Fly Fishing Bass Ponds – 101

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How to Fly Fish Bass Ponds. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Believe it or not, I’ve probably spent just as much time fly fishing on bass ponds in my life than I’ve spent traveling around chasing trout. Fishing farm ponds is where I originally found my love for fly fishing. From 5th grade until I graduated high school, my daily afternoon routine consisted of dropping off my backpack, and picking up a fly rod until the dinner bell rang. I was religious about it, and many that new me may even argue I was a little OCD. Looking back on it all now, there’s a good chance I was, but it’s all good because it molded me into the angler I am today. That’s why, when I look back on those childhood memories or find myself randomly driving by one of those small 2-acre ponds, I pay my respects and give thanks.

Fly fishing for bass on ponds is a great way to get into the sport. There’s usually plenty of fish, and you always stand a good chance at catching them. One of the greatest things about ponds in my opinion, is that most of them are small enough to fish their entirety from the bank. And the smaller the piece of water you’re fishing, the easier it is to locate fish. If you don’t agree, go out on a big public lake, and you’ll quickly understand what a bonus this is for an angler.

The eight years and thousands of hours I spent fly fishing bass ponds growing up, I learned a great deal about fishing them. Below is a list of tips that I’d like to pass on in the hopes it will help others find success.

1. Casting parallel to the bank allows you to quickly locate where the fish are holding and feeding.

It didn’t take me long fishing ponds to figure out the best method for consistently catching fish was casting my flies parallel to the banks of ponds. The reason it’s so effective is because it allows you to cover water systematically and thoroughly. Furthermore, when you cast parallel to the bank you can follow your fly with the natural contours of the pond, work it along edges and keep your flies in similar water throughout your retrieve. Instead of spending your time casting out into deep water and working your flies back to you, start out casting your flies just off the bank, then slowly working your parallel casts outward into deeper water. Doing so, you’ll be able to locate where the majority of the fish are located and feeding, eliminate unproductive water and concentrate your efforts and first casts in the hot zones.

2. Bass are just like trout, in the fact that they go where the most food is located.

Warmwater species of fish are very similar to trout, in the fact that they spend most of their life span staying close to their food sources. The majority of the food found in ponds is located in close proximity to the banks. This is even more true when your fly fishing on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure. If you take the time to look along the banks, you’ll find bream and juvenile bass, newly hatched fry, frogs and tadpoles, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and crayfish. All of these species use the banks and it’s vegetation in and out of the water for cover and safety. If they venture out into open water, they know their sitting ducks for predators. Bass use two methods for foraging on their food sources. They either set up stationary in ambush spots close to cover or structure awaiting prey, or they stay on the move, slowly patrolling the waters where the majority of their food sources are located.  The key here, is to have a strategy with your presentations. Don’t randomly cast your flies around the pond.

3. Bass can be spooky just like trout.

A lot of novice fly anglers seem to think bass pay little attention to their safety and feed with total abandon. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Maintaining stealth during your approach and your presentations can often determine whether or not you find success on ponds. Move slowly and quietly at all times, and make your first presentations count. Pay attention to the distance of your casts and the water your targeting. Work a section of water thoroughly and then move down the bank so that your next cast has your fly landing into fresh water. This will ensure you’re not prematurely alerting fish.

4. Repetitive casts will catch you more fish.

Always make multiple casts to your target water before moving on. Bass aren’t always convinced on your first cast. Sometimes it may take a dozen attempts before you pursued the bass to eat your fly. Keep your confidence and believe every cast is going to the be the one that ends with big bass hook up.

5. Pay attention to wind direction when fly fishing on ponds.

Wind plays just as much of a role on ponds as it does on big lakes. It creates current, pushes and concentrates bait and influences bass to feed more in certain areas. If you’re fishing a pond and you’ve had consistent winds for a period of a couple hours or more, you should first focus your fishing on the downwind side of the pond. Generally, in this situation, the majority of the bass will prefer to position themselves and feed on the downwind side of the pond.

6. Match the retrieve speed of your flies with the current water temperature.

The metabolism of bass lowers as water temperatures drop, and rises when water temperatures increase. It directly effects how much energy and effort a bass will expend to forage on food. So always remember the colder the water, the slower your retrieve speed should be, and the warmer the water the faster you can swim your flies and still find success. Not only should water temperature determine what canter or retrieve speed you choose, it also should influence how thorough you cover water before moving on. The colder the water, the smaller the strike zone or feeding area around a bass will be. This means during the colder months or during cold fronts, it’s very important that you get your flies as close as possible to the bass and work the water more precisely. On the contrary, when water temperatures are warmer, the strike zone of bass often increases, and this allows you to cover water more quickly, and it’s not as crucial to get your fly as close to the bass.

