Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Blogging "Free-Agent" Returns ~

The River Damsel Presents ~
              "Freelance Blogging" at it's best!  Brandon Robinson ~ (One Bug Is Fake) 
                                  Brandon honors us with his unmatched writing...on this guest post...

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Bows vs Bass

1: Bows are friendly and joyful creatures, I assume anyway.  Bass are the riparian realizations of Boo Radley's reputation.

Boo's beach house...

2: Bows sip like proper British gentlemen, Bass inhale like junkyard dogs.

3: Bass are as lazy as that good-for-nothing Uncle of yours.  Come to think of it, so are Bows.

4: Bows will be found in pristine cold water environments, and have a refined taste for numerous delicacies.  Bass again, are riverine junkyard dogs and found in whatever ditch, stock tank, or storm drain that holds year-round water.  They will also eat anything that pisses them off.

"Clean The Bass Pond, Please!"

Big bows can often be found chilling in the same feeding lanes, conversing stock options and sharing jokes whilst they dine.  They seem to enjoy the closeness of the other fish that are too big to be food.  In North Carolina I fished one twenty foot run of a creek and caught three 16” plus fish.  Even if every fish in that water was dumb enough to bite my olive mud-puppy, that's still a lot of fish for one small stretch.  You won't find that in bass rivers.

For fly fishermen, the size parameters for bass seems to be similar in respect to trout, inch-wise.  16” is a respectable fish no matter which of the two species you happen to be measuring.  Bass can also fight like a hooked honey badger, and be as picky as gluten-free vegans when they want to be.  Worthy adversaries on the fly to be sure, so why are they largely forgotten or overlooked?  From what I can find, 47 states have both bass and fly fishermen within their boundaries, so why is trout the dominating species in the sport to the point that many have never attempted bass fishing? 

Bass At Walmart Pond

Oddly enough, while researching bass fishing on the fly after a particularly painful skunkage, I discovered that bass fishing in America started on the fly.  According to Jack Ellis in “Bassin' with a Fly Rod”, the automatic fly reel was developed for bass fisherman in the south who needed to fish and paddle at the same time.  So what happened?  I don't know, but I bet it has something to do with THAT movie.  Brad Pitt certainly didn't lip any bass in that movie.  There is also a quote that keeps floating around referring to three rules of fly fishing, “Always with a dry, always upstream, and always to a rising trout.”  Another theory is, that many an angler tried, yet without a wealth of information: got frustrated and stubbornly returned to trout.  The information is there if you look hard enough, and take most of the things you find with a grain of salt.  That said, here is what I think you should keep in mind when trying for the blessed Black Bass.

Right now (October), the fall bite is on in most of the country.  This is when most black bass start furiously gorging themselves on big bait-fish.  They chase and eat with reckless abandon as if they were scared first-year Floridians stocking up supplies before a hurricane.  Swimming flies like Galloup's Dungeon, and his other articulated flies will get the job done perfectly, although I would recommend adding weight if you are stuck with a floating line fishing streamers.  Change colors until you get a bite, then vary the speed that you strip until a pattern emerges. 

The Eagle Claw taking a break...

When it turns cold, fish low and slow.  Floating line works fine, if that's what you have.  Use a fluorocarbon leader, and be generous with the tippet, depending on the depth of your river.  Fishing deep pools or ponds, I use a clear intermediate sinking line with a furled fluorocarbon leader.  If you're just starting out, Jay Zimmerman's Geezus Lizard would be your fly of choice.  It casts like a brick, but you can compensate by opening your loop up, and laying your back-cast down a touch.

Come spring, before the bass start to spawn, poppers or flies that ride just below the surface are the way to go.  Once the spawn starts, switch to clousers.  You'll find the bass sitting on beds tucked away in the shallows.  This is the average anglers best time for bass.  Find your fish, cast behind them and strip with quick jerks with a pause in-between each.  Return the fish quickly, and move on.  They are sitting on eggs, and if they feel their area isn't safe, they will abandon the “red” and the eggs will quickly become carp food.  Post spawn they are swimming with their fry, so your back to streamers.  Fly freely, but return the fish quickly.

