Fly Fishing for Spring Smallmouth: Part 1
This post is the first in a series that will detail how to target smallmouth bass in the spring.
I have been fishing for smallmouth bass during the summer for a long time, but in the last few years they have become one of my favorite species to target in the spring. While many anglers are turning their attention to trout streams or saltwater, I’m getting ready to hit the rivers and creeks for some of the best smallmouth fishing of the year.
Fishing rivers and streams for smallmouth bass is a popular choice for fly fisherman throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. Drainages like the Potomac, Susquehanna, Delaware, Shenandoah, Rappahannock, James, and New Rivers can offer excellent fishing for smallmouth. While many fly anglers take advantage of these resources in the summer, fewer know that early spring offers some of the best bass fishing of the year and a good chance to catch your biggest smallmouth of the season. With the same tackle and flies you use in the summer, and with a slightly different approach to the water, you can find and catch big spring smallmouth before many people would even think to target them.
The month before spawning, large smallmouth feed heavily and often group together. Finding these fish isn't always easy, but can be very rewarding in terms of size and numbers of fish. Understanding river conditions and how the time of year impacts fish movement is important for locating bass during early spring in large river systems. It can be less challenging to find bass is smaller waterways, but they are often in different locations and water types than during the summer.
The month of April is the prime time for pre-spawn smallmouth fishing, but it can be earlier or later as you go north and south in the Mid-Atlantic. The peak of early spring fishing will depend a lot on water conditions and temperature. It can be drawn out, short lived, or almost non-existent. During periods when ideal river flows, correct time of year, and stable weather align, the fishing can be excellent. Unfortunately, during springs with extremely high flows, the spawn (along with any pre-spawn fishing) can be mostly washed out and lost for the year.
Once the bass start to spawn (usually late April-June), the best thing you can do is leave them alone and let them do their thing. However, in most years, there is plenty of good fishing to be had before the bass are on their beds.
In upcoming posts I will discuss the specifics of how to find these fish and the most productive flies, tackle, and techniques for catching them. Thanks for reading and please check back soon for our next post!