Any fly angler who has ever battled a smallmouth bass knows that these are fish were made for the fly rod. They're aggressive, take flies readily and fight like fish twice their size.
But if you really want the full experience, you need to pursue them in flowing water. These fish, which spend their lives fighting the current, are stronger and provide far more of a thrill, in my experience at least. Catch a 3-pound river smallmouth and you've been to the Promised Land. They are as fun as it gets.
The best part is that this sort of fishing combines all the technique and fun of trout fishing with the joy of summer wading or floating. On a smallmouth creek in July, you can't help but feel happy.
My go-to flies there are wooly buggers and these generally work just fine — I figure because they imitate dragon-flies in their aquatic form, which are prevalent there. Bucktails like Waterman's Silver Outcast, Black-nosed daces and Mickey Finns work very well too. The flowing water was tailor-made for tri-colored bucktails like these, which imitate a profusion of baitfish. Also, don't discount how effective the muddler minnow can be. They can be deadly fishing on the surface or lower.
One thing some trout anglers need to be reminded of is not to get sloppy just because you are fishing for a non-trout species. Sometimes, these smallmouth can get surprisingly fussy too.
I recall one day when nothing but a pheasant tail nymph would do. I have had other days when the dry fly fishing for smallmouth over those deeper, slick pools has been nothing short of spectacular and the only way to go.
I like to fish streamers aggressively, fan casting close and then expanding my range. With nymphs, wet flies and dries, I fish for them just as I would trout and in fact try to perfect my wet fly swings and nymph tactics in these waters.
Smallmouth, especially in a good current, are a force to be reckoned with and often times they'll sit just over a boulder-strewn bottom or stationed before or after large rocks. If these things are in close proximity to a current seam, you've found a highly likely location to fish.
The point is that just because the dog days of summer are upon us and the trout fishing has dried up, there's no reason to put the fly rod away. Get out there on your favorite smallmouth water, use the same rod and flies and perfect your techniques on some of the scrappiest and sportiest native fish out there.
The smallmouth bass is, quite simply, just what the doctor order this time of year. Get out there and fill the prescription.