Let’s Look Back: Fly Rod Bass – Part 1

Does this look like a fly rod bass angler having fun? It darn well should!  My wife shot this picture of me when I was still a young man.  l learned prior to wearing a beard what I could and couldn't expect while fly rod fishing for bass.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Does this look like a fly rod bass angler having fun? It darn well should! My wife shot this picture of me when I was still a young man. l learned prior to wearing a beard what I could and couldn’t expect while fly rod fishing for bass. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The Bass Fishing Archives website is devoted to detailing the history of bass fishing.  This history would never be complete without also detailing the

tactics and techniques associated with putting our favorite fish in the boat – right?

I’d have to hang a question mark or two to completely agree with that statement.  Perhaps you share that sentiment.  When, for example, was the last time you’ve read much here about fly rod fishing for bass?

I want to change that here in this and my next couple of columns.  Why?  Because fly fishing for those big mouthed boogers might not often be anywhere near as efficient as is presenting your lures with bait casting or spinning gear.  But there’s another factor here that some often overlook.  It’s that catching bass with a fly rod is just plain fun – lots of it.

If you could look at these lures in my bass fly rod gear box you'd find they are all designed to fish the surface.  I undoubtedly could have taken more and perhaps larger fish some of the time by fishing deep.  But I used the fly rod for bass to have fun.  In my mind nothing beats fishing the top with floating bugs to have that kind of experience.

If you could look at these lures in my bass fly rod gear box you’d find they are all designed to fish the surface. I undoubtedly could have taken more and perhaps larger fish some of the time by fishing deep. But I used the fly rod for bass to have fun. In my mind nothing beats fishing the top with floating bugs to have that kind of experience.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been at this business of bass fishing for a long, long time.  I caught my first one back in the 1930s.  Among other things, I covered all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics for a variety of national and regional publications.

Even though I’d had a hand in helping professional bass fishing get off the ground, especially in the Pacific Northwest, there were elements to it I couldn’t totally embrace.  One of the main ones was that business of having fun in your bass fishing.

I was fishing bass every darn spare minute I could manage before professional competition brought big bucks into the picture.  With those bucks came trials and tensions that just didn’t exist without it.

Nobody ever had to dangle a bag of bucks under my snout to make me want to fish for bass.  Professional bass fishing was to eventually help me make a living as a writer and exhibiting casting expertise but as far as I’m concerned it took away some of that plain fun I’ve mentioned that got me interested in the first place.

I’d played around with bass fly fishing a tad now and then in my early days of bassing but never really gave it full attention.  I don’t care what kind of approach you take to catching bass, you better be prepared to give it both barrels going in to achieve any degree of success coming out.

That’s why I made a decision as spring approached one year back there around the middle of the last century to fish bass only with a fly rod for a full season.  I want to share this experience in the event you want to take a whack at it yourself.  I’ll also be sharing some other thoughts where the long rod is concerned.

It’s easy to find fly fishermen, for example, who are forever complaining about not having an opportunity to catch trout with the long rod.

One fact I've learned about top water fishing for bass with a fly rod is that the fish I caught were usually going to run smaller than bass I generally caught with casting or spin fishing lures.

One fact I’ve learned about top water fishing for bass with a fly rod is that the fish I caught were usually going to run smaller than bass I generally caught with casting or spin fishing lures.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Believe me it’s not hard to find such anglers.  Their complaints are justified to a degree.  But what so many, including some who should know better, often fail to realize is there are fish other than trout that respond readily to fly rod lures.  And some present a bigger challenge and are as much or more fun to catch.

One such fish is the largemouth black bass.  It used to be many fly rodders turned their noses skyward at the mere suggestion largemouth might be worthy of their consideration.  I’ve seen that attitude change a good bit over the years and it’s high time it did.

I don’t know who started that old business of trout being the only fish worth pursuing with the long rod and a pocket full of flies.  I suppose angling literature is responsible for much of this nonsense, but it amazes me that it hung around as long as it did.

I’m not denigrating fly fishing for trout.  I’ve had browns belt my dry flies on the South Island of New Zealand in a fashion that had my ticker thumping like a jackhammer.  I’ve had similar experiences with monster rainbow in Argentina and Alaska. But if you’re one of those who still takes a snoot up posture when it comes to fly rod bass fishing, it has to be because you flat don’t know anything about it.

Another of the reasons I write about fly rodding for bass now is we’re in the season when this type of angling is at its peak all over the country.  Bass are in the shallows in the spring and early summer.  It’s in the shallows where the long rod is at its best for bigmouth.

Exactly when the best times come up will depend, of course, what part of the country we’re talking about.  In the Pacific Northwest where I did almost all of bass fly rodding I knew shallow water prospects would be good from April on through July.

In my next column we’ll take a look at what I determine was the best way to go for using a fly rod to put bass in the boat.   I hope you’ll join me as I share more of that bit of experience.

 

  • William Sonnett

    Stan I am really happy to see you cover Fly rodding for bass. It is amazing how that subject has disappeared from outdoor magazines. Many of today’s tournament fishermen appeared to be using tackle suitable for small tuna fish while horsing them across the top of the water to the boat. Younger fishermen often seem oblivious to the fun that can be had using the fly rod and other light tackle and playing a fish. Each to his own but I have always thought that fishing should be about the contest between the fisherman and the fish and not about worrying about what the fellow in then next boat is doing.