Food for thought, have I missed out not Fly Fishing for Bass sooner?

I was sipping on a coffee the other morning, thinking back over an interesting evening bass fishing at the end of last summer. One that spun a new direction of thought in my Bass fishing.

It was a sombre, humid overcast summer evening with the occasional glimmering of a salmon pink sky beyond the smoke cloud cover.

I and my semi-permanent angling companion Sam were exploring the sand and mud flats of a local estuary. Our aim of the session was to find some fish holding features, which due to shifting banks and the path of the tidal flow changing dramatically over the last few seasons has proved a challenge.

Walking out along the open expanse of sand, that now covers a once deep boulder strewn channel. As we commented on the belittling feeling of being out in the middle of a Welsh tidal estuary, with simply nothing around you for miles! Our thoughts were suddenly stopped by the literal fizzing of the water as minuscule shrimp, no longer than a fingernail playfully carbonated the water surface.

There was a lot of the usual mullet about, however, amongst the sipping and tail splashing of the mullet were some larger much more powerful and aggressive swirls that to me shouted one species…Bass!

I made a quiet approach and kept my profile low as Sam agreed I should make a quick cast at these fish. I tenderly obsereved for a few moments.

Now the issue here is the Bass are blatantly making the most of the smorgous board of shrimp on offer. Yet here I am in the middle of an estuary with a single shrimp imitation on me. So making the most of what I have got I approached the situation carefully and opted for a small lure that would land quietly get infront of these fish without scaring them away. I clipped a weightless Dolive stick in the killer Wakasagi on a 5/0 Lunker City Texposer that just never seems to rust! I waited till I saw that telltale team attack indicated by a hexagon of swirls on the edge of the sloping bank and a bubbling centre of shrimp. Then I cast my lure gently next to and slightly beyond the disturbance and slowly retrieved with a brief twitch. Suddenly as I paused after the twitch it caught the attention of one of the Bass I’d sighted, it swirled from its mouthful of shrimp to suddenly see an easy feeding opportunity of a bigger mouthful of a large baitfish snack. Really though all that was going through my mind was “Thank god I’m not going to blank while being fully aware of Bass in front of me”. This isn’t the first time I’ve sight cast to Bass throughout my extensive hours spent pursuing them, but wow, it never gets old!

What this event did do though… is trigger my thoughts of how many other times I have seen Bass swirl close in at the estuary, question my ability to really imitate the diverse food items bass feed on in estuary environments with my lure fishing approach, and finally the way I have found slowly bounced soft plastics across the current to be particularly lethal. All raising the question “Why am I not targeting Bass with the fly?”.

As I am increasingly mentioning more and more on this blog, I have become besotted with fly fishing over the last 4 years. I at first kept my writing far from fly fishing, as I personally dislike someone writing on a topic they do not understand or only given a half a dozen attempts. I have now spent enough time fly fishing though to warrant me confidently writing about it. As those that know me will be aware, not many days go by when I am not at the vice tying a fly for the various species I’ve enjoyed targeting on the fly, or even thinking about the dynamics of casting and approaches to this wonderful style of fishing.

Yet the species that really sparked a love for fishing and the first species I truly became obsessed with, I have not felt the desire to fly fish for. Strange?… Well, I have always been satisfied with catching Bass on lures, yet as this graceful disease or addiction that we call fly fishing takes over me the more I see how fly fishing is not only a pleasurable way to catch Bass, but in some situations…a more effective way!

The more I have learnt about Bass, the more I have realised the different environments that these fish can be caught in, and with each environment comes a different size and species of food source. Now of course lure fishing can do this, but I’ve never really enjoyed fishing non-baitfish lures and experimentations with shrimp lures have required new jigheads and even dropshot rigs to play with and despite working, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. With the fly though I can imitate exactly what I have now learnt the Bass feed on in different environments and seasons and the sporting challenge and pursuit of Bass on the fly that really does excite me.

This evening left me clouded with thoughts and questions…Now that I can competently and confidently cover water with the fly:

  • Could a small shrimp imitation catch me more Bass while presenting the exciting option to sight fish for them while the estuary becomes stuffed with them at points of summer?
  • Could I not be swinging flies deep in current for Bass at some of the marks I have enjoyed jighead fishing, with water craft that is an amalgamation of swinging flys for Salmon and soft plastic fishing for Bass?
  • Could Bass not be effectively targeted using much of the same approach I have adopted while enjoying success lure fishing for them. Especially close quarter range where an element of stealth has proved key.
  • Could flies not be as effective as the weightless soft plastic techniques that I have been employing for the past few years. Heck, ive been hammering fish at night on white sticks of plastic, surely a well tied fly can do the same!

Needless to say, I ended up spending quite a few hours experimenting afterwards casting a fly on the Welsh Coastline and look forward to this Summer when I will make a solid effort into my pursuit of Bass on the fly. This is not to say my lure gear will be left to rot, instead, there will just be times when it takes a back seat replaced with a fly rod. Heck there may even be times and I really do believe it from first-hand experience, that fly could outfish the lure for its ability to better imitate a food source.

I guess sometimes in life we need that new challenge and something to reignite a passion, I’m hoping Bass on the fly with be just that. Another way to target a species I love!

expanse of a welsh

3 thoughts on “Food for thought, have I missed out not Fly Fishing for Bass sooner?

Add yours

  1. Really good read and definitely food for thought. I’m a fly fisherman all my life but got bored and wanted a new challenge. I have started lure fishing for Bass but want to target them with lures this year. What’s your thoughts on casting down stream in an estuary and just holding the fly in the flow and just move the rod tip side to side maybe even using a live eel and feeding the line out ?


    1. Hi Colin.

      I would think more of fishing with intermediate or sink tip lines. Even a skagit set up in strong flow…and swinging flies much like salmon fishing. When bouncing lures you want to be tight to bottom and right speed so I’d want to do same with the fly.

      Or casting up stream and ‘nymphing’ a fly back.

      You could well use a fly rod to live bait however this wouldn’t be allowed in a bass nursery area as live eel is forbidden. But it’ll be as fun and more effective free lining no?


  2. I catch most off my bass at night by just swinging flies around in the estuary current on a floater, use weighted flies and or heavier hooks to get required depth and then just tweak the fly around.
    in daytime smaller is generally better unless fishing over slightly deeper water where big bass feel more comfortable so sink tips then do play a part.


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