jerrykunnath writes "Smallmouth Bass on a Fly
A Michigan Stream and Lake Small Mouthing Bonanza
By Jerry Kunnath
[Originally published in the Great Lakes Sportfishing News]
Those of us that live in or near the Great State of Michigan can thank our lucky stars for the multitude of outdoor sporting opportunities that exist here in our area. Not only can we hunt, camp, trap, hike or whatever on a bounty of public lands but we can enjoy some of the best fly-fishing in the world on the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet. The thousands of miles of great lakes shoreline, the thousands of miles of streams and rivers, and the thousands of inland lakes offer us fishing choices far beyond the wildest dreams of most outdoors people elsewhere in the world. Besides the plethora of places to fish, we are blessed by the fact that we have so many different species from which to choose. One of my favorite species to target here in Michigan is the feisty, smallmouth bass.
Micropterus dolomieu, the smallmouth bass, is as deserving a trophy as any fish that treads water. These hard fighting, high jumping dervishes are a pure joy to catch, but even more so when you fish for them on a fly rod. They readily take streamers, nymphs and even an occasional dry fly. Catapulting out of the water with your fly clamped tightly in its jaws, a smallmouth fighting for its freedom is something to experience on a fly rod. They fight like there is no tomorrow, causing your graphite rod to hum, not with their antics but with your strumming heartbeat as you try to bring them close enough to land.
A five-weight fly rod is more than an adequate tool for the small mouth bass, especially if it is teamed with a reel that has a smooth disc drag system. For windier days or for throwing larger streamers, you might want to graduate to a seven or eight weight rod. However, under normal conditions that five weight will do the trick. When you are fishing smaller streams or shallower lake waters with nymphs and dry flies, you will probably want to fish a good weight forward floating line, with as small of a tippet as you can handle. For tossing streamers in deeper lake waters, go with a full sinking line or at least a line with a fast sinking tip. Then just attach your streamer to the line with a piece of straight flouro-carbon leader, about two feet long, in the ten to fifteen pound test range.
Small mouth feed on a wide variety of organisms. Their prey ranges from nymphs, crustaceans, and mollusks to small baitfish, surface flies, frogs and other reptiles. Any fly that imitates any protoplasmic creature that will fit into a small mouths pie hole will work. Some of the best flies for these bass are crayfish imitations, small streamers that imitate baitfish, wooley buggers, and hex nymphs, swimming clouser nymphs and deer hair frogs. Mice, grasshoppers, ants and grubs also will fill out a good small mouth fly box.
The method of attack that you choose for your bass angling outing is as varied as the numbers of places that there are to fish for these predators. To some extent, small mouth inhabit most streams and rivers in the State. They are present in all of the Great Lakes and are swimming in many of the inland lakes as well. They prefer colder water and areas with structure and rocky bottoms. You will find them prolifically inhabiting sandy or mucky bottomed areas as long as there is some cover. One of the best small mouth fisheries in North America is our own Lake St. Clair. This shallow, mostly sand and muck bottomed lake is a breeding ground for small mouth. It is common to catch three pounders there, and it is not unheard of to have days where an angler can catch and release two or three four to five pound fish. My son, Captain Steve Kunnath, who runs a fly-fishing charter service on St. Clair, says that even in wide muck bottomed flats, all that is needed to tie into some nice fish is to find a rock pile or debris that is no more than one foot high and you will locate some small mouth. These fish also will populate shallow weedy areas in the bays, both in inland lakes and on the large waters and even in rivers. Until the summer heat warms the water to much, you will catch small mouth in the reeds where they wait in the shadows to pounce on passing smaller fish. While fishing these reedy areas with a bass popper or frog in the early morning, cast your fly to the edge of the reeds. Twitch it a few times and then watch the reeds part as the bass fly out to see what the commotion is. Now that is excitement.
My all around favorite areas to nail these bass has to be rocky-bottomed shorelines, whether they are located in the Great Lakes, streams, or in small local waters. The fish are right at home where the rocks meet the waves. A good spot to find them is on inland man made lakes where a stream has been dammed with a berm of rip-rap rock. Follow the edge of the dam, either from the water in a boat, or along the berm itself. Cast a crayfish imitator into the rocks and just strip it slowly along the bottom over the structure. Before you know it, you will have a smallie running for deeper water with your fly in his mouth.
Besides Lake St. Clair, there are many wonderful small mouth fishing areas in our State. At the tip of the thumb there is an access area called Eagle Bay. The Lake Huron shoreline in this area is a perfect smallmouth heaven. The shallow waters, you can wade out for what seems like miles, are mostly rocky bottomed with some of the boulders being the size of basketballs. There is also an old wreck from a wooden schooner, with just the frame of the hull left under the water, located a few hundred yards offshore in wade-able water. These provide perfect cover for the bass. They wait behind this structure for passing meals, hopefully provided by your fly rod. The area also has some fantastic streams that empty into Lake Huron that harbor some nice large fish.
Across Saginaw Bay lies the eastern shore of Lake Huron, the Sunrise Side. Into its waters empties the Rifle, the Au Gres, and the Au Sable rivers. The lower reaches of all these streams carry a bountiful number of smallies. The shoreline of Tawas Bay, as well as Squaw Bay near Alpena, host some impressive bass catches every season.
West of Mackinaw City lays one of the best small mouth shorelines in Michigan. Wilderness State Park contains a classic rocky shoreline. It is an absolute small mouth amusement park for fly fishers, with numerous Master Angler entries over the years.
The Sylvania Wilderness Area in the western Upper Peninsula has some lakes that are considered by many to be gems. My friend, Dr. Eli Barlia; makes an annual pilgrimage to hike into one of these lakes to fish for ?red eyes?. Each year he comes home with his arms sore from fighting fish. Just do not ask him about it unless you have lots of time.
Wherever you fish for smallies, one fact will remain constant, and that is that you will enjoy the sport. These fish probably fight more, pound for pound, than any other fish in our waters. They are quickly becoming the favorite sport fish of many of our States anglers, surpassing large mouths in popularity in many areas. They are fairly easy to catch, when you know where and how to fish for them. They are strong fighters and persistent predators. In addition, they are widespread in our lakes, streams and rivers, with large numbers of fish near many of our largest metropolitan areas. It is no wonder that so many anglers have taken to fly fishing for small mouth bass.
Just remember-catch & release
Small Mouth Fly Fishing Information
Flymart Flyshop www.flymartonline.com
Captain Steve Kunnath, Lake St. Clair Fly Fishing Guide Service 248-584-2848 - Captain Steve is booking trips all the way to November
Kelly Neuman, Au Sable River Small Mouth Guide Service www.michiganstreamside.com/index.htm
Dirk Fischbach- Huron River Fly Fishing Adventures 734-944-1607
Posted on Thursday, August 12 @ 05:36:02 UTC by admin
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