7. Don’t just cover water horizontally, cover it vertically as well.

Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing also demands that you retrieve your fly in the correct water column or depth of where the fish are located. Bass are not always going to be willing to come to the surface to feed. Particularly if they’re positioned stationary in ambush points in deeper water. Start out by working your flies on or close to the surface and then continue to move them deeper if you’re not getting bites. Use a count down system (counting to ten) to help you control the depth of your flies. Slow your retrieve down if you feel your flies aren’t getting deep enough.

8. Utilize a stop and go retrieve to trigger more strikes.

Retrieving your flies with a stop and go retrieve often works better than keeping a steady or constant retrieve. Doing so, your fly will mimic a dying or injured food source and it also can trigger reaction strikes by triggering the predatory instincts in bass. A stop and go retrieve also works great for keeping your fly in the strike zone longer, where sometimes a few extra seconds is the key to getting a strike.

9. Dirty or murky water is your friend.

Many anglers lose their confidence when they’re fishing dirty or stained water conditions. It’s actually a good thing most of the time for anglers, because it pushes bass into shallow water, close to cover (vegetation, wood, structure) and also provides added stealth for you, by masking your presence.  Just remember that dirty water limits the distance bass can see, and they will rely more heavily on their hearing and lateral line to locate and zero-in on food. Choose flies that push water, make noise (rattles or surface commotion) and in a color that’s easier for the bass to see in stained water.

10. Topwater can be effective year round.

The average pond is relatively shallow in design. Most max out under ten feet deep. This allows you to fish topwater fly patterns with success year round, even in the dead of winter. Not only that, but many of the food sources that bass forage on in ponds can be imitated on the surface. Understanding this, I spent a great deal of time fishing topwater on ponds and many of my biggest catches came from topwater. When your fishing topwater on ponds, make your cast and then let it sit still for a least a few seconds before you begin your retrieve. This will allow time for the bass to zero-in on your offering and begin to investigate. Experiment with your retrieve speed and always use a stop and go retrieve with topwater. You’ll find a large portion of your bites will come when your fly is not moving. Lastly, the colder the water, the slower your retrieve needs to be. In the dead of winter, I would regularly chug a popper two or three times and then let the fly sit for 3o seconds or more before resuming my retrieve.

11. Small flies will catch big fish too.

During the summer months or when there’s lots of smaller baitfish available in the pond, you often can have more success if you downsize your fly patterns. If you’re not having luck with your larger fly patterns, try matching the size of your fly with the size of the most dominant food source.

12. Time of day can be critical for success.

Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing has hot and cold periods during the day, and they change according to the weather and time of year. During the warmer months, you generally will find that the best fishing times for bass will be early and late in the day. During the winter, it’s the opposite, and anglers should concentrate on fishing during the warmest times of the day.

13. Moving water should always be fished.

A lot of ponds have springs or culverts that are used to transfer water or drain runoff during heavy rainfall. The moving water constantly adds oxygen and brings in new food into the pond ecosystem. Bass understand this and will position themselves here for easy feeding. The more water and current there is, the more productive these areas will be. Alway fish them thoroughly, especially after rainfall.

14. Concentrate on deep water in the winter and during heat waves in the summer.

Bass will prefer to hold in deep water when water temperatures are extremely cold and hot. Locating the dam or fishing the deepest parts of the pond can be critical for catching bass during these periods. Bass also will move into deeper water during cold fronts and extreme weather (large changes in barometric pressure).

15. Where there’s bream there’s always bass close by.

Almost all ponds are stocked with bream and they also happen to be one of the favorite foods for big bass. So where you find bream or sunfish, you always should expect bass to be close by. Locate bream in the pond and work your flies in and around these locations. Often big pass will move in from deep water to ambush bream. I’ve witnessed many big bass over the years feeding on bream and they usually keep a set route they swim over and over. Take the time to study the water for a few minutes when you locate concentrations of bream, and quite often, you’ll be able to time your presentation right when a bass is moving into ambush a school of bream.

There’s 15 tips for fly fishing bass ponds to get you started on improving your success. I could continue on with dozens more, but for now we’ll end the post here. If you want to hear more on this subject, drop us a comment and I’ll plan on posting a Fly Fishing Bass Ponds – 102.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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27 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Bass Ponds – 101

  1. Having just fished a 3.5 acre farm pond on Labor day Monday with my two sons I affirm all your tips. They are spot on as always. I too LOVE farm ponds.
    I have been fishing this same pond since I was 3 years old. My father started taking me there 57 years ago.
    It is one of my favorite spots on earth.
    I would add one tip that I wish my father would have known about when he fished his old bamboo. Trout fishing introduced me to the dropper fly. Adding a dropper to that popping bug sures adds to the action. Quality blue gill and bass love a dropper.

    • Ben,

      Thanks for the dropper tip, it will catch you more fish for sure. It was on my radar and I was going to add it to the next post, if you guys want me to do a follow up.

