The following neat article on fly fishing for bass appeared in the July 1917 issue of Forest & Stream. It’s an early and interesting article on one of my favorite past times, fly rodding for bass.
Fly Fishing for Black Bass
By JOHN BARLOW
We shall soon be thinking pleasantly of our favorite streams and lakes, where that lord of the waters—the black bass—is to be found. When the tackle box is being packed make room in it for a few flies; they will not add much to the weight of your tackle, but they may make a surprising difference to the weight of your creel.
There is an idea amongst men who have never used the fly for bass that only small fish can be caught in this way. But that is as true of any other way—the big fellows are not caught every time on any kind of bait. I have caught bass weighing four pounds on a fly, and no doubt many other fishermen have caught much larger fish in the same way. I find, too, that many have discarded the fly because they had no luck with it. When I see some of the contraptions that are sold as bass flies I am not surprised. One may as well bait his hook with a submarine.
The outfit for catching bass with the fly is very similar to that used for trout fishing: the only difference is the rod should be a little longer and heavier—say a rod weighing about seven ounces and ten feet long. The leaders should be six feet, and, of course, a little stronger than one used for trout.
THE flies should be large trout size, a number 5 or 6, tied on a Sproat hook. These are the sizes with which I have had most success. The usual bass fly is much too large and heavy and can only be used successfully as a troll with a spinner. This, I believe, is the reason why some have failed to get any good results with the fly—it has been too big. The four flies that have filled my creel, or helped in that direction, are Scarlet Ibis, Dark Montreal, Jock Scot and Royal Coachman.
This list might be lengthened considerably. Any fisherman could add some good flies to it; I am simply naming those that have done me good service. I would say to the beginner: Get these four flies to start with, have them tied on different size hooks, from Ss to 8s. A variety in size is far more important than a variety of colors.
Cast them as you would for trout and you will get fish in almost any lake or river. I have caught more bass on the Scarlet Ibis than on any other fly, and nearly always have one on my cast. Early in the season bass will often rise better to the Royal Coachman or Jock Scot, but about July the Ibis always takes the biggest fish. From about the middle of August the fly season is practically over — the fish have gone into the deeper water, and then it is more profitable to go after them with bait.
It is best to fish the fly from a boat, keeping about sixty or seventy feet from the shore, then one can fish both ways— towards the shore and the deep water. Get someone to row the boat and let him push you first, then cast to right and left ahead of you. If no one can be found to do the rowing let the wind drift your boat in the desired direction; should this carry you too fast lower your anchor stone about three feet; this will reduce the speed and steady the boat. When you come to a good place anchor your boat and fish all round, not fearing to cast three or four times over the same water.
The best places to fish are the rocky bars, any wall or disused pier. On a hot day cast around trees that overhang the water or near a boat that has not been used for some time. Do not pass any lily pads or the roots of sunken trees without casting over them. Above all, if there is a solitary post that sticks up out of the water, cast round it every time you go that way. You will often get some good fish there.
Early in the season do not hesitate to fish in a foot of water if it is on a quiet and rocky part of the shore. I have seldom had much success in water over twelve feet deep, though flies can be trolled over almost any depth of water, and at times with great success. In casting the flies it is best to let them sink two or three inches and retrieve them slowly. A gentle ripple on the water is very helpful, but it must not approach roughness. I have never had any success in a high wind, with rough water, on a lake.
The best time with the flies is from about 3 o'clock in the afternoon till an hour after sundown, though some of my friends have done well fishing in the moonlight; but then you need the larger flies. The best time of all is the afternoon, before the break comes after a spell of dry hot weather. Then bass will take flies as trout take worms when there is a freshet in the brook. If you are not a good weather prophet always take your flyrod with you and try a few casts every day.
If you have never had a healthy two pound bass on a flyrod with seventy feet of line out there is something owing you that I trust will be paid before this season closes.
— Dr. Todd