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28 Jul

Fly Fishing for Bass: 9 Essential Tips for Beginners

Bass Fishing Tips

When you think of fly fishing, you probably think of an old-timer standing knee-deep in a gentle stream targeting trout with complex casting techniques and light-as-a-feather flies. Well, that’s how it’s depicted in pop culture, but the truth is, fly fishing is a lot more flexible than that, and it’s basically the ultimate form of ultra-light fishing. You can get the tiniest lures out there, experiment with the finest weightless rigs, and target everything from trout to bass.

However, fly fishing is a little more complicated than using a spinning rod or other mainstream option. That’s part of the appeal of it. It takes considerable skill, the learning curve is fairly steep, and as a reward, you get unmatched control over your lure.

Today, we’re going to help you get into fly fishing for bass with 9 essential tips. Let’s get started.

Why Fly Fish for Bass?

With fly fishing predominantly being known as a bream, trout, and salmon fishing method, you might be wondering why you should step away from your standard casting and spinning rods to give fly fishing a try. Well, that comes down to three major key points.

First, there’s the learning curve involved. Anglers are all about testing their limits and trying new approaches. It keeps the sport fresh and exciting, and even a 50-year-old man who has used a spinning rod for more than 40 years can feel like a kid again relearning everything from scratch with a fly rod.

Then, there’s the amount of control you get over your lures and presentation. Since you’ll largely be using flies, you’ll be able to buzz your lures across the surface, make them dive, skim them around with little hops, and more with unparalleled precision. You can be pretty accurate with a soft plastic on a casting rod, but nowhere near the level of precision that you’ll get with a fly rod and a bit of practice.

Finally, it’s an ultra-light angler’s dream. If you like taking Crappie rods and other little ultra-light setups designed for 4-pound fish and lighter and making even freshly-spawned bass feel like a challenge, you will love the way fly fishing feels.

What Do I Need to Go Fly Fishing for Bass?

Before we get to the tips, we’ll need to make sure you’re properly equipped in the first place. Fly fishing is heavily gear dependent. Even more so than fishing with a spinning rod or anything else.

First and foremost, you obviously need a fly rod. The size, taper, and quality are going to largely depend on your needs and the way you fish; as well as the flies you’ll be using. Just like any other type of rod, it’s better to look at plenty of in-depth information on specific rods before you make a choice.

Then, you need a fly reel. Again, this is just like anything else. You need to match it to the type of line you’re using and the rod itself. Try to get the best quality reel you can, though. Fly reels are free spinning, and you don’t want a piece of junk that impedes your ability to cast properly.

The line is the next thing on your list. The fly fishing line is very different than your typical mono or braided line. It’s tapered, excessively light, and designed to be dragged out far distances by lures that are typically just small hooks with strings tied on. 

Some lines are designed to sink for sinking flies, and others are designed to float for topwater flies. Choose your line according to the style of fly fishing you’re going to be doing.

Leaders aren’t always necessary in other types of fishing, but they’re crucial for fly fishing. You can mix and match leaders for various effects on your fly, the leader helps hide your line and create a better presentation, and generally, they’re a necessity.

Next, you need a truly unique form of equipment. The “tippet” is essentially a secondary leader that ties to your fly and to the primary leader. This is sold in bundles just like any other type of line.

Finally, you need an assortment of flies. When you’re first starting out, you’re usually not going to have enough gear to approach it from various angles without taking loads of time to set up your rod all over again. So, it’s best to choose a type of fly and stick to that while you build up your tackle box. 

Flies can be designed for floating, skipping on top, sinking to certain depths, and various other behaviors. So, take some time and research what’s best for you and your fishing style before you buy a bunch of random flies and don’t have the equipment to use them properly. 

Fly fishing is flexible, but it does take a bit more of an equipment investment than other forms of fishing when you first get started.

Things that Help:

That covered all the 100% necessary gear, but there are some other pieces of equipment that will greatly improve your experience. Namely, you’ll want a few pieces of clothing.

Fishing waders are commonly used. They’re not 100% necessary, but fly fishermen often enter the water up to their knees. If you have some proper waders, you won’t have to worry about freezing or getting soaked while you’re in the water.

Fishing boots go along with your waders. They’re rubber. So, you won’t have to worry about your socks getting soaked and experiencing foot problems.

Finally, it’s a good idea to wear a fishing vest that lets you keep your tackle secured against your body. You can have a more fleshed-out kit ashore, but it’s usually better to have all your necessities tucked into a vest in case you head out into the water itself. You have a lower likelihood of losing anything, and if you do, at least you don’t lose an entire tackle box. Plus, it’s convenient to simply reach into a pocket and pull out a tiny Plano with your favorite flies or get a new tippet setup.

Fly Fishing for Bass: Boots Are Considered Essential Gear

9 Essential Tips for Fly Fishing for Bass

Now that you’re geared up, let’s get to the tips that are going to help you get over the initial learning curve without too much trouble.

