Tag Archives: shiner minnows

Match the Minnows

Silver Outcast Streamer
Silver Outcast Streamer

About two hours before dark on a beautiful August evening I waded across the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, intending to fish one of my favorite riffles fifty yards downstream.  The water along the bank right in front of me was only two feet deep and the aquatic grassbed reached twenty feet out into the river. A large smallmouth bass crashed into the grass to catch a shiner minnow just upstream of me.  A few seconds later he captured another shiner minnow as he swam upstream along the edge of the grassbed. I felt this was too good for me to pass up! I cast a Silver Outcast Streamer upstream ahead of his path and he took it solidly. As I landed the large bass I noticed more bass chasing shiner minnows upstream through the grassbeds. By wading slowly upstream I caught many more large bass by going one on one with them as I spotted them chasing shiner minnows.
When you are on the water at dusk keep an eye out for this type action because it is very exciting.

Smallmouth Feed on Shiners in the Shallows


Smallmouth bass feeding on shiners in the shallows.  Shiner minnows inhabit the shallow gravel bars and offer one of the most exciting forms of fly fishing a serious angler can find.

In low light situations such as at dawn, dusk and in slightly discolored water the bass move onto the one to three foot deep gravel bars to feed on the schools of shiner minnows which are always there.  However, even in the low light levels the bass apparently are not comfortable in this shallow water for extended time periods.  Consequently they feed on the shiner minnows in a hit and run manner.  That is, they rush onto the gravel bars and grab as many minnows as they can in 5 to 10 seconds.

This feeding spree is manifested to us in what I call a CHASE. We seldom see the bass as they feed on the shiners but we clearly see the schools of dozens of them as they splash across the shallows to evade the bass.  Experience has shown me that it is important to be very cautious when fishing the chase.  Here is a tactic which works well for me.  When you spot the shiners splashing away from the bass I instantly cast a shiner fly such as a Silver Outcast three feet out in front of the fleeing minnows and strip it rapidly through the minnows.  My hope is that the bass will see my fly broadside as an easy target and will take it quickly.  Since the chase only last a few seconds I’ve found that I can make two more searching casts in the area of the chase with a good chance of catching him.  However, if I continue to make many casts there I scare the bass and he leaves the shallows.  A better ploy is to hold my casts, for in many cases he will take up another chase in about five minutes.  This time I’m ready for him and I can shoot my cast out in front of minnows with a good chance of taking him.

Not only is fishing the CHASE a great amount of fun but usually these are some of the largest bass.