bass on a fly rod fishing

#22 – Bass on a Fly Rod?

An Intro to Fly Fishing for Bass
provided by Joel Brothers and the crew at

The stereotypical fly fisherman is regarded by most as somewhat of a fishing snob and a purist, spending all that time tying flies and stalking streams, all to hook that one fish, or maybe none at all. While that may have been true for the Middle Ages – when the equipment couldn’t handle anything bigger than a medium-sized trout – today’s fly fishing is a whole different story.

Due to advances in technology, materials, and the willingness of contemporary anglers to seek out new quarry, practically nothing that swims is safe from a fly rod assault nowadays. Any fish that ever comes within 30’ of the surface (and 95% of them do, at least some of the time) is fair game. And bass are no exception.

I’ve noticed there’s a lot of bad information on fly fishing for bass circulating the web:

“You can use the same flies and equipment that you use on trout for bass…”

No, you can’t. At least not if you want to keep it, or unless you only plan on fishing for baby bass in the 2 to 3 lb. range. Also, that puny little 4 or 5 wt rod you use at the local stream is not going to be able to cast large, wind-resistant bass bugs. They will land at your feet, every time.

“Fly casting it pretty easy to learn – much easier than mastering a bait-casting reel!’

I’ll be willing to bet that the person who wrote this has never picked up a fly rod, or certainly doesn’t know how to use one. While you don’t have to worry about delicate presentations such as those you’d do for permit or trout in small streams, you do have to get good at many different casts, such as into the wind, cross wind, cross current, roll-casting, shooting, the Double-Haul, false-casting, the Underhand Cast, and maybe even Spey casting, depending on the situations you encounter while fishing.

For now though, you may be wondering: “I have several bass rods, Why would I want to fly fish for bass?” There are, in fact, dozens of advantages and reasons why many bass angler now prefer doing their fishing with a fly rod.

The biggest one is the increased ‘fun-factor’. There’s no question that fly fishing, and the discipline required to learn, is a lot more fun than daft, relatively bleak casting with the conventional tackle that often feels designed to be used by the lowest common denominators among us.

Fly fishing requires deliberation, purpose, and something I can’t really put words to. You sort of become One with the environment you are in at the time – much like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle. You actually experience every little nuance, every sound, every ripple, every smell…fly fishing feeds the soul.

While it may take a little work to learn to use a fly rod, in my entire life (which spans considerably over 5 decades), I have never heard anyone have any regrets about learning how to fly fish. Other advantages are in common situations relative to bass fishing, such as the obstacles in front of you.

With conventional tackle, you would have to cast to another place, but with a fly rod, you can cast right over it, and just pick your line up before you get to it on the retrieve, and re-cast. Also, with conventional tackle, after you have made a cast, and you see a bass jump in another location, you would have to reel all the way in, and make another cast to that bass. By that time though, your bass has probably moved on. With a fly rod, you can pick your line up and immediately cast to new fish, instantly, and with complete precision. You can even change directions in mid-cast, if needed.

The tackle does not need to be complicated. You will need a decent-quality 6/7 wt., or even an 8/9 wt rod, but it doesn’t have to be graphite, or carbon fiber or anything fancy. Inexpensive fiberglass rods work just fine for bass. Actually, the slower action of fiberglass can help you cast those big bass flies, because the power-stroke is considerably longer (the rod flexes along its entire length, instead of just at the tip, as with fast-action rods). It will also help cushion the leader when you have to manually pull a bass from deep cover with it.

You’ll want a reel with a disc drag, but it doesn’t need to hold a lot of line. Bass put up an incredibly vicious fight, but only for a short time. A bass will seldom run more than a few yards. Inexpensive Martin, Scientific Anglers, and Pflueger reels are just fine. You’ll want a weight-forward, floating-type line, such as a Bass Taper, Rocket Taper, or similar, or you can opt for a Shooting Taper (I would recommend this at first. Shooting lines are a little tricky, and take some time to master).

At first, I wouldn’t worry about Sink-tip and Sinking Lines. Bass can be caught most of the year with floating lines, in most places. You can learn to use these specialty lines later, if you really get addicted (which you probably will).

For flies, forget the dainty little mayflies and nymphs used for trout, unless you only want to catch minnows. For bass, think big, ugly and loud. Bass can swallow things almost as big as itself, and they are far from shy or spooky. They’ve got attitude, and like their food big and noisy.

Your flies will hardly ever be smaller than a #4; they’ll also be hairy and mostly brightly-colored. Bass flies can imitate things like minnows, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, crustaceans, large worms, and even baby ducks, or things that have never even existed outside of someone’s nightmares. A bass will try to eat anything it can get in its’ mouth. Here are a few examples of some excellent bass flies that I tie:

Lil Bluegill
Glitter Craw
Bunny Worm
Lil Shad

click to enlarge images

The flies are, from left to right: Lil Bluegill, Glitter Craw, Bunny Worm, Lil Shad, Swiss-Craw, and the Basskicker. These are my own patterns. Good standard patterns are a modified Wooly Bugger, large Clouser Minnows, Puglisi Baitfish, Dalberg Divers, etc.
Happy fishing!

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