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.
In this Virginia Fly Fishing Stream Report, Harry Murray discusses the trout fishing in March including the natural nymphs that are active early in the month and what flies to use to match the hatch. He also discusses the importance of the water temperature and how this prompts the nymphs to emerge into the adult flies.
In the second portion Harry discusses the specific locations in the rivers where you can expect to find bass in March along with the best tactics and flies that are effective.
Some of the most exciting smallmouth fly fishing takes place when they feed on natural Brown Drake mayflies. There are actually three different species that fall into the group which smallmouth anglers call Brown Drakes but since they act much alike in the stream and the fish feed the same way upon them we fish them all the same ways.
When the duns come off in the afternoon fish to the rising bass one on one with a Irresistible Dry Fly size 12 or fish beside the boulders in the riffles if there are no rising bass.
When the spinners fall at dusk use the same fly and fish these bass one on one by casting three feet ahead of a cruiser or by casting it quickly right at the riseform.
Heavy rains that last less than a day but deposit two or three inches of rain definitely cause our rivers to become too muddy to fish. However, I call this “quick water” because the rivers come up quickly but then they drop back quickly. The smallmouth fishing can be outstanding when the rivers drop back to where you can see your feet when you are standing in knee deep water. Under these conditions the bass are not as wary as they are in clear water. I have often fished sections of rivers when they are still carrying some extra color and had outstanding success, where a week before in clear water the action was very slow. Good flies in this falling water are the Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin Streamer size 4 and Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer size 4.
Harry Murray discusses how to find the trout in the stocked trout streams and the best tactics and flies to use to catch them.
Flies that are working: Murray’s Dark Stonefly Nymph size 12, Murray’s Yellow Stonefly Nymph size 16, and Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle Brown size 12
The second part includes the “change of pace” trout flies that are working well for us that match the natural foods in the mountain trout streams. Check out our “change of pace” trout fly assortment!
The last segment includes Harry’s new “Escaping Minnow” Streamer Technique as well as fishing hellgrammites and surface bugs on the Shenandoah River for smallmouth bass. Flies that are working include: Shenk’s White Streamer size 6, Murray’s Olive Marauder size 6, Heavy Black Hellgrammite size 4, Blue or Damsel/Black Popper size 6 and Shenandoah Chartreuse Popper size 6
Here are two simple steps that can easily double the number of successfully hooked fish on your streamer fishing. (1) Always follow the sweep of your streamer with your fly rod so the rod tip is pointed in the same upstream-downstream plan where the line leaves the river. This enables you to quickly feel the strike. (2) The instant you feel the strikes set the hook quickly with a quick line hand strike and a firm rod lifting motion.
In order to catch large bass consistently on hard surface bugs it is very important to be able to adjust the bug action to the type of water we are fishing. I have designed the Shenandoah Surface Bugs with this goal in mind. (1) For example, we often find bass feeding in water two feet deep along the shaded banks and a gentle teasing bug-action is very effective. The Shenandoah Slider with its long slim pointed nose is very productive here. (2) Four feet deep banks with fast currents produce large bass to a bug that can create a loud water-throwing action. The Shenandoah Chugger with its fat body and deeply cut face quickly brings these bass to the surface with a firm stripping action. (3) Grass beds and gentle current areas hold many bass that will take bug-action between these two extremes. The Shenandoah Popper with its long tapered body and up-sloping face will take many of these bass.
The most valuable skill a smallmouth angler can develop is learning to read the water accurately. The few minutes spent analyzing a section of a river in this way will give you more bass on the spot and a better understanding of all sections of the rivers in the future.
I see this as a three step process. First I strive to determine where the bass will be holding. The best of these areas are a combination of a feeding station and a holding area. The second step is determining where to present my fly so I can fish it effectively through the basses feeding station. The third step is positioning myself at the precise spot which will enable me to make my presentation accurately and swim my fly convincingly through the basses feeding station.
My angler’s calendar is very large, having about two inch square spaces for each date. This allows plenty of space for me to write in where I fished that day, the water temperature, the hatches, water level, my catch and any other important information. Each January when I get a new calendar I write in the above information from previous years. This brings back wonderful memories as I record these previous trips. It also helps me plan future fishing trips as I correlate the present stream conditions and hatches with what I did on past trips under similar conditions. Great fun!
I have a good friend who injured his right shoulder badly. Since he cast with his right hand he was very disappointed that he would loose a season’s fishing while he recovered from surgery. I encouraged him to just switch over and cast with his left hand which he did and he was able to fish the whole season.
In my fly fishing schools I have always had to cast with both hands to help all of my students. If you have not tried this give it a go. You will be pleased how well you do. After all you already know the proper casting technique.
When I wrote my first book Fly Fishing Techniques for Smallmouth Bass an editor with Field and Stream Magazine was very impressed with it. In his review of it he wrote… “Harry is trout fishing for smallmouth bass.”
Actually this is a good approach to improving your smallmouth fishing. If you have fished the large trout streams in the Rockies many of these techniques are very effective for smallmouth bass. For example, the same nymphing technique Charlie Brooks taught me on the Madison is the same method I teach anglers in my smallmouth bass schools. The same streamer tactics I learned on the Yellowstone River works very well on all smallmouth rivers. The same hopper methods I use on the upper Madison River are great on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River for smallmouths.
