Developing the skills to take largemouth bass off the surface with a fly rod will be worth every minute you devote to it. Why? Because, and as I pointed out in my previous column, if you’ve not been having much fun in your fishing, things are about to change.
To continue our discussion on bugging for bass, let’s look at the equipment you’ll need before talking about technique. Most of fly rodding was done years ago so some of my names for the gear involved might be a bit out of date. Be that as it may, I sure as heck know what worked for me.
For starters, get yourself a good rod. I preferred one that was rated for a size eight line. You’ll also want a premium quality line to go with the rod. Be sure the line is a floater and has a bug taper. Lines so designated have an abrupt taper at the head end. That will be an asset in getting your bug to turn over on the cast and out where you want it to be.
The reel isn’t of special importance for fly rod bassin’. Bass don’t make long runs like some of the trout species. The fight is certain to be in close and often around heavy cover. It’s no place for a lightweight stick with spider web leader.
I have a couple of old Perrine automatic fly reels that I love for fly rod bass fishing. These two ancient reels have been part of my gear for more than 50 years and I’d hate like the devil to part with either one.
Both of these old timers are automatics. I’ve taken good care of them and they’ve taken good care of me. I find it’s darn convenient to merely depress a lever when I want to pick up the inevitable loose line that comes while you’re playing a fish. My trusty old Number 80 Perrines still enable me to do that.
Eight to 10 pound test is a good choice for a bass fishing leader. Seldom is it a good idea to use anything lighter. Some brands of modern day monofilament have excellent abrasion resistance. That’s what you’ll need to fish the shallows for bass.
There aren’t many times in bass fishing when you can use the word “always” with assurance. That’s because bass rarely always do anything. The only thing truly consistent about bigmouth bass is their inconsistency. But one thing they almost always will do is hang around cover.
Don’t waste time fishing for bass unless there is some kind of cover they can get under, next to, into or around. Learn to present your flies as close as you can to such cover. Don’t hesitate to bump this cover on the retrieve. Try, in fact, to do exactly that.
I’ve fished bass with a variety of underwater patterns, but it never appealed to me all that much. It’s fishing floating bugs on top that offers the most fun and oftentimes in the spring they also get more than their share of hits. That’s not to say the underwater patterns won’t work. They will. But I’m only going to talk about topwater fishing in this column series.
What kind of bugs should you have for surface fishing? Forget about those monstrous affairs the size of a small mouse. I favor a deer hair bug. I tie it on a number four or six hook with a couple of strands of rubber for a tail. The fly is about the size of my finger in diameter.
A fly this size is relatively easy to handle. No, it doesn’t cast like a number 12 Royal Coachman, but with a bug taper line and a suitable leader, you’ll do just fine.
So what’s a suitable leader? I’ve tapered my own some of the time, and they worked all right. What I didn’t like about them was the knots on the leader sometimes caught in stuff floating on the surface. You can get by just fine with a level leader of eight or 10 pounds. Bass aren’t leader shy and besides you’ll need a leader that heavy to have a prayer of getting a good fish out of heavy cover.
That cover’s the outfit. Next time I’ll talk about the best techniques I found to bamboozle largemouth with topwater bugs. Use ‘em in the right place at the right time and I guarantee you’ll be smiling all the way to the bank!