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.
Several years ago I stopped in a fly shop in Montana which was owned by a good friend. One of his employees was an excellent fly tyer and the gentleman, who had never fished for smallmouth bass but knowing I fished for them often, pulled out several beautiful, well tied flies he called smallmouth streamers for me to see. I complimented him on the great appearance of his smallmouth streamers, some of which he had skillfully incorporated more than twenty different body parts. When we were outside in our car I turned to my son, Jeff, and said, “Those were some of the most beautiful smallmouth streamers I have ever seen, but I do not believe they will catch many fish because with all that material on them it will be next to impossible to sink them.”
Several years before this we had done extensive testing on new fly designs and found that in many cases the most sparsely tied nymphs and streamers caught the most bass and trout. I believe much of this success came from the facts that these flies sank well, were strongly suggestive of the natural nymphs and minnows I was striving to mimic and could easily be made to duplicate the swimming action of these naturals.
Some of our flies which fall into this classification are groups of flies in our Shenandoah Simple Streamer series for both bass and trout, the Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle series for both bass and trout, many of flies (although they are drys) in my “Change of Pace” trout series, the Murray’s Marauders, the Murray’s Floating Minnows and the Murray’s Strymphs.
The outstanding book, Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle shows how to tie and fish fifty two flies for trout, bass and in saltwater. If you are considering tying some new flies for your personal use I believe using the simple approach I have used in many of my flies and those Morgan Lyle discusses in his great book will help you catch many fish.
The North and South Fork of the Shenandoah are both in great shape for floating. The temperatures are in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s. We have done well with streamers fished slow and deep with sink tip fly lines. Olive Marauders and Black Madtom/ Sculpin in Size 4 or 6 have been working well.
Use caution if you are wading since there is still a lot of water in the river.
I have watched several anglers wading without a wader belt…. please do not do this! A wader belt is designed to keep your waders from filling up with water should you accidentally take a swim. Waders which are full of water make it very difficult to move/ swim which can lead to dire consequences in fast or deep water.
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.