Sub-Surface Bass Flies
Streamers: Probably the most effective all around fly – period – for bass and northern (and most other fish) is the streamer. Streamers allow one to work a lot of water quickly. They will trigger fish as they can easily imitate an injured minnow, crayfish or other prey item. Streamers come in a wide variety of shapes and colors and we name some of the most notorious in our top ten listing of smallmouth flies.
The most famous and versatile streamer (and the easiest to tie) is the famed Whoolly Bugger. Always have Whoolly Buggers with you at all times. They can be stripped as a streamer and dead drifted as a nymph. They can be hopped along the bottom to imitate crayfish, etc. If I had to use only one fly for smallmouth fishing, it would be the Whoolly Bugger.
Weighted Flies: One of the deadliest flies ever created is the Clouser Minnow from the legendary smallmouth expert Bob Clouser of Pennsylvania. The big advantage is the weighted dumbbell eye pattern allowing for different depths to be probed.
These flies can be used with a floating fly line, if quick changing is in order. It is not uncommon for Clousers to be fished ten down, even with floating flyline and deeper off a sinking tip fly line. This is a standard lake fishing approach when deep water is the norm. Nearly everyone has a couple of these in their box. They are difficult to cast and fall into the “jig” category according to some fly fisherman. Nonetheless, they are extremely important when you need to “Get Down To It”.
Nymphs: When the going gets tough or when a fish has rolled and refused your surface bait, that’s the time for that big ugly nymph. Typical trout tactics work well with any kind of dead drift technique with which you are comfortable. The easiest is nymphing under a float or small bobber.
Simply tie on the fly and add weight if necessary. Use a float big enough to stay afloat and set it at least the same depth as the deepest part of the run and usually deeper if possible. Work the run as a matrix starting close and working out a couple feet at a time. Start at the top of the run and step your way down continually working in to out. Watch for any hesitation of the float as you move through the run, when it hesitates, set the hook! Many times, like in trout fishing, it will dramatically dart up river – those hits are self explanatory.
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Don’t tell anybody, but if I have to fish deep enough to require full sinking line, I won’t fly fish. I’ll lay down the fly rod and pick up my handy spinning outfit with a jig and twister tail. This is often true if I am in the stern or operating the watercraft. I believe life is too short to spend ten minutes pulling fly line out of the depths only to false cast and get hit in head by a ball of feathered lead. I know this won’t go over well with the purists, but if your operating a boat, heavy sinking line is impractical unless anchored (so is floating line, come to think of it).