Bass Fly Fishing in the latter part of the season Podcast with Harry Murray discusses which flies to use and the techniques to use on the smallmouth bass rivers in the latter part of the fishing season. The popular fly for this time of the year is a Madtom Sculpin fly fished deeply with a sink tip fly line.
As fall is approaching Harry Murray gives you an update on the streams conditions when fishing for smallmouth bass and trout. The first part of this podcast is about the smallmouth fishing on the Shenandoah River and includes some of the flies that are working well for him. Shenandoah Gray Scaled Chugger–pictured here.
The second part of the podcast includes the trout fishing in the Shenandoah National Park for September along with the current hot flies including the Murray’s Flying Beetle. He also discusses what to expect on the stocked trout streams in October.
As the rivers temperatures drop the bass undergo a mini migration to deeper water which can range from five to eight feet deep. I switch to a SA Sink Tip III Line or a Teeny 200 Sinking Head Line at this time. Good flies are the Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker size 4 and the Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub size 4. In order to get good depth I use a 5 foot leader.
One of my most productive tactics is to wade or float down the shallow side of the river of these deep pools. I start in the head of the pool and cast across stream. After my streamer sinks deeply I swim it slowly across the stream bottom by stripping it six inches every ten seconds. I move slowly downstream stopping every five feet to repeat this same fly-swimming action. This methodical tactic shows your fly to every large bass in that pool so take your time.
Setting the hook on these deep swimming flies requires special attention to assure a high percentage of hooked bass. My favorite tactic is to use a fast line hand stripping action while lifting the rod firmly. I use 10lb. or 12lb. leaders to avoid breaking the bass off on the strike.
In this podcast Harry Murray covers tactics which work well for him as the smallmouth bass rivers get low. These include: 1) Fishing the tails of the pools with the Murray’s Floating Chub Minnows at dusk and dawn. 2) Fishing aquatic grass beds 3) Fishing river crossing ledges.
In the second part of the podcast Harry Murray discusses trout fishing the spring creeks and rich freestone streams with trico mayflies and terrestrial patterns late in the summer. He also covers the tactics and flies which are productive in the low clear mountain streams late in the summer.
Picture B–My switch rod enabled me to easily make a long cast out across the grass beds to catch this large bass.
The warm weather has kicked the local fly fishing in to gear! The North and South Fork of the Shenandoah River are both in great shape and are fishing well (for April). Kelly landed this 15 1/2 inch Smallmouth Bass on an Olive Marauder #6 on 4/7/2010. A Sink Tip III Fly Line will work well for helping to swim your flies deeply through the ledges and deep pockets. An 8 Wt. Fly Rod will help you cast the heavy flies and lines a bit better than a 6 or 7 that we typically use in the summer.
Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in the Shenandoah National Park has been very good with mayflies and caddis coming off throughout the day. There is still a lot of water so if you are willing to hike into the upper reaches of your favorite stream, you will likely be rewarded with a few more willing fish.
Check out our new flies for 2010
Murray’s Blond Bucktail Series,Â (Honey, Strawberry, Platinum)
Murray’s Magnum Series, (Bluegill, Creek Chub)
New Color for the Madtom/SculpinÂ (Olive)
You have heard as many theories on what color fly to use in each color of water known to anglers. This evening I tried a few of my favorites and found black to work quite well. The visibility into the water was about two feet and the river level is high, too high to wade on the North Fork of the Shenandoah North of Edinburg.
Will other colors work? Sure, I had success with both Olive and Chartreuse patterns (Roadkill and Marauder). I did not try any others though. Vince Marinaro used to say he preferred black because of it’s contrast (darker) with the muddy water. Since I give Vince a lot of credit as a knowledgeable angler, I tend to start off with this theory.
Another favorite theory employed around the shop is match the color of the water i.e. Olive Colored water = Olive Colored flies, clear water = white flies and so-on. Chartreuse? I don’t want to see water even close to Chartreuse but it works, sometimes seemingly better than any others, and so, out go the two above theories.
This afternoon turned out to be beautiful, a pleasant change from our recent stint of rain. As we floated the river, we watched a few youngsters from Edinburg bank fishing with their parents and were quite pleased to see they were having success in the catching department.
As you read this, I hope you have just returned from a fantastic trip to your favorite stream or river. As for the fishing, it was great! We caught quite a few bass and sunfish on Sink Tip III and V fly lines, yes there is a lot of water…. All looked great with no signs of illness on any of them.
Saturday fishing on the North Fork of the Shenandoah (before the rain) was great. Many smallmouth bass cooperated with our poppers, nymphs and streamers. This is a Rock Bass (aka: Goggle-Eye, Red-Eye) that was caught very close to a few spawning beds of its kind. Guess he thought my Brown Marauder looked like a threat to its nest.
Many fish (Redbreast, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Rock Bass and a variety of minnows) are either spawning now or making preparations to do so in the near future. If you are wading the rivers, please use caution not to step on/ in/ close to these redds.