GET DOWN for BASS
By Dennis Galyardt
Eventually we come to the realization that although most of us would prefer to see a five pound bucketmouth explode on our bass bug, most of the time it just doesn't work that way. If you are like most fly rodding bass fishers you get to go fishing on days that aren't necessarily your first choice. It might be raining, blowing or just after a cold front, but its your only chance this week so you head out to the pond. Since you can't choose your times you can seldom choose your tactics. The bass will dictate where those flies must be and it certainly isn't always on top.
So how do we get those flies down to the reluctant bass' level? Probably the most common method of sinking a bass fly is with lead wire wrapped around the hook before the fly is tied. Many nymphs, streamers, and nymphs have weighted bodies. The extra weight causes the fly to sink slowly to the desired depth before the retrieve is begun. Another method of weighting flies involves tying the pattern with bead chain or lead eyes. Not only do these give the fly a natural look but they come in a variety of sizes that varies the sink rate. In deep waters and fast streams a lead eyed fly like the douser Deep Minnow is deadly. Generally these weighted flies are fished with floating lines and leaders that lengthen out at six to nine feet.
Unweighted flies may be sunken by the use of lead on the leader. Any excess weight added to the end of the fly fishing set up makes casting that much more difficult and a split shot on the tippet, six inches above the fly can make a noticeable difference. Sometimes the rewards outweigh (pun?) the difficulties, when the lead puts the muddler minnow in the face of a three pound smallmouth. A weight on the leader gives the fly an interesting dipping motion when retrieved, mimicking a cripple minnow or an escaping crayfish.
Special fly lines can also help to bring a fly down to the fishes level. Most flyrodding bass fishers begin with a floating line but there are a couple of other choices that serve special situations. Many fly fishers are not familiar with intermediate fly lines. The l0 designation means that the line is slightly heavier than water, sinks slowly, and tends to stay at that level during the retrieve. When using streamers for bass the intermediate or slime line" tends to ride at a consistent level, usually three to five feet down. The intermediate is the favorite of may salt water fly rodders because of its versatility and usefulness during windy conditions. It cuts through stiff breezes and makes casting easier. Also, when fishing choppy waters the line does not tend to wash around on the surface but stays below the waves. Intermediate lines are probably the least used of all fly lines in fresh water but certainly have a value under a wide variety of circumstances.
Sink tip fly lines can also help to bring a fly down. The sink tip line usually has a forward portion that is heavy enough to sink at a rate of four to six inches per second. This sinking portion is six to fifteen feet in length and the remainder of the line floats on the surface. The heavy part of the line drags the fly under if the angler waits to start the retrieve Weighted or unweighted flies should be fished with a short leader of one to three feet. If a longer leader is employed the fly rides too high in the water, defeating the purpose of the line. Sink tip lines make a good system for getting flies down to moderate depths of two to six feet. In streams wit deep pools or fast, deep runs the sink tip is especially useful when fishing nymphs, sculpin, crayfish and eel patterns.
lines are the ultimate depth seekers. When fish are deeper than six feet
or the water is very swift and you simply have to dredge up the bass,
a sinking line is the tool of choice. On a recