Fight the urge….

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Jesse Lowry

I grew up with a bait caster in my hand, fishing for bass with my dad since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Even after I started fly fishing for trout in my teens, I never really crossed bass fishing with fly fishing, save for practicing my casting with a 5 weight and little poppers; which can be a ton of fun catching smallies and blue gill. 

But when it came to largemouth bass fishing, me and dad were always out “hog hunting”. Two feet of water, tight to the shoreline, downed trees, logs, weed beds, heavy structure. We were after 6-8 pound fish (hogs by Canadian Standards), using 30-pound braid, stiff-as-a-board rods, and a reel that may as well have been made by Warn Winches. It was tournament style fishing and in my mind it was definitely not the place for a flimsy fly rod. 

Then fly fishing found the internet and its endless streaming of everything. I realized there were fly rods bigger than my “heavy duty” 6 weight (we didn’t exactly have a local fly shop back then, other than some smaller local shops near the few trout streams in southern Ontario 5 hours away). For the first time, I saw someone fly fishing for peacock bass in the same type of structure we targeted bass with our traditional gear. After that I thought to myself, man… I could do that here no problem. Unfortunately I was in my mid 20s, about the time that life started to get in the way of fishing. My fishing time was precious, I wanted to catch, not fish. After about an hour with a fly rod and no “real luck” (anything over 2 pounds) I would get frustrated and pick up my trusty bait caster with a Yamasenko and typically boat a few “hogs” within the next hour. 

(Authors note: Yamasenko’s are trophy largemouth crack in up here in Ontario, they can’t resist them. )

This year life has changed a bit, but by no means do I have more free time to fish. I just had my first child, a little girl named River, I’m still working 50 hours a week at a desk in Toronto, and have started building a home/fishing lodge in BC. However, I decided this year to make a conscious effort not to pick up a bait caster when I’m on the bass boat. Not because a fly rod is a more effective way to catch bass. In my opinion it’s not, and no matter how good I get on the fly, for me it never will be (not with that kind of attitude, you’re probably thinking). But fly fishing for bass sure is a hell of a lot more fun! When you hook into a good fish on a fly rod it’s far more rewarding than the 20 second fight on heavy traditional gear. 

A few weekends ago was a real test. The old man and I snuck out for a quick mid-morning fish, him armed with his quiver of bait casters and me with my 8 and 9 weight. 

First casts and it’s on, double header, nothing huge—a pound and a half small mouth for me and a 2.. ok 2.5 pound large mouth for the old man. We cruise the shoreline a little further and, bam, the old man puts it right in the hornet’s nest and the water explodes (good sized predatorial bass seem to have this ability to smash a bait almost before it hits the water, which is why I love them). It’s obviously a nice fish, and then don’t two shadows chase after it out from under the log it came from! Both of which are easily twice the size of the fish he’s hooked up with.

Worth noting, bass are a jealous fish—when one seems like it’s got a meal, the others chase after it hoping to steal a free lunch. So when fishing in a team, it pays to play the hooked fish a little instead of trying to boat it right away. This gives the other person in the boat a few shots at the free riders. 

This is exactly what I did, I put the big ugly crawfish pattern I tied up the night before right on the tail of the hooked fish twice and…..NOTHING! I grabbed my 9 weight with a big ugly popper and….. NOTHING! All the while my Dad, kindly asking me to quit fucking around with my fly rods and pick up a bait caster as it was a layup for an easy 7 or 8 pound fish. I fought the urge to grab the bait caster and I tried the crawfish pattern again, only to watch the pair swim into the shadows from where they came. Meanwhile the old man landed a beauty 4 pound largemouth, along with some choice words uttered under his breath for me and my new ambition.

So do yourself a favour— if you’ve caught all there is to be caught on the traditional gear you grew up with, force yourself to accomplish it on the fly. I know my heart still starts beating every time I think of hooking up with one of those chunky shadows on a fly rod and it will keep me coming back trying to get it done next year. 

Jesse Lowry
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Fight the urge….

  1. I am usually 100% on board with G&G posts, and while I love the passion in this piece, I can’t get all the way on board with it.

    I fish a lot.

    I added fly fishing to my skill-set…not because I wanted to move all my fishing in that direction, but because I wanted another arrow in my quiver…another way to catch fish that sometimes was the best way to get it done…or even the most fun, on a given day.

    But I still go back to my gear. Probably about half the time?


    The first reason is the most important one: I still enjoy it, a lot. That’s more than half the decision, right there.

    The 2nd reason is that, as Jesse had observed, sometimes it works better. The flip side of this is that sometimes gear doesn’t work better, and to get dialed in on what those days look like, you have to fish both ways, frequently. At the end of the day, fly fishing can be the “finessiest” of finesse presentations and it just flat out works when nothing else will.

    The third reason is that some conditions make fly fishing a PITA.

    High winds.
    Cold…really cold.
    When there’s too many people in the boat.
    When you need to get deep.
    When you need to really move water.
    When you need to really move fast.

    I’m sure we can come up with more.

    Sometimes, when I’m tense and crabby and don’t feel like managing line and don’t want to spend time unwrapping it from the cleats and around the fish finder…I still want to get away and fish, but I don’t want the hassle of chucking flies. So I chuck gear.

    Some days are the opposite. All flies.

    Sometimes I start out with flies…but I’m tired, or not focused and I get PO’d at my inability to cast well, or manage line…and put the fly rods away and go to gear rather than quit and go home.

    Most days, I’m probably right around 50/50…I use fly gear like bass fishermen do with pre-rigged rods and different presentations…I’ve usually got three fly rods rigged and ready to go: Surface, Sub-surface and deeper. The other side of the boat’s got gear rods on it. Not for everyone, but it works for me, on everything from trout to musky.

    I’ll never be any kind of a purist, but I sure have fun and catch a fair number of fish…and odds are that I spend more hours on my fly rods than most fly fishermen do…I feel like I can be pretty objective on the subject

  2. Most of the water where I live has heavy pressure. Rarely see anyone fly fishing though. White shad and crawdad imitations massacre the bass here. Folks casting plastic freak out when i bring in fish after 5-6 boats have worked a bank and picked up only a few runts.

    I thin fishing from a kayak helps, too. Most folks in metal jon boats don’t realize how loud they are.

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