      There’s nothing like a life long relationship with a pond is there? It sounds like a slice of heaven. After hearing you taking your kids I think I’m going to have to do the same thing. Multiple generations fishing the same water is really cool. Thanks for your comment.

      Kent

  2. I literally last week started fly fishing for bass on labor day….and I’d love to see more info on this topic ( but don’t stop the gorgeous trout pics….I live vicariously ;) )

    • Louis,

      I think that was 9th or 10th grade. Grateful Dead t-shirts were all the fad. I was a big golfer back then too. Won a few golf tourney’s even, but fishing always commanded my full attention.

      Kent

  3. Funny, this post and the comment about life-long love affairs with a particular pond. I spent Monday evening sneaking onto a pond I spent a large part of my youth fishing. Long story, but it was good to be back – even if I was looking over my shoulder for the sheriff. I don’t think there’s much in fly fishing to match a good bass blowing up on a deer hair bug. One thing I find works is to mix the retrieve up – a popping bug doesn’t have to “pop”. Long slow pulls with long pauses in between can really piss some bass off. Probably obvious – not really a “tip”, but something I remind myself to do often. Also, don’t ignore the late-night commando expedition to the bass pond. Casting into the dark and waiting to hear that explosion when a fish hits is pretty thrilling.

    JB

    • Junior,

      What a weird coincidence you were just fishing a chilhood pond the other day. Your the second person that brang that up.

      You are so right about fishing them at dusk and at night. Its super fun. Thanks for the retrieve tip as well.

      Kent

  4. Hell yeah, do another one. Always good to hear other’s ideas. I’m a warm water fly fisher but am trying to get into the trout stuff. And when it comes to bugs the more rubber legs the better. They add movement even when it’s sitting still.

    • Roger,

      If I keep hgetting great tips like this one I won’t even have to write the second post, ha. Rubber legs is one tying material any warm water fly fisherman makes sure never to run out of. If they do, they’re quick to strip their jigs and spinnerbait skirts.

      Glad you found the post helpful.

      Kent

  5. As someone who lives 300 miles from a trout stream, most all my fly fishing is for bass and bluegill. I would love to hear more from ya’ll.

    I agree whole heartily that this is the best place to get someone hooked on fly fishing. Bass and bluegill will eat anything in front of them. Don’t forget that those trout flys can trick the largest of bluegill when they’ve been pressured all summer long.

  6. Looks like this post got more than the average number of responses. For me it embraces where I started my life long addiction to fishing. We all start somewhere and for many it is in a pond…

  7. Ditto in that it’s great to read about warm water fly fishing on the Gink! One tip I’ve found that works is if I am fishing from the bank, and I spot a potential honey hole that is close to the shore, I back way up and cast so that only my leader hits the water, so I don’t risk lining them with my first cast.

  8. I agree with you, having a few shallow small ponds in my area, but, most of them are medium to large lake here in Eastern Canada with large and small mouth bass, and those lake are most of them very deep, 50 to 100 feet. Your comment on this situation. I often troll with sinking lines with good result.

  9. Good stuff. New to bass fishin’ on the fly. Got access to a big pond/ small lake near Big Canoe, Ga. Gonna hit it up in a few weeks. Ain’t got a clue about bass bugs. Any suggestions for flies?

    Cheers-
    Elroy

    • Elroy,

      I like poppers, divers, wiggle minnows, rubberlegged articulated streamers, baitfish and bream streamers, woolly buggers, bream poppers, frog patterns, terrestrial dry flys, and large nymphs as droppers. Fly assortments should be a mix of floating and sinking patterns.

      Experiment and find out what patterns work best for you.

      Kent

  10. Pingback: Fly Fishing Bass Ponds 102 | Gink and Gasoline, The Blog home of Kent Klewein and Louis Cahill-Fly Fishing photography, video, tips and news.

  11. great Information and thanks for the great blog. Living in coastal georgia I rarely get to my NC or North Ga streams so I am now reading up on pond/lakes for my flyfishing obsession ! I travel frequently in Ga and SC so in new towns. Questions- how would you find the ponds ( state web sites, local bait stores ) and any suggestions on fishing from a bank ? waders or do you get in the water- do you worry about snakes , and do you only fish where the banks are not overgrown ? sorry for all the questions but there is so much to learn . T

  12. Thanks for the advice. I also try to improve my fly fish’n skill. Pond bass is also where I learn the only way I care to fish, with a fly rod.
    I’ve always had very good success. Thanks for adding these tips.

    Neat little story but many years ago I went with my brother and father to a pond that a part of it with a large shallow shelf. I caught a 5 gallon bucket full of baby catfish on a white and red fly. Didn’t really want to but my father and brother demanded I keep catching them. Was a strange experince.

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