12 Smallmouth Bass Patterns For The Fall

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Fall is one of the best times of the year for fly anglers wanting to target big smallmouth bass on reservoirs.

Particularly if the lake impoundment has good populations of shad, blueback herring, or other native baitfish. Fly fisherman fishing surface poppers and subsurface baitfish patterns to these schools of bass can be rewarded with big bronzebacks. The fall brings positive changes in fish behavior and fishing conditions from cooler air temperatures and increased rainfall.  For the first time in several months, water temperatures drop significantly on reservoirs which triggers an increase in baitfish activity. Smallmouth bass counter offensively by congregating themselves into schools and driving the baitfish into shallow water where they’ll ball the bait up for easing feeding.

Smart anglers will search out smallmouth bass and the baitfish around the same spawning grounds they visited in the spring during the pre-spawn and spawn. The only difference is during the fall smallmouth bass aren’t’ spawning, they’re instead using these shallow areas of the lake to ambush and corral baitfish. Anglers should also concentrate on main lake points and flats located close to deep water, since smallmouth bass will use these areas to feed as well. It’s best to get on the lake early when the topwater bite is hot. Daylight until ten o’clock in the morning is generally the best  for breaking fish, but the evening until dusk can be very good as well.

After the sun gets up

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Flats Fishing is not All Sunshine

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I was in The Fish Hawk picking up a few things before heading to the Florida Keys for my first ever week of flats fishing.

My friend Gary Mariman asked me where I was going. When I told him he gave me a piece of advice that saved my trip.

“Take a fleece,” were the first words out of his mouth.

“Really?” I thought. It was already warm enough in Atlanta that I wasn’t carrying a fleece. “You’ll freeze your ass off,” he insisted. Gary, the creator of the Tarpon Toad, knows a thing or two about flats fishing so I took his advice and he was right. I’d have died without that fleece.

It’s tempting to think that it never gets cold in the tropics but I have fished in the Bahamas in two layers of fleece. That was highly unusual but I’ll never go down there without one. I’ve fished in the Keys in April when the temperature never made it to seventy. Even if it’s not uncomfortable to fish in shirt sleeves, running in the boat can get chilly.

The big couplet is water. If you get caught in the rain or splashed by spray you can get hypothermic on a chilly run. You never want to be on a flats boat without rain gear no matter what the weatherman says. The spray from the ocean is just as wet as the rain. Carry a good

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Bonefishing: No Dancing Allowed!

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By Louis Cahill

This is the number one mistake I see that keeps anglers from catching bonefish.

I know it’s simple but it absolutely couldn’t be more important. I see it happen time after time. Anglers loose their shot at a bonefish and usually don’t even know why. It gets passed off with, “Man their spooky today!” or “Something ran that fish off,” when the truth is, it was you.

The sound of a careless step on the bow is enough to spook a wary bonefish. The rocking of the boat by an angler casting with locked knees will spook a fish who isn’t smart enough to find his own tail. I see it all the time.


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Tie The White Tiger

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It was a windy day in November on the west side of South Andros.

My buddy Bruce Chard had tied up a fly he called the White Tiger. It was big and gaudy and orange and every time it hit the water the bonefish went crazy. We stuck so many big bones that day it was silly so when we got back to the lodge I asked Bruce to tie the White Tiger for a video. If your going bone fishing don’t go without a White Tiger.


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When Rigging For Bonefish On The Fly, Less Can Be More

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I got the chance recently to fish with my buddy Kristen Mustad from Nautilus Reels. I’m not sure Kristen ever fishes the same reel twice. And can you blame him? There’s always a new prototype to test and it is his job to never be satisfied with a reel. When Kristen lined up his new CCFX2 I noticed him doing something odd. He cut off about thirty feel of the back end of a brand new fly line. I had to ask way, and the answer made me rethink how I rig for bonefish.

“How often do you make a hundred and twenty foot cast?” Kristen asked me. “So the rest of the time, what’s that line doing? It’s creating drag in water when the fish cuts.” He makes a brisk gesture to the right with his hand to illustrate his point.

Bonefish are notorious for that. They will make a blistering run, putting you deep into your backing then make a ninety-degree turn. That’s often when they break off or straighten the hook. As they run at thirty-five mph, at ninety degrees to your line, all of that line is ripped through the water and the resulting pressure is far greater than the drag of your reel. It’s happened to me and it’s a bad feeling.

