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How to Fly Fish for Smallmouth

By, Dwyer (Duke of the Skook) 


Strip-“Ka-Blurp.” Pause. 

Strip- “Blurb-Crung.” Pause.




Man, do I love to fly fish for bass! They require sharp casts, refuse a fly due to the slightest slipup, and behave differently season to season. Also, they do not require a ton of different fly fishing gear and accessories. What not to love? Honestly, I prefer bass fishing much more than dealing with the self-loathing hassles of trout fishing.

Bass Fly Fishing Gear

If you want to fly fish for bass around PA, a stiff 7wt or an 8wt should cover most scenarios. If I could only have one, the 8wt is likely my best bet. An 8wt will help throw larger streamers, punch through the wind, and handle an over-sized bass. Nothing is worse than driving all the way to the Susquehanna just for some wind to ruin the day!

As far as fly lines go, having three different lines can be a huge advantage. The lines I most commonly fish are a Weight Forward floating line (SA Bass Bug Taper), an Intermediate Sinking Line (SA Intermediate Titan), and a Sinking Line Type III (SA Sonar Titan). I prefer sink tips when I wade fish and fish from my kayak. I rock full sinking lines when I fish from Mike or Andy’s boat. However, ask Mike “Float-Line Jesus” Rosa, and he will say all you need is a floating line and some fluorocarbon.

Smallmouth do not require a reel with tons of technology; fly reels basically act as line holders! Obviously, having a premo-reel kicks ass, but it is not necessary. The biggest thing to consider is spare spools for the reel. I like being able to change out those fly lines quickly.

Time of Year

Understanding the effects of the four seasons stands as one of the most crucial parts of fly fishing for bass; the biggest factor is water temperature. As soon as the water begins to hover around the mid 40s in the Spring, the bass begin to get active. Try to find areas where shallow water meets deep holes with a wee-bit of current. Hard pieces of structure, like rock or wood, are imperative to a productive Spring fishing-hole.


For Spring Smallmouth flies, think big! Now is the time for aggressive streamer patterns; try to agitate the fish. These fish do not have to be hungry for them to strike. The two main fly types to focus on are suspending baitfish patterns or weighted, jigging flies. Suspending flies work great all year round, but they can excel in the Spring. Weighted flies are much easier to fish, and the weight gets the presentation where it needs to be. Lifting the rod and stripping in the extra slack is a great way to fish these jigging-style patterns.

After the bass finish their spawn and water really starts to warm-up, they tend to roam shallow water hunting for food. Target riffle tailouts, banks, behind islands, and any seam-line. In some instances, the bass will really group up this time of year. If you hook one big one, there is likely another one close behind.


For the summer, size your flies down. Smaller profiles help fool bass in low, stainless water. I lean on natural colors this time of year. Trying to match the color of the bottom of the river is always a good start. Summer times is also popper time. The main things to stress while popper fishing is the importance of an accurate cast and patience. 


Fall bass fishing can be tricky. The spots that provide “Toad-Bass” all summer now seem vacant as the fish begin to move back to their wintering-holes. When fish start to move, anglers must move with them. Use flies that cover water efficiently. I dust off the flies that I fished in Spring, but these fish are not angry; they need a meal before the winter. 


Sure, you can fish in the winter, but I will have to pass. We live in Pennsylvania! No need to sit at the bar, either. I enjoy chasing trout with the same streamers I use for pre-spawn bass.

Reading about fishing for bass does not do the experience justice. One must feel the tug of a colossal bass for themselves! Piecing together the bass-puzzle is a difficult task, and I hope this blog helped a bit. If you really want to eliminate the learning curve, book a trip with Mike Rosa! He will accelerate the learning process for you!