

Campbell has access to some of the most diverse and diverse fisheries in North America. Erie, Ontario and the river that connects them is home to salmon (king and coho), trout (brown, rainbow and lake), rainbow trout, smallmouth and more . All of them can be targeted with a fly rod, but Campbell says most of his fly fishing clients come for the small mouth, which is stocky and numerous.

“It depends on when people want to come, but during the summer when the water temperature hits the 70s, (the little mouth) is going to be a lot more active and be in chase mode.”

Campbell throws another throw, streaks out a few handfuls from the line, and lets the Clouser fall into the strike zone. Fishing at the start of the season requires patience.

The fish strike lightly. This is unusual for the smallmouth, but the fish were still shaking their winter doldrums in cold water. He brings the fish to hand after a bulldoggish fight.

“I think if you are looking for fly fishing for bass here you should stick with an 8 (rod) weight but you want to have a fluorocarbon leader there because our water is generally clear. and fish can be scary, ”Campbell said after slipping the bass into the lake.

“If you are fishing early in the season or when the fish are deep in the fall, you are probably better off using a slip point line – something that will get you down between 12 and 20 feet. During the summer you are good with a floating line. Either way, you still want a fluorocarbon leader.

Fly fishing demystified

When fly fishing for bass, Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis says:

“I love (fly) bass fishing,” says Tom Rosenbauer, Marketing Director of The Orvis Company, the venerable magnetite and sporting goods outfitter of Vermont that is synonymous with fishing. on the fly since the creation of the company in 1856.

Rosenbauer, a longtime fly fisherman who has written several books on the subject and hosts a popular podcast, is involved in television work related to fly fishing and is generally considered a leading expert on the sport. .

It also strives to demystify a lawsuit that is sometimes shrouded in lore and can be a little over-the-top.

“The fly rod for the bass is just another way to cast a lure out there,” he said confidently. “It’s not much different (from other types of fishing). The cast is a little different, but people shouldn’t forget what else they’ve learned about fishing because that’s it. Just fishing. It’s not voodoo. It is not black art. It is another type of fishing rod. Casting takes a little practice. But that’s all.

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