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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Fly fishing for bass
a subtle presentation with dramatic results

The best time to fly fish for bass is early and late in the day. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

The best time to fly fish for bass is early and late in the day. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)


Catch a bass fly fishing and it’s an experience not soon forgotten:

The sight of the fly line rolling forward, a fly landing on quiet water with a resounding plop. A tug on the fly line makes the fly pop, sending tiny ripples outward.
The lure is motionless for an instant. Then a bass comes up and engulfs it in a swirl of water.
With a sweep of the fly rod, the fish is solidly hooked. The fly line rips a gash across the surface of the water as the bass accelerates. Then it cartwheels out of the water in total abandon.

The appeal of fly fishing for bass has always been a subtle presentation that yields such dramatic results. May is one of the top months to fly fish for largemouth bass. Post-spawn bass are actively feeding along the shoreline. With water temperatures warming into the low 70s, bass are shallow during the first and last light of the day.
When fly casting for bass, anglers have the option of wading streams, walking around the shoreline of ponds and small lakes, or fishing from boats. The fishing kayak has made it possible for fly fishermen to access wetlands and other shallow

waterways that can’t be navigated by larger boats.

Floating bass bugs

Fly fishermen reach into their bag of tricks for bugs that pop and dive, wiggle and tease.

Deer Hair Frog (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

Deer Hair Frog (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

While there are many established fly patterns that look like insects, deer hair bugs that imitate frogs, and streamers that are dead ringers for minnows, bass anglers tying their own flies don’t have to stick to recipes.
Part of the fun of fly tying is experimenting with new designs, or modifying existing patterns.
Through the years many effective bass bugs have been created using traditional fly tying materials. Poppers made from cork, dressed with bucktail (deer hair) and feathers, have always been a top choice, but synthetic materials such as closed-cell craft foam and tinsel, have help turn great ideas into fishable lures.
There are several ways to research fly patterns for bass. Fly Tyer Magazine is a good online source. Click on fly recipes.

Bass Popper (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

Bass Popper (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

To view a big assortment of bass bugs, visit Cabela’s in Louisville, which also has a large inventory of fly tying supplies, fly rods, reels, lines and leaders.

The 88,000-square-foot store is located at 5100 Norton Healthcare Blvd. in the Old Brownsboro Crossing development, near the intersections of Interstates 265 and 71.

Minnow imitations

A traditional trout fly pattern that bass anglers have embraced is the Wooly Bugger, which imitates hellgrammite, the larva of the dobsonfly.

The Wooly Bugger will catch just about any species of freshwater fish.

Bead Head Wooly Bugger (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

Bead Head Wooly Bugger (Photo courtesy Bing Images)

The soft chenile body is accented with fuzzy hackle, and it’s wiggly tail (a tuft of marabou), is often highlighted with flashy tinsel.

For bass, tie the Wooly Bugger or a larger hook (No. 2) and try color combinations that mimic minnows, such as a white body, yellow and gray tail, with silver flash. Cast it to cover and let is slowly sink. The fly drifts as it sinks and has a seductive wiggle that bass can’t resist. In the water it just looks like food.

The Wooly Bugger is tied in just about every color imaginable, including: black/olive, white/pearl, chartreuse/black, and tan. Sometimes, it is weighed with a bead head to make it sink rapidly.

Other popular bass flies that imitate a minnow are the Dahlberg Diver, a floating/diving deer hair bug and the Clouser Deep Minnow.

Fly rods, reels, lines and leaders

A 9-foot fly rod, rigged with a floating, weight-forward fly line, is ideal for largemouth bass. A seven- or eight-weight fly rod is needed to cast the larger flies that are typically fished.
Bass aren’t really leader shy like trout so a long leader isn’t necessary. If casting small poppers or bugs, anglers can get by with just a four-foot length of 8- to 10-pound monofilament line, but if casting larger bugs a tapered leader is recommended.
Purchase a good quality rod, but it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money. Shop around. There is a wide price range of good rods out there.
Click and pawl reels work great and are inexpensive, but anglers must play the fish with line in hand. Reels with disc drags are more expensive, but allow the angler to play fish on the reel by cranking its handle, like conventional casting or spinning reels.
Floating fly lines are best for fishing surface lures. If you’re going to cast big bugs, you might consider buying a line that has a bass taper. It will cut the wind and help you cast farther.
A sink tip line in combination with a buoyant fly is a good option to consider when bass are suspended just off the bottom. The line will sink to the bottom, but the fly will be just off the bottom, right where the fish are. Fishing a fly to about 10 feet deep is no trouble at all.
Fly fishing adds a new dimension to spring bass fishing and the largemouth bass is an eager participant in this piscatorial adventure.

1Art Lander Jr.Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.
To read more from Art Lander, click here.

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