There are times when fishing streamers along the banks when floating smallmouth bass rivers can be very effective. However, some anglers on our guided float trips believe they are slow in detecting these strikes. We solve this problem by attaching a Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4 to our Bright Butt 9 foot 2X Compound Knotted Leader and attach twenty four inches of 2X tippet material to the bend of the popper hook with an improved clinch knot. I attach a Murray’s Pearl Marauder size 10 to this as a dropper. When floating the river this combination popper and dropper is cast down and across stream at a twenty degree angle so it lands close to the river bank. A slow strip-pause-strip retrieve will bring many strikes from bass along these banks. When the bass takes the popper the strike is easy to see and the bass can be quickly hooked. If he takes the streamer it will cause a quick movement of the popper which is the signal to set the hook and you hook the bass solidly.
When we make a back cast to pick a popping bug up off the stream to make another cast we may cause that popper to make a loud splashing noise that will scare many close by bass, this robbing us of a chance to catch a bass on our next presentation.
A tactic that can prevent this racket on the pick up is to point the fly rod straight at the popper when you are ready to make your back cast and use your line hand to strip in several feet of line that causes the popper to slide gently across the surface of the river. Now, make your back cast and the popper will jump quietly into the air and you will catch the next bass.
Fly Fishing with popping bugs for Smallmouth Bass just might be at it’s peak right now on the North and South Fork of the Shenandoah. There is a lot of food for the smallmouth to feed on, from damselflies to frogs, throughout the day. Early and late fishing continues to be most productive but if mid-day is the time you can go, GO! Concentrate on the shaded banks and along the grassbeds in the river. This Smallmouth Bass took a #4 Chartreuse Chuggar on 3x tippet on an 8wt. fly rod.
From the middle of July through September you can catch many nice smallmouth bass upstream of the ledges lying across the Rivers. Those ledges which are flat on the upstream face with water six inches to a foot deep flowing over them provide perfect feeding stations if the water is two to four feet deep. Wade into the river 30-40 feet downstream of them and cast a Shenandoah Blue Popper 6 ten feet upstream of the ledge and strip it just slightly faster than the current. The strike usually comes when the Popper is a foot upstream of the ledge. Often I’ll wade and fish upstream for hours using this tactic.