The pressure which the line puts on the fish is directly related to the diameter of the line. The thicker the line, the more pressure it puts on the fish and the greater the risk you will lose him. Fly line creates more drag than backing and that’s why Kristen cuts off the part of the line he’s not casting. Less fly line, less drag.

He takes it a step further though. Instead of using

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The Woolly Bugger Isn’t all that, Or is it?

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This isn’t Montana, Your Not Norman Maclean, and the Woolly Bugger isn’t all that.
This was a bumper sticker a guide buddy of mine had printed up a few years back. It was prominently displayed for his clients to read when they pulled up to greet him. That’s one hell of an ice breaker for checking fishing egos at the boat ramp, let me tell you. I give my boy J.E.B. Hall props for his comedic humor and gutsy style. For those of you who don’t know J.E.B., he’s a veteran Western North Carolina guide, Author of Southern Appalachian Fly Guide, and has spent multiple seasons guiding at Alaska West. Meet him one time and you’ll say to yourself, “this guy is the Johnny Knoxville of fishing”.

Most anglers fall into one of two categories when it comes to their perception of woolly buggers. They either love them or despise them. I love the fly pattern for two reasons. First, for its impressionistic design that’s capable of mimicking many different trout foods, and second, for its versatility in how the pattern can be fished. It’s rare for me to not break out a woolly bugger at some point during the day. When trout aren’t biting, I almost always can find fish willing to snack on them. The only time I keep woolly buggers out of the game and sitting on the bench, is when I’m fishing water where dry flies are the only thing required.

I believe in the woolly bugger so much, If I only had one pattern that I could take with me fishing, that would be it. Why the woolly bugger, you ask? Because it has probably caught more species of fish on this planet than any other fly pattern created since fly fishing was born. Now if I asked Jim Teeny, he would probably argue with me on this one, but what can I say, 90% of the time Jim strictly fishes his signature Teeny Nymph. And why shouldn’t he, the man has caught everything from steelhead to 100lb. tarpon on that fly. But if the tables were turned, and Jim Teeny would have invented the woolly bugger, I’d lay out a strong bet that’s what he’d be fishing instead. I meant no disrespect towards Jim Teeny, the man is a fish catching machine and a pioneer of the sport. He was just the perfect person to make my point on how effective woolly buggers are at catching fish, and I honestly couldn’t help myself.

The Design and Theory behind the Woolly Bugger
The Woolly bugger looks very simplistic at a quick glance, but look at it a little longer, and you’ll see its not your average, run of the mill, fly pattern. When you take the time to break apart the woolly bugger and study its design closer, you’ll notice each

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13 Proven Streamer Patterns for Trout

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13 Big streamer patterns that get big results!

I wrote an article stressing about the importance of experimenting with different streamer retrieve speeds and stripping lengths, until you find a winning combination that the trout find the most enticing. Generally, when you’re paying close enough attention when your streamer fishing, you’ll notice one type of streamer retrieve that works hands down better than the rest. If you don’t find this to be the case and you’re not catching fish with streamers, it probably isn’t the best tactic for the day you’re fishing. My testimony and theories provided in my previous post were gathered from many years of streamer fishing for trout, but were validated and backed up further from guide trips as recent as this past week. We had several comments on the post, with one of our followers requesting I write a follow up post showcasing some of my favorite streamer patterns. Here you go Matt.

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Small Stream Structure- Holes, Bends, Runs Etc.

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By Jason Tucker

In the public mind there is probably no feature that comes more readily to mind than the Ole Fishin’ Hole. 

A lot of non-fishers think that is what fishing is about- going to a big, well-known hole, soaking bait, waiting for the fish to bite. I certainly spent a lot of my childhood believing this was the way to fish. 

Especially once you get into fly fishing, you realize those big holes don’t hold all the fish, and probably are some of the least interesting places for the fly angler. After all, fish on the bottom of that big hole aren’t likely to rise eight feet through the water to hit your fly. Learning to identify fish holding water and cover on a small stream is just as important as your casting and fly selection. It is especially important because you need to identify these spots from a distance, pick out the likely fish holding lies, so that you can stealthily approach the spot and present your fly. I can’t tell you the number of times I have (and still do) failed to properly identify fish holding structure and blundered into a spot that was a great opportunity just waiting for my fly.

