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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Sunny days, warming temperatures make spring ideal for fly fishing


Streamer flies, which imitate minnows or leeches, are a top choice for smallmouth bass (Photo Provided)

Streamer flies, which imitate minnows or leeches, are a top choice for smallmouth bass (Photo Provided)

 

Sunny days, light breezes and warming temperatures are some of the reasons spring fishing is so special. Conditions are ideal. Bass and sunfish are most accessible to anglers — in shallow water, hanging tight to weed beds and wood cover.
 

That’s when fly fishing is most enjoyable.
 

The subtle presentation of a fly landing on the water, darting and pausing in a life-like manner, as the angler strips in line. Catch a fish on the fly you tied, and the experience is doubly rewarding.
 

There’s something about the beauty of the fly line rolling out with each cast and the natural simplicity of the flies — mere wisps of feather and flash — that makes fly fishing so appealing, so right for the lengthening of days of spring.
 

Fly Fishing Gear
 

A six-weight, nine-foot fly rod and a floating, weight-forward fly line, are ideal for smallmouth bass, small largemouth bass and sunfish. If you want to cast bigger flies for bigger largemouth bass, a seven or eight-weight fly rod is recommended. More rod is needed to cast larger flies.
 

Bass and sunfish aren’t really leader shy like trout, so a long, thin leader isn’t necessary. For most fishing in ponds, for bass and bluegills, use a 7-foot tapered leader with an .008 3X tippet (8-pound test).
 

Purchase a good quality rod, but it isn’t necessary to spend a fortune. Shop around. There are some good rods for under $150. Click here for Cabela’s fly rods.
 

Click and pawl reels can be purchased for as little as $50. For a reel with a disc drag, expect to pay more. Click here for Cabela’s fly reels.
 

Bass and Sunfish Flies
 

May is topwater time for largemouth bass. With bass in the shallows during the first and last light of the day, fly fishermen have lots of lure options. Floating bugs that pop and flutter, gurgle and dive, wiggle and tease, will torment bass into explosive strikes.
 

Streamers are sinking flies that are a good lure choice for smallmouth bass in streams. It’s limitless, the kinds of flies can be tied for bass fishing. Just use your imagination.
 

Flies for bass and sunfish include poppers, bead head nymphs, tiny jigs and streamers (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Flies for bass and sunfish include poppers, bead head nymphs, tiny jigs and streamers (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

While there are many established fly patterns such as poppers that look like insects, deer hair bugs that imitate frogs and mice, and streamers that are dead ringers for minnows and leeches, 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 like cork, bucktail (deer hair), feathers and fur, but synthetic materials such as closed-cell craft foam and tinsel, have help turn great ideas into fishable lures.
 

Videos are a great way to learn about tying bass bugs and streamers. Here’s a link to one.
 

Another fly that is effective on bass, especially in streams, is the Wooly Bugger, a fly first tied in the late 1960s by trout anglers in Pennsylvania to imitate a hellgrammite, the larva of the dobsonfly.
 

The Wooly Bugger has a soft chenile body, accented with fuzzy hackle, and it’s wiggly tail (a tuft of marabou), is often highlighted with flashy tinsel. It mimics a leech, a minnow, or a crayfish. It moves and looks alive.
 

The Wooly Bugger, first tied in the late 1960s, is deadly on spring bass, especially in streams (Photo Provided)

The Wooly Bugger, first tied in the late 1960s, is deadly on spring bass, especially in streams (Photo Provided)

The Wooly Bugger is tied in just about every color imaginable, including: black/olive, white/pearl, chartreuse/black, and tan.
 

Nymphs, flies which imitate the larval stages of aquatic insects, are a good choice when fly fishing for bluegills in the spring. This is because bluegills feed heavily on nymphs as they emerge, making their way to the surface, to become flying insects.
 

Many nymph fly patterns used in trout fishing will catch bluegills, but a simple, basic version seems to work just as well. Here’s a list of materials for a sturdy, simple-to-tie nymph which has a bead head, to help if sink faster.
 

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

My son and I jokingly call it the Wet Lab, because the material we first used for dubbing (the fly’s body) is the hair we combed off our black Labrador Retriever, Duncan. But just about any material suitable for dubbing (fur, synthetic material, even the lint that collects in clothes drier screens), will work.
 

The Wet Lab is tied on a No. 10 Mustad hook (model 3906), using a 3/32 brass bead, which is positioned behind the hook eyelet. Tie on a small piece of mallard duck feather (tail, or flank) with olive 6/0 polyester thread to create a tail, add the dubbing, and wrap the body with fine brass wire. Finally, attach several wraps of peacock herl behind the bead, to create a collar.
 

The fast-sinking fly should be retrieved slowly, stripping the line in a stop-and-go manner, so that the fly hops across the bottom. Tiny jigs, such as the Popeye jig, can be fished this way too.
 

Fly fishing is really fun and adds new challenges to bass and sunfish angling, and tying your own flies is a great off-season pastime that will keep your spring fishing adventures fresh in your memory, even during the coldest winter.
 

 

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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.
 


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