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The Way Of A Bass Fisherman With a Fly Rod And The Way Of A Bass With A Fly
by: Donald Berthiaume
Older fly fishing classics contain a wealth of knowledge for the beginner fly fisher as well as the experienced angler.
The following is an excerpt from Practical Fly Fishing, by Larry St. John (1920)
WADING A STREAM
The ideal way to fish a bass stream, if its depth and bottom will permit, is to wade. Some one has said that Art is the beautiful way of doing things. Certainly then, wading the stream is the artist's way of fishing for Micropterus. It has all the charm of trout fishing and all of its thrills and seldom is so lonesome since many of our bass streams are in settled districts. One often fishes a stream and is never out of hearing of the cowbells and the barking of friendly farm dogs but is in the wilderness nevertheless. When the angler wades he becomes a part of the stream and its life and the more he fishes a fine stretch of water the friendlier it becomes.
Bass and Flies
One reason I believe bass fly fishermen are not as generally successful as their trout fishing brethren is because the bass fisher, as a class, has not put as much study into his waters and his methods. This is not to be wondered at when you consider that fly fishing for bass is, compared with trouting, in its first tooth stage. In other words, if some anglers loudly proclaim that the east wind bloweth when they are bassing with flies it is due, not to the bass but to the angler.
True one seldom gets the big, old, granddaddy bass of 'em all on a fly, neither do the bigger trout come to the net by the same route, but the average of the stream or lake can be caught on flies and are on certain waters. Is it entirely because of certain local peculiarities of fish, water or conditions that fly fishing for bass is practiced so successfully on such widely separated waters as, to mention a few: the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers in the Middle West; the Susquehanna, Potomac and Delaware in the East; the Current and St. Francis in the Ozarks; the Belgrade Lakes in Maine? I think not. Bass fly fishing has long been practiced and studied in these places, hence the success.
Aside from its beauty and charm wading a stream makes for success. In the first place a stream that is of wadable depth is ideal for fly fishing and the angler, moving slowly and quietly, with only a portion of his body above water is, as old Dennys put it, less likely to "offend the fearful Fish's eye."
Seasons, Weather, Etc.
As a general rule the trout fisher can go a-fishing earlier with his flies than the angler who fishes for bass in northern North America. A great many of our good bass streams are in civilized territory and the Spring rains, plus the drainage of farm lands, usually roils the water. If one must have bass then most success will be had if he will dangle an angle, baited with worm, helgramite or craw, in the deep holes.
As the season advances fly fishing improves but June usually finds the bass busy with family affairs and they should not be bothered even if the law permits. July is usually a good month on all streams and on the larger ones this month and August often produce best of all - and just when the lakes are yielding least. Very low water, however, often drives the fish into the holes on small streams during the " dog days."
September, the month Eastern and Midwest trout fishermen close up shop, is usually excellent except the week of the equinoctial storm. October - brown October - also yields well, and the seasons we have "a late Fall" fishing continues good even well into November. Local conditions also must be considered.
The ideal fly fishing day is a dark, overcast one, just before a rain, or better still, when it merely suggests or threatens to rain and doesn't with enough breeze to ruffle the surface of the water. Next best is what the average person would call a "nice day."- when the sun shines, the sky is blue and friendly and streamside posies and tree tops nod to fitful breeze lets that put a slight ripple on the stream.
The best time of the day is undoubtedly the early morning hours, from dawn until eight or nine o'clock and from four in the afternoon until sundown or even until after dark. During cloudy days the noon hours often produce well. However, most of us fish the day through and perhaps it doesn't add much to the heft of our creels but it adds lightness to our hearts and uplift to our spirits and there is always the anticipation of the luck the evening fishing is going to bring us - unless, perchance, it is the last day and we must quit untimely to catch the 5:15 for home. Then we are out of luck as the fish invariably begin to rise well as the quitting hour approaches -'twas ever thus as the poets say! But never mind: other days are coming and for that matter if the fish become too challenging one can always "miss" a train and send a telegram of explanation later. Such things have happened! In fact, I know bald-headed men who have, choosing love before duty, thus played truant from home and business under these circumstances.
Thunder and lightning storms are unpropitious for good fishing but a gentle shower often turns the tide in our favor and sets the fish to rising.
The direction of the wind has little to do with the success of a day on a stream as the wind comes from all directions if the river is at all winding. The proverbial east wind may have local influences, in England or on our east coast, but otherwise is not objectionable and the phases of the moon have little to do with fishermen's luck or the whimsical mood of Micropterus, except that the bass may do their feeding on moonlight nights and be indifferent during the day. In this case the angler, well prepared for mosquitoes and with heavy tackle, can do his fishing after sundown.