Holes. After demeaning them at the outset, it is time to redeem them. Holes hold fish, lots of fish, but it’s not enough to approach one and start flogging.

The problem with holes is that a true hole will be too deep to fish a dry fly unless you see fish lingering near the surface feeding. This does happen, and if you run into that situation, by all means move into position and start casting. More often you will find yourself happening on a hole with no perceptible action and will need a game plan. There are four areas to concentrate on when you get to a hole: the tailout, the margins, the head, and the hole itself.

If you’re fishing from downstream, the tailout is what you want to concentrate on first. I spent many a summer day observing big holes in rivers as a child. There was a bridge on a hole that we always fished. The bridge was in the middle of nowhere, not even on a road. I believe that landowner had the bridge repaired at some point, as it was in good shape. It was originally a stagecoach bridge in Michigan’s logging days. It served an old hotel that used to be there. Nostalgia aside, I learned a lot sitting on that bridge soaking worms.

When we would walk out on the bridge it was common to watch thirty or more fish scoot for cover in the deepest part of the hole. The thing to do then was to sit still and wait for the fish to relax and return to their feeding lies. After ten minutes small fish would start to move back out into feeding positions. After twenty minutes they would start to feed again. After thirty minutes even the larger fish would become visible if they were going to feed. A lot of the prime lies were near the bank on the deep side, and also at the head of the hole, but a lot of fish would drift back to the tailout and wait to feed. So when you are approaching a hole this is where you want your first cast to go. You’ll want your fly to land where the color changes from dark to lighter. The fish here may be sensitive to being cast over, so you don’t want to cast too far into the center of the hole and line the fish. Make a few casts to the tailout and work the whole area from shallow to deep before moving onto your next target.

The next target is the margins of the hole. Typically at least one side of the hole has a gradual slope to the bank. Fish that want to feed will

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4 Reasons Why Waterfall Plunge Pools Can Hold Big Fish

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Waterfalls this size are pretty rare on small streams, but if you’re lucky enough to locate one, you could very well find yourself hooked up to one of the biggest trout in the stream. Here’s four reasons why I feel waterfalls plunge pools are great places to look for big trophy trout on small streams.

1. Lots of food gets washed over a waterfall, especially during high flows.
Large amounts of food (tiny fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans and amphibians) are constantly being swept over the falls. In many cases, it provides a steady enough stream of food, that big fish aren’t required to leave the plunge pool to fulfill their daily food requirements.

2. There are usually lots of hiding places to make big fish feel safe and allow them to survive for long periods.
During high flows, quite often fallen trees can float over the falls and get snagged; creating perfect log jams for big trout to hide in. The whitewater at the foot of the waterfall provides a protected roof, allowing trout to feed safely without being seen by predators. Constant water cresting the falls, creates a deep plunge pool overtime

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What The Little Fish Are Saying

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This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.

This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.


Like it or not, I am in the big fish business.

I hate admitting it, but that’s how it started. I carried a camera to take photos of fish and the small ones were not the fish who got photographed. Eventually folks started to buy the photos I took and I found there was a simple equation. The bigger the fish, the faster the sale. That’s a pretty hard-nosed view of fly fishing and I’m not especially proud of it.

Call it skill or luck or hard work, a lot of big fish have come my way. I’m grateful for each of them. I hope there will be many more but I no longer measure myself in inches or pounds of fish. Not because I’m above it or used to it or jaded about it. I still like to catch big fish but I’ve come to understand my place in the equation.

Sometimes I choose the fish. I plan, I strategize, I stalk and pursue. Often, by force of will, I bring the fish to me. Sometimes I choose the fish, but every time the fish chooses me. I think about this when I am swinging a fly for steelhead. Like a practitioner of tai chi, I mind my swing. Seeking always the perfect presentation. Mindful and empty, dreaming not of what was or what may be, simply present in what is.

It is in that moment that the fish chooses me. I accept that all I have done is to make myself available to him. It is not done without skill or planning. It is not an accident. It is the culmination of years of effort but I recognize that it is a culmination for him as well. It is not a thing I have done alone. I have not brought the fish to me, something larger has brought us together.

In that convergence there is something that defies explanation. Among the thousands of fish that have passed in and out of my hands, some are special. I can not always say why. Once in a while a fish connects with me in a way that is deeper than either of us can grasp. There is a convergence of place and time, of hand and heart the sum of which is greater than the two of us.

One of these fish is worth a year of my life. That is

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