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
You’ve stumbled upon a sexy piece of water to find a big ‘ol trout feeding in the tail of the run.
It’s one of the biggest trout you have ever seen. The one that sends chills down your spine. Without a second’s hesitation you rip line from your reel and begin your back cast as you stare intently at this fish moving side to side in the current. You judge your distance as best as you can in the moment and you fling your flies behind you… And this is where things typically start to go wrong. Did you get tangled in a tree limb behind you? Or worse, did you catch some of the Rhodo creeping over the water on the far bank? Or maybe you just made a bad cast and piled your line up, right on top of the trout that is now hunkered back under the undercut bank? If not, then that’s great! But, the vast majority of us tend to get ourselves into trouble when we are faced with such a situation.
Buck fever is the damnedest thing. It still happens to me, and will probably continue to plague me. It happens to all of us. We’re having a great day, fishing away, casting smoothly, and we’re aware of what’s going on around us. Then we catch sight of the fish that haunts our dreams, and that adrenaline immediately hits our bloodstream. Suddenly, it’s as if we’ve morphed into a raging monkey swinging a football bat. We forget where we are, flies sling wildly through the air, and we stumble over every little pebble. We even bury 3/0 hooks into our backs. It’s a wonder that we don’t completely drown ourselves sometimes. As insane as this can get sometimes, it’s also completely normal.
Normal as it may be, here are a few tips to keep you grounded and put together so you can make your best presentations when they really count:
Stop! : Slow down grasshoppa! You feel that tingly feeling rushing over your body? That’s called adrenaline and it’s a monster. It will ruin the best of casters. Now is not the timeRead More »
On Thursday, June 8th, I go in for my tenth eye surgery. It’s been a long time since I posted an update about my eye condition. I quickly got tired of writing about it and I’m sure most of you got tired of reading about it. In the absence of good news, I opted for no news. Many of you have emailed asking how I’m doing, so here’s a report. Four years after what I thought would be a six week interruption in my routine, I am headed in for my tenth surgery and that seems like the only thing in my life that is still routine. I have no really usable vision in my right eye now. Not for a long time. I’m on my fourth retina surgeon, as I seem to wear them out, and we are running out of option for this eye. Ten surgeries seems like an extreme effort to save an eye that doesn’t do much for me but there are reasons we’ve gone to such lengths. Although my left eye is doing well, there will always be the risk of the same thing happening to it, so any vision we can save is worth what it takes. I guess. These surgeries are not like cataract surgeries or other more common eye procedures. They are really tough with long recovery periods, often requiring me to be face down in bed for months after. The toll this is taking on the rest of my body is not insubstantial. Briefly, for those of you who have not read previous updates, my eye was damaged by a botched cataract surgery in 2019. My retina detached and I developed a condition called Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy, PVR for short. With PVR the retina continues to build scar tissue and tear itself … Continue readingRead More »
By Rod Hamilton
Standing beside our overheated car, an hour north of Cancun, my three-week fishing adventure to the Yucatan was off to a rocky start.
Weeks of preparation and planning had gone into this trip and with military precision three of us were going to explore as much of the Yucatan as possible. The end game being to collect the remaining material I required for my next book due out in December, Fly Fishing The Yucatan.
What I had failed to do was build into the itinerary eight hours on the side of the road in one hundred degree heat. Clearly an oversight since I have been fishing the Yucatan for more than ten years and should have expected that something “exciting” would happen.
Accompanied by co-authors Rhett Schober and Nick Denbow, the mission was to fish the Yucatan starting in the north at Rio Lagartos and over the next twenty one days, work our way south along the Caribbean coast eventually ending at the Belize border.
We could have outfitted a small fly shop with all the gear we had, including three inflatable SUP’s. Fly rods in hand we booked days with independent guides, lodges and fished on our own when we could. But secretly I had fallen in love with the romantic notion of catching all of the target species; tarpon, permit, bonefish, snook, jacks and barracuda from the platform of my SUP.
Dealing with the disabled car, we arrived in Rio Lagartos in the early morning hours. Grabbed a couple of hours sleep then dragged our sorry, tired butts down to the dock. Coffee in hand we met up with our guide, Isamael Navarro of The Rolling Silver Tarpon Club.