Late spring and all of summer means it's time to fish small.  Poppers still work in the morning, but my biggest fish have come from small streamers like Rainey's BB Screamer.  Pound the bank and any sub-surface structure.  Bass have eyes that are oriented on the top of their heads.  Keep in mind; they can't squint, close their eyes, or purchase sunglasses, so the big guys are going to be underneath grass mats, boulders, and the banks in the shade.  This is where you cast.

Bass Bending...
Be patient.  Keep in mind, for every “trout-guy” that earns a big-ol' skunk on bass water, there is an equally perturbed “bass guy” getting his butt kicked by stupid trout.  In part due to the way each set hooks when a strike is felt.

Setting the hook on a bass is different from your instinctive trout sets.  It has to be hard, must be quick, and you can't do it timidly.  Picture one of those collapsible laundry hampers, that's about the type of mouth you're dealing with.  There is a good meaty section on the top and bottom, but the rest is just a fleshy membrane attached to a hard ring of cartilage.  You have to get your hook around that ring or in the meaty sections if you want to get your fish to hand, so jerk fast and hard.  Worry not my sensitive friends, they don't have nerve endings in their mouth.  Some people use a strip set, but I use this method: I always minimize the slack in the water, and keep the rod pointed down.  The set is a two part action, with one hand I grab the line and hold it by my legs, and with my rod hand I lift harshly.  Keep tension on the line, they are going to start shaking their heads with their mouth open, trying to throw your fly.  After that the fight rules are the same with any species.

Reading water is the last bit of advice I can give you.  Watch where you are walking.  As you wade or approach the water, you will see the fish scatter.  Watch where they are coming from, that's where you'll find them upstream.  Pound the bank (even cast to the bank, pulling your fly into the water), fish downstream from structure, and work parallel to any ledges.  Practice patience too, when all of the above fails, fish the rest of the river.  Bass don't read Wikipedia, they don't know where they're supposed to be sometimes.

I am leaving stuff out, a lot of which I hope will be added to the comments.  Somethings are pretty common-sense, “watch for 'nervous' water, or wakes of big fish chasing little fish...” and , “Minnows jumping out of the water generally means a predator is close...”  If you feel like anything is left out, add it!  I am always learning, and according to one Marine (LCpl Manning: thanks for reading, and serving.)  in Yuma, Arizona, I suck at fishing anyway. 



  1. Brandon - Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for bass fishing! As a cold water trout gal... I'm am even more excited now to feel the difference of the pull on the line!

  2. Nice outline of chasing bass on the fly. As a trout snob I'm not afraid to admit of my "slumming" for bass from time to time.

  3. When is RD goin' bassin'? That's what I want to know.

  4. Thanks T!. I hope it helps clear the air for someone.

    Jay, so do I!

  5. Bass are the bruisers, that's for sure! But trout are the more graceful and are also usually more picky about what they eat. Nice photo of that yellar rod ya got there. I'll show you some of my Featherlight after this weekend! :) Maybe not by a fish..haha..but ...

  6. Owl, thanks for reading and I am looking forward to some glass action from you!

  7. Don't tell the folks I work for, but I have always thought bass on a fly rod are almost more fun than one should be allowed to have.

  8. Great post, Brandon! Growing up hunting smallmouth bass, I enjoyed your sentiments on the junkyard dogs. While I've developed an appreciation for getting that perfect dry fly drift for bows, there are few things that will match taking bass on the fly -- ripping streamers, plopping poppers. Seeing those green and brown fish eat. Love it!

  9. Quill, Your secret is safe with me! Thanks for reading.

    Andy, glad you liked it! Thanks for reading, and don't get me wrong, I like trout fishing too.

    Hopefully some trout guys/gals (RD, looking at you) will give it a shot after reading all these comments!

  10. Great post. Lovin' that yellow rod myself. I will have one sooner rather than later. RD, if you're ever traveling through KY and want to check out some bassin' I've got just the spot for you. You'd love it!