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How to catch a bass on a fly rod – Part 1

So its that time of year here in the Southwest. While most of the country is still covered in snow, getting snow or waiting for snow to melt, we are already in runoff in the high country, or in some years, already past that. But one fact that is often over looked is the warm water action is already underway. specifically, the bass spawn is just starting and huge females and males alike are already staging up in the shallows. While most fly guys are checking the flow charts of streams up north, the savvy ones are hitting the lakesIt is inevitable that even the most diehard trout purist will eventually try their skills at fly rodding for bass. Most cold water veterans go into it with the attitude that this much less sophisticated fish requires much less effort to trick than that of their cold water cousins, and most are quite surprised when they get stumped time and again by these neanderthals of the fly world. I’m not here to convince you bass are smarter or harder to catch that trout, they’re not. But if you want to show up at the bass lake and be able to leave with you’re dignity in tact, you need to change up your game. So after watching countless newbys go home in frustration, I decided to create this three part series on how switch it up on the bass lake until the snow melts off and the roads dry out. Here’s three tips on how to get into the game right off the bat.

3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Catching Bass on the Fly

Part 1 – Your Flies are Too Small

The first dead give away when a newby comes into the bass world from the trout sector, is his flybox. If you brought your trout box onto the bass boat, your flies are too small. Those  number 4 conehead wooly buggers may seem to be big on whatever stream you just came from, but if you’re going to dedicate serious effort to chasing a truly huge largemouth, you need to scale it up. They’re called largemouth for a reason and even an average sized bass can gulp down the biggest articulated trout streamer you have without even batting a fin. Tournament bass guys catch 10” bass on a 8” baits all the time so its difficult to be oversized with such an aggressive predator.
I routinely fish patterns in the 4-6” range as my general all purpose size and this is where I think the strike to cast ratio is the best. I will fish shad and bluegill patterns in the 2-4” range when the bite is on and this accounts for a lot of action, but I almost never fish anything smaller. Day in and day out patterns in the 4”-6” range are my standard go to size.

This average sized two pounder completely inhaled this 6″ yak hair streamer.

When you get into the 8” fly size range and above, I consider this the trophy bass range. These musky sized baits are generally held in reserve for that ten pounder you know is hanging out under that secret ledge somewhere and you need to smoke him out. Although the strike/cast ratio goes way down, the fish you do catch are usually Instagram worthy. You will also be surprised at the amount of follows you get with these baits. On some days, it seems like every fish in the lake will swim up and take a look at it. If you need to expand your mind about fly size, go take a look at some of the giant swim baits being used and the size of bass these things pull in. Some of these behemoth baits are a full 14” long. That will help adjust your thinking a little when you think that 5” streamer is too big.

Yak hair is great material for creating long streamers without bulk. It comes in lengths of 16″ or more.

You can do pretty well day in and day out with standard sized buggers and the standby clouser minnow patterns.  But you’ll find by sizing up, you’ll have more consistent days on the water and a lot more action, not to mention keeping bluegills at bay.   …and if  you really want to get in the game with a decent shot on a truly huge fish, you need to start thinking big.

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