Education of a Fly Fishing Snob

My mind was a light switch when I was young: everything was on or off, good or bad

By Rob Breeding

Once, long ago, in a far stupider time (for me at least), I proclaimed, “Now that I know you can fly fish for bass, I’m interested.”

My proclamation came on a trout fishing excursion to the Eastern Sierra. I was with a group from the fly fishing club I’d recently joined when I learned the sport. I soon decided it was the only way to go. My mind was a light switch when I was young. Everything was on or off. Good or bad. Fly fishing, I concluded, was good, so every other form of fishing must be bad.

But I’d either watched a television program, or more likely read a magazine article, about fly fishing for bass. That’s all it took for the pea-sized reptilian brain of my youth to decide bass fishing, with a fly at least, could be “fun” too.

I remember the reply of one of the club old timers. He was an outdoor writer who didn’t limit himself to just fly fishing. If an editor needed a piece rating dough baits for stocker trout or buzzbaits for bass, he’d do his field research, write a story and collect his check. Versatility is how freelancers can sometimes approximate making a living, without tending bar Saturday night.

He didn’t call me out for being a pretentious fly fishing snob, or otherwise make a big stink about it, but he responded with certitude: “Bass fishing is fun however you do it.”

I’m still mostly a fly fisher, but I recently discovered bass in a pond not far from the house.

I can fly fish for these bass, but the pond is ringed with willows and cattails, which makes casting from the bank a tricky proposition. Right now my only watercraft is my river drift boat, and while that’s a decent option on ponds and small lakes, trailering up, launching and rowing, then reversing the process at the end of the day, takes time. If it’s 5 p.m. and I’ve got a spare evening to fish a few hours, spin gear from shore is my best option.

Down south bass season has been rolling for months, but in the north the fish are just getting active. It’s prespawn and the bass are staging in the shallows, cruising about as they prepare to make future generations of bass.

My main game for these bass has been drop shotting plastics. Since most of the fish are on the smallish size, 12 inches or so is average, I’ve been using the shortest worms I can find: 3 inch Yamamoto Senkos. Cucurbit colors — pumpkin and watermelon — have been best. Senkos are subtle baits, lacking curly tails or other movement exaggerators. In the shallows I can watch the bait as I nurse it along the bottom. It darts a bit as I twitch it, then gently drops back to the bottom.

The drop is when you usually get bit. Sometimes I get to watch the fish as it considers, then moves in and inhales the bait.

It isn’t fly fishing, but it’s not unlike nymphing for trout. There’s a lot of care and attention involved it detecting the subtle strikes on a falling bait. You barely know the fish is there, but if you feel a twitch you set the hook. Sometimes there’s a bass at the end of your line. Sometimes you misread the twitch and your bait whistles past your ear as you launch it into a nearby willow.

When a fish is there expect an explosion. Bass fight aggressively and come out of the water with fierce head shakes trying to throw the hook. They probably poop out a little quicker than trout, but bass are no pushovers.

It’s fun. Dang fun. That younger dude missed out on a lot back in his pontification days.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.