We stashed the gear into Isamael’s twenty-foot panga and made the three-minute run to the fishing grounds. Peering through the early morning mist, with the engine off we could hear and see tarpon to 35 pounds all around us. As with all trips, the travel and troubles from yesterday were now a distant memory. Rhett jumped on the SUP we had loaded, began casting a #4 Black Death and was soon into a leaping slab of silver. Rhett wouldn’t make it as a performer in Cirque du Soleil, but did manage to stay upright while fighting and landing the first tarpon of our trip.
Weary and bedraggled from our first day of fishing, the traveling band of misfits (that would be us) loaded all our gear into the back of a truck heading in the general direction (did I mention we didn’t have a car) of our next stop, Isla Holbox. Excitement was off the charts anticipating our time with one of Mexico’s most famous guides, Alejandro Vega Cruz of the Holbox Tarpon Club.
Alejandro and his family are fantastic hosts and his fishing expertise lived up to his reputation. We had a marvelous time working the flats sixty minutes south of his lodge, visiting the areas where he had fished and grew up as a child. We all caught fish under his watchful eye, but the highlight was handing him a fly rod and watching a master of our sport, cast. Poetry is what comes to mind as we watched 100 feet of fly line effortlessly leave the bottom of the boat.
Isla Holbox is an interesting place to visit and offers a laid back, relaxed vacation destination for those who want more than just a week of tarpon fishing. Beautiful, manicured, sandy beaches engulf a funky artist vibe that you can’t help but embrace as you poke around the island in your rented golf cart.
Next on the itinerary was Isla Blanca, located on the outskirts of Cancun. It barely gets mentioned when talking about flats fishing. Yet an hour from the dock your guide will be polling over some of the finest flats in the Caribbean. We were fortunate to get hooked up with Edwin Patron of Cancun Fly Fishing Express who picked us up at our Cancun hotel and drove us to his nicely outfitted panga.
Without the hyperbole of a typical fishing story, the chances are very good an average fisherman will have shots at tarpon, permit and bones. That day we hooked all three species and as a bit of a permit snob I can tell you we had something like twenty shots at the shyest of flats fish and landing a couple by days end. The real treasure of Isla Blanca isRead More »
Blackwaters isn’t really a film about fly fishing. My buddy Chad Brown called the other day to tell me about the latest project he’s been involved with. When you get that call from Chad, you know it’s going to be interesting, and its going to be a conversation worth having. The project is a film called Blackwaters. Fly fishing being the excuse for five black men to go on a camp trip to the wilds of Alaska. If you’re not black, and most of our readers are not, you may not be aware that the wilderness does not always feel like a safe place for Black Americans. I feel sure that choice was intentional. The stage is set for a substantive conversation on the topic of being male and being black in 2023. The fishing is secondary. In the end it is, in fact, a conversation worth having. The Premier of Blackwaters will be Aug 26, 1-5pm at Billy Frank Jr Conference Center 721 NW Ninth Ave Second floor Portland, OR 97209 You can find information and other showings at https://blackwatersfilm.comRead More »
Odds are, you paid good money for that fly reel, don’t let it go to waste.
One of the most common fish-fighting mistakes anglers make is not making good use of the reel. I see this most commonly in anglers who are making the transition from freshwater to salt, but it exists in all types of fly fishing. Well, maybe not tenkara.
Most modern fly reels have drag systems, which are both powerful and precise. In the old days, fly reel drag did little more than help prevent backlash, but today’s reels are effective fish-fighting machines designed to land fish efficiently. Once you have a feel for using a fly reel, you’ll find that you land more fish and land them quicker.
There are basically two things you need to know about fighting fish with a fly reel: how tight to set the drag and how to fight a fish with the given drag setting. Before I dive into the technical stuff, I will touch on a few basics for those who are completely new to the sport. If you are an advanced angler, skim over the next three paragraphs.
Unlike spinning reels, fly reels are direct drive reels. This means that in order for the spool to spin under drag, your winding hand must let go of the reel. I know, that’s dead obvious, but getting the winding hand off the reel quickly when a fish starts to run is a skill new anglers struggle with.
Your fly reel should have two types of line. Your fly line, the weight of which is matched to your rod. This is the line you cast to deliver the fly. The reel should also have backing. Usually Dacron, the backing is attached to the spool and then to the back end of the fly line. This line is there for fighting big fish which make long runs. It is not as strong as your fly line, so be careful not to put too much pressure on a fish when the backing is out or you may lose your fly line. This is important with large species like tarpon. Backing will also cut like a knife when under tension, so don’t touch it during the fight.
