Tips for Fly Fishing for Bass
Fly fishing is a science. The relatively light weight of an artificial fly lure means that fly fishers must use a different form of casting from other types of anglers.
Luckily, like any other science, the secrets to the reeling in more and bigger fish is backed up by years of research and trial-and-error (lots of error) by experience fly fishers.
Having trouble catching fish while fly fishing? Follow these five fly fishing expert tips to boost your number of catches:
1. Wear the Right Gear
While not all of this gear is necessary, it will make your bass fly fishing trip much more enjoyable and comfortable:
- Shirt: Choose a shirt with sweat-wicking material and UV or UPF sun protection
- Water-resistant sunscreen
- Wool Socks: Thick wool socks provide extra cushion and they will keep your feet warm and dry. This is especially important if you’ll be wading through water.
- Wading Boots
- Waders: Waterproof overalls for anglers
- Fishing Vest: Excellent for carrying all your gear
- Pocket Knife: A small knife for cutting any tangled lines or removing stubborn hooks
- Sunglasses: We recommend aviator glasses. Aviator frames aren’t just cool and lightweight, they cover your eye from all angles and provide some protection for your cheeks.
2. Tread Softly
While bass don’t have external ear canals like we do, they have internal ears. Bass are sensitive to the vibrations caused by your car engine, your feet, and your voice.
In addition to good hearing, bass have excellent eyesight. In clear water, a bass’s eyes can detect a 5-inch fish from 150 feet away, and they can see plankton that the human eye cannot see.
A bass can easily see you walking on the shoreline. Tread softly and slowly along the shore, and make as little noise as possible. Learn how to wade through the water without making too much noise, especially if you’re wading through stillwater.
3. Select the Right Fly
Bass are intelligent animals and they are attracted to lures that resemble prey they are familiar with.
To catch bass, you have to think and behave like bass. Bass have excellent eyesight and hearing, so open your eyes and ears. What is the most common insect that you see near the water’s surface? Now pick a fly that looks like that insect. By choosing a lure that is attractive to a local bass’s palate, you will get more bites on your hook.
While there are dozens of different fly species imitations to choose from (and some that don't look like flies at all), there are primarily two types of flies: dry flies and wet flies.
Dry flies float on the water's surface, wet flies sink.
Dry Flies (Surface Flies)
Dry flies resemble non-acquatic insects that feed on land on top of the water, like adult dragonflies or water striders, or drowned insects that float to the surface, like wasps.
Dry flies are often coated in oil, or include extra tufts of feathers or hairs to make them float on the water’s surface.
Use a dry fly when fish are feeding at the water’s surface.
Examples of dry fly insects include:
- Black flying ants
- Adult mayflies
Wet Flies (Sub-Surface Flies)
Wet flies imitate aquatic insects and animals that live below the surface of the water in larval or pre-adult form. These include:
- Caddisfly pupae and larvae
- Dragonfly larvae
- Mayfly nymphs
If you’re unsure whether to use a dry fly or a wet fly, use a wet fly. Bass are opportunistic feeders and ambush predators. They like to hide until the perfect moment before they strike. Using a wet fly gives the bass the opportunity to view the fly while underwater and strike.
Bass are able to determine the size of the fly, and they're less likely to bite a fly too large to fit in their mouth, but at the same time, they prefer a juicier fly over a small one. Smaller flies are for smallmouth bass, while larger flies are best for largemouth bass.
3. Look for Signs of Hungry Bass
If you see crayfish walking along the waterbed, or minnows leaping out of the water, chances are, this is where the bass are.
Minnows will leap to evade a chasing bass. Switch your lure to match what the bass are feeding on, and you’ll have a better chance of hooking a fish
Here's a pro tip: make sure that the size of your lure matches the size of the crayfish or minnows that the bass are eating.
4. Fish in the Right Place
Largemouth bass prefer to seek out deeper, weed-filled parts of a body of water. They love to hide near logs, vines, and tree roots, and they prefer a slower current.
Smallmouth bass will often swim in the middle of a stronger current, and they prefer to hide near rocks, boulders, along the waterbank, and right along the vertical walls of underwater rock ledges. These are essentially small cliffs or drop-offs below the surface.
It’s easier to find bass in smaller rivers than larger bodies of water. If you’re fishing in a larger body of water, research the structure of the area and ask a local bait and tackle shop for advice and recommendations. They may even have an underwater map of identifiable structures and the best areas to fish available.
Bass like deep water because it provides them with a sense of safety. Cast your line in the direction of rocky shorelines, tree roots, logs, shoals, fallen trees, weedbeds, piers, lilypads--basically anything that will provide good cover for a bass.
5. Cast Your Line Properly in the Wind
Long, powerful casts aren’t necessary to catch a bass. If you can cast your line out twenty to thirty feet, then you should be fine.
You don’t have to wait for a windless day to go fly fishing. Here are some tips for casting under windy conditions:
Wind Pointing At You
If the wind is flowing directly toward your face, cast lower and closer to the water's surface. Your goal with a low cast is to cast below the wind.
Another method is to make a high-level backcast. Swing your right arm high, and then swing it back down, cutting g through the wind and into the water. Your goal is to cut through the wind, at a 45-degree angle.
When the wind is coming towards you, the last thing you want to do is to fight the wind and cast horizontally straight into it.
Wind Coming from Your Non-Dominant Shoulder
If you are right-handed and the wind is coming in from the left, send the fly a little bit to the left to compensate for the wind direction.
If you do this your fly should move in a straighter pattern.
You can also make a low cast, closer to the water's surface, to get below the wind.
Wind Coming from Your Back
This is one of the more difficult casts in windy conditions. Make a low-angle backcast to get the line below the wind, followed by a higher angle forward cast to propel the lure and hook forward and into the water.
Wind Coming from Your Dominant Shoulder
This is the most difficult cash in windy conditions because it’s possible for the hook to fly backwards. Here's how to avoid giving yourself an unwanted nose piercing:TIf the wind is coming towards the direction of your dominant shoulder, turn your dominant shoulder away from the wind. That's it.
But, if you like a challenge, there are two other techniques for casting when the wind is coming from your dominant shoulder.
If you are right-handed, angle the rod slightly in the direction of your left shoulder. This way, the line goes above you, not over your right shoulder.
Another, more unconventional, technique is to switch your casting arm, and cast with your non-dominant hand.