1: Learn the Regulations

Fly fishing is typically allowed anywhere that using other types of rods is allowed, but you still need to double-check local regulations to ensure that you’re not going to get in trouble. However, the issue with bans typically isn’t with the method itself, and they are usually more focused on trout fisheries. Certain fly patterns are banned from fisheries and tournaments alike for various reasons.

Again, those bans are typically aimed at those targeting trout, but if the entire fishery bans a certain piece of equipment, typically a specific fly pattern, it’s best not to use it.

Of course, there’s also the problem with trout being in the water with bass in many places, and trout do tend to go after flies regularly. That’s why it’s such a popular method for trout fishing. 

If you find yourself in a body of water that also stocks trout, you should make sure you understand the rules for trout just in case you snag one while pursuing bass. The game warden doesn’t care what your intent was if they catch you breaking wildlife rules.

2: Use Equipment Meant for Your Current Approach

Next, you’ll notice that a lot of our equipment recommendations included notes about researching individual pieces of kit and how they work together. As we said, fly fishing is extremely equipment dependent

It’s not like when you’re fishing with a medium spinning rod and can switch between a massive variety of setups in minutes without any real loss in performance. Fly fishing often comes down to very low-tolerance setups.

Again, make sure you know what approach you’re going to take, and make sure the gear you’re using is meant for that. Don’t opt for an “all around” setup. If you’re going to do that, just bust out the spinning rod.

3: Learn to Cast

Before you actually start using your fly rod, we recommend spending quite some time simply learning to cast. This is the hardest part of fly fishing, and if you just put together a rod and go on a fishing trip, you’re going to get frustrated very quickly.

If you have a low-performing lake, farm runoff, or pond close to your home, take your gear out with zero intent to catch anything. Just set it up and practice using it. Sure, you won’t be catching any fish, but you’ll be building a crucial skill.

Things you should be looking for are casting effectively, maintaining control of the fly, and landing the fly in a smooth manner. One of the key points of using a fly is that it barely disturbs the water and literally recreates the tiny movements and disturbances of real flies. So, you don’t want to cast so wildly that it bounces all over the place and stirs up a bunch of excitement.

4: Practice as You Go and Stay Patient

This goes with our last tip, but practice makes perfect, and you’re going to need a lot of patience. This is one of the harder fishing skills to learn, and it’s not going to come easy for most folks. 

Once you learn how to cast, head out to the lake or stream, and start fishing, but do so with the intent to learn. Don’t expect to get out there and catch a fish on every cast or immediately land every fish you hook into. This is an entirely different skill, and it’s going to take time for you to get good at it. It’s just like when you were little fishing for bluegill, and you kept messing up your cast or setting your hook too early. You didn’t throw a fit and quit then. So, don’t do it, now.

Fly Fishing for Bass: Fly Fisherman Fishing

5: Understand the Bass

This is where even a lot of die-hard fly fishermen mess up. The techniques you’ll use are largely the same as what trout fishermen use, but you will need to understand bass behavioral patterns and adjust your approach accordingly.

For example, trout are usually in shallow streams, and you wade out to get up close. With bass, you might see some great foliage along the shoreline and simply cast over there and bounce your fly around.

You might also want to use larger flies or fly-like lures. We’ll talk about those more, later on.

In general, just because you changed the equipment you’re using doesn’t mean all your knowledge of bass is now obsolete. In fact, you’re probably better off than a die-hard fly fisherman who has only targeted trout. 

You understand how bass reacts to things, and you just need to adjust your approach. A traditional fly fisherman has to go through the daunting task of learning all about a far more aggressive species than they're used to.

6: Try Different Flies

As we just said, there are other options for fly fishermen. You don’t have to use “flies” which are just strings tied onto a small hook in various patterns. You can use pheasant tails, woolly worms, mammoths, and other common fly fishing lures that are similar to flies, but they mimic other types of lightweight bugs.

Switching to larger varieties can be a bit more effective than just using flies. They’re bigger and pose a more attractive meal to bass when they’re used properly.

7: Match the Local Cuisine

As you know if you’ve been fishing for a while, the bait fish, insects, and other available food sources are different in practically every fishing hole. Just like with other types of fishing, you need to try to match the food available locally if you want to catch a bass.

You might want to learn more about what bass eat in our supreme guide on choosing the right bait.

8: Take the Fight Slow

Fly fishing equipment is a bit more delicate than the medium-heavy flipping rod you’re probably used to. You don’t want to go wrestling a bass out of the water with brute force.

 You want to take the traditional approach and slowly wear it out so you can get it to you without snapping your line or rod. 

This is going to take longer, and it will probably be difficult for you to do at first since you’re used to heftier rods.

9: Use Bass Forecast

Finally, one of the best things you can do is download the BassForecast fishing app.

If you enjoyed this guide on fly fishing for bass, make sure to check out BassForecast’s massive backlog of bass fishing information, tip guides, and various articles on the sport. 

The app includes pro features such as tackle tips, detailed maps, real-time weather data, spot-on solunar, and more.