Once the reel is mounted to the rod, the line should come off the front of the reel and make a straight line to the first guide, without touching the frame. When you strip line off the reel in preparation for casting, always pull the line out along the rod. Never strip it off the reel with the line in contact with the frame of the reel. This will damage your line and cause it to twist and tangle.
Setting the drag
There are a couple of important things to consider when setting your drag. The most important isRead More »
“The pond was full of those great lily pads, and I guess that’s where the problem started.”
I guess I should be happy, but I’m not.
Ever since my in-laws moved to South Carolina the compulsory visits have had a silver lining. I discovered a little bass pond just down the road. It’s a sort of neighborhood open space and I’ve seen a few folks fish it but very few. Maybe an acre total, you can fish about sixty percent of it from the bank if you’re a good caster.
I am, SO not a bass fisherman. My brother is quite good at it so I’m well aware of my shortcomings. I have a lot of respect for the guys who can go out on those big lakes and find the channels and structure, temperature changes and whatever else causes bass to find a happy home in, what looks to me, like featureless water. I’ve never been motivated to learn all of that. In part because bass just don’t blow my skirt up.
They’re a cool fish and all, I’m just so in love with the brightly colored trout that bass don’t get a lot of my attention. I also freely admit that I have no interest at all in going seventy miles per hour in a boat. It scares the shit out of me and I bear no shame for that. I find it aesthetically more pleasing to walk to my fish and it’s easier on my nerves. That said, a bass pond is just my speed.
It’s been great, at Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter, to just sneak off for and hour or two at the end of the day and deposit a little of my stress into a fly line. There is just something terribly satisfying about watching the chug-chug of a bass popper get violently interrupted by a falling bowling ball. It’s not the most challenging fishing but, that’s kind of the point.
This little pond in the South Carolina low country is just beautiful. Enough trees to find some shade but not so many that casting is impossible. A healthy frog population so the popper fishing is great. I’ve had fish bust through the lily pads to eat a popper sitting on top. The pond was full of those great lily pads, and I guess that’s where the problem started.
I don’t know if the alligator was attracted to the lily pads but he certainly liked the bass that hung out around them. Whatever the reason, this gator happily took up residence in the pond and it caused a minor hysteria among the neighbors, my in-laws included. ApparentlyRead More »
When you’re traveling abroad on a fly fishing trip that you’ve meticulously planned out for months in advance, the last thing you want to deal with is equipment problems. That was exactly the case Louis and I ran into several years ago heading out to Wyoming for a week long fly fishing trip with our good friend Bruce Wayne, a.k.a “Batman”.Read More »
When tying fly patterns, it’s very important that you try your best to incorporate several different elements of fly design to increase their effectiveness. No one knows with complete certainty what order or priority trout rank each element of a food source or fly pattern, but most anglers agree that the value or ranking of the elements often change depending on how long a trout has been selectively feeding on a specific food source, at what frequency the specific food source is being eaten, and how diverse or consistent a trout’s diet is at the present moment. The order of the elements that I will talk about in know way ranks the importance of the elements. Instead, fly tiers should look at them together as a whole, and try to include as many as possible or as a check list of the features a fly pattern should have when completed. Doing so, they should find there fly patterns more effective on the water for fooling and catching trout. In this post, I will specifically talk about eight different elements of fly design that fly tiers should pay close attention to when tying fly patterns at the vise.Read More »
Quite likely the most frustrating thing for an angler who is new to salt water is the strip set.
A dedicated freshwater angler will have thousands of hours of muscle memory to overcome. I did it myself time after time. I’d see a fish eat and my arm, without permission from my brain, would raise the rod tip and off would swim a happy bonefish. Then I would hear my friend Josie Sands, from the platform, “da ain’t no trout in the Bahamas Louis”. To be fair, as frustrating as this is for the angler it may be worse on the guide. He has to deal with this almost every day.
I wish I had a silver bullet to offer that would solve this problem for you instantly, but I don’t. It just takes focus and practice. However here are a few suggestions that may help. First, don’t beat yourself up. Every guy who stands on that bow has gone through this. You are not a moron, you just feel like one. Self loathing will not help.
Second, stay focused. There is a lot to think about and when you spot fish things happen quickly. Try this. When a fish turns and chases your fly,Read More »