Schooling Bass On Fly

Schooled bass are shut down, not feeding? Have you tried using a fly to catch them? You need to read Chris Adam’s article so you can learn how to catch them on Fly.

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If you want to learn more about how to catch schooling Bass on fly, it might be because you are aware of how effective fly fishing is on schooled Bass in all moods, if not you might be surprised to hear that it is a very productive technique that quite regularly out fishes conventional gear. So if that’s the case, well then why doesn’t everyone do it? Well from my experience there are so so so many reasons why and when confronted as to why those who give it go have trouble achieving consistency, the blame is often put onto the sport of fly fishing in general or, the Bass just aren’t eating. Trouble casting, incorrect sounder setup or no sounder at all, incorrect fly line, wrong fly, wrong leader and wrong stripping techniques can contribute to poor performance, in fact one of those alone when used with everything else being perfect can contribute to the big donut.

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Realistically, many aspects of fishing for schooling Bass on fly can also apply to conventional fishing techniques.. Starting with your boat, if you don’t have a decent sounder or even an ordinary one your really not in with a shot, it’s an essential tool needed to find the fish, observe their activity and most importantly in relation to fly fishing, navigate the depth. Almost as important as a sounder is an electric motor, because in a lot to of circumstances, schooled fish are very aware of presence and easily spooked by noise and water displacement. To expect results from using a petrol motor to keep over the school would be unrealistic, but I have been wrong before.

So you have your boat, your on the water, where do you find them? Well, sometimes it’s simply by doing the k’s on the water but it helps if you know how to find likely spots. Start with what you can observe out of the water, gently sloping land that possibly extends the same into the water, look for wind blown sections of the dam as that is where food and oxygen accumulates, and once there, use your sounder to find “flats”. These big open near featureless flats are where you will find the bigger schools, they are more likely to be closer to the dam wall in late winter/ early spring and can be more around the upper reaches at other times of the year. That is such a generalisation but a good way to start. To add to that having the original creek bed nearby also helps, it’s like they need the safety of deep water nearby, you can find and track an old creek bed buy using your sounder.

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In most circumstances rod quality isn’t critical, a 5-7 weight rod is all you need. If you have an 8 or even a 9 weight, you still won’t really feel over gunned, but you don’t need a rod that heavy. Stick to a 7 weight if you can, it will enable you to cast in adverse conditions and steer decent fish out of any cover should you need to. Next to consider would be your fly line, I’m going to skip to leader here, because there is bit to cover with the fly line so we will get to that in a bit. Your leader setup is very simple, I opt for a two piece rod length fluorocarbon leader, ½ 20lb and ½ 10lb, a double surgeon to the fly line, a triple surgeon to join the fluoro and a leftys loop knot to the fly, nothing technical at all.

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The fly line is very important, personally I reckon a fast sink is the way to go and unfortunately my favourite line is now discontinued. My line of choice is a Scientific Anglers Striper IV, a full sink weight forward line that sinks at 6 inches per second. Knowing the sink rate enables me to look at the sounder, see where the fish are holding, count down my fly line and put my fly in the fishes face and keep it there as I strip the fly through the school. You don’t have to have a heap of sponsors to know that keeping a jellybean in the face of several Bass is an effective technique, especially for highly pressured fish.

If you have an electric motor with an anchor function you will find deep fly fishing hard if you choose to use it. Having the motor consistently reposition the boat in a windy situation creates slack in the fly line, this is not good at all. Casting into the wind and allowing your boat to drift off the line is the best way to fish for schooled Bass. By employing this technique it will enable you to have straight line contact with the fly and have total control over setting the hook, you will also feel every tap and snag.

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While your fly line is down there it’s a good idea to get the fly right. For Deep Schooled Bass, it’s hard to beat a Bass Vampire. Developed by John Schofield, this fly is a gotcha style fly that is tied specifically for impoundment Bass. I have seen it tied up in all sorts of colours but the original is clearly the best and there isn’t many reasons to change what works well. John created this fly with fine selection of materials that uses the last two colours that get lost in the light spectrum through the water, perfect for such a dark environment. In addition, glow in the dark eyes, hook selection and profile, are all reasons this fly has hit the nail on the head as a great Bass fly.

Another fly that has done well in recent times is known as the “Slampire” which gains it’s name from the fly pattern it’s based on called a Slider and its fishing application being similar to a Vampire. This fly replicates small shrimp or yabbies very well and is often a great fly when it is difficult to get an eat on a vampire. The Slampire also lends itself to be more weedless than a Vampire and can be a better option when fishing the edges. Using Deer hair as the main body pushes a lot of water for its size, which absolutely attracts fish to eat by appealing to the fishes ability to pick up on vibration.

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Fly fishing for deep schooled Bass can range from depths of 10 feet to 60 feet, all well within the realms of fly fishing. As mentioned earlier, slack line is your enemy so positioning the boat over schools and drifting off them will give you a stealthy approach with no slack line, it also helps if you can’t cast very far as you can feed line back out as you drift off the school. The stripping technique can vary from flat out single handed strips to a inch long tick tick tick just of the bottom, for me the longer you can keep the fly in their face the better, but it must be moving. There have been times where I have seen one person on a boat experience cricket scores of fish where the other is struggling to get a hit, same fly, same line but different stripping technique, it pays to mix it up and adapt to the fishes mood on the day.

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If your new to this and don’t have anyone to show you, be realistic with your expectations based on your ability and gear. Expect what you would expect from a new sport, and build your skills slowly. Fly fishing for Deep schooled Bass has the ability to catch more out of a school than any conventional technique, you just need to figure out a few minor things first and then it will be on.

Chris Adams

About Chris Adams

My name is Chris Adams, I am based on the Sunshine Coast and have been fishing my entire life, from simple hand lines and a prawn on a hook off jetties as a kid to nothing but artificials from the age of 10. I cut my teeth on bass in the local creeks and from there, progressed from Lures to Flyfishing. Having been Flyfishing exclusively for the past 12 years, I have been to many places all over Australia and the world all thanks to my love of sight fishing. I have previously been the president of the Saltwater Flyfishing Association and a certified casting instructor with the Federation of Flyfishers (FFF), I am still a practising casting instructor and most recently a low volume commercial fly tier. These days I have evolved into a more all rounder and will mix it up between conventional and Flyfishing whenever I feel as though one has more of an advantage to the other. My favourite type of fishing is any type of sight fishing, from bream on the flats in landlocked lakes, to the pelagics cruising the flats inside Fraser Island, saratoga both wild and impounded to nones and GTs on the flats of Kiritimati. Sight fishing is my preferred style is of hunting but my heart will always be with Aussie bass.

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Next Having a bait ball – bait ball tactics for the fly rod

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