Try a fly

smallmouths will

June 08, 2003|by BILL ANDERSON / Staff Correspondent

If you love to fish for river smallmouths, you are in the right place because we have some of the great smallmouth rivers in the four-state region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

Smallmouths are found in other areas as well, but our rivers are certainly among the best in the country.

Anglers use a wide variety of tackle and techniques for taking smallmouths, and there are men and women who are experts in specialized techniques, such as live baiting or fishing jigs. There are also a number of great smallmouth fishermen that specialize in using fly tackle.

I recently was invited to do a presentation to a smallmouth club in Virginia, with the theme of getting started in fly fishing for river smallmouths. They also asked if I could send them a list of suggested tackle, which they intend to put in a club newsletter. The idea is a basic list of tackle - rod, reel, fly line and flies to get started in the sport.


Since other anglers are also getting started in fly fishing for smallmouths, I thought it might be useful to share the information in this column as well. Keep in mind that there are differing opinions in choosing tackle and the following reflecs my opinion and experiences.

  • Fly rods - Most smallmouth fishermen like a rod in the 6- to 8-weight range. I use an 8-weight most of the time, simply because it is heavy enough to handle the bigger and heavier flies, and also helps combat moderate wind. I like a 9-foot rod and a pretty fast action. The prices range from less than $100 to more than $500 for a rod. You do not need one of the most expensive rods to enjoy the sport.

  • Fly line and reels - Any decent, single-action fly reel will work fine for smallmouth fishing. You will want a weight-forward, floating line in a weight to match the rod. You should also have a small amount of backing, but will seldom, if ever, need it for smallmouth fishing. You may need the backing if a big carp decides to sample one of your flies.

  • Flies for smallmouths - You will want a selection of flies in the following categories: poppers, streamers, bottom-bumping flies and dry flies.

    • A good selection of poppers would include small poppers in cork, plastic or deer hair in sizes 2 through 10. One particular favorite are the deer-hair divers in white or yellow.

    • A good selection of streamers would include standards like the wooly bugger, Clouser Deep Minnow and other patterns that feature lead eyes to help them fish below the surface.

    • Crayfish and hellgrammite patterns are very effective bottom-bumping flies for river smallmouths. The Clouser Crayfish is a classic and will take just about every species in the river. Remember the fly line backing? Drift a crayfish pattern long enough, and you are very likely to have a close encounter with a big carp. You'll need the backing at this point.

    • Smallmouth bass feed heavily on aquatic insects, and when a hatch is coming off, you can enjoy some great dry-fly action. I like the rugged-deer hair patterns in sizes 8 to 12. Examples include White Wulff, Grey Wulff and the Humpy patterns.

    • The river smallmouth is a classic gamefish. If you have never tried fly fishing for them, you will find that they are almost perfectly suited to fly-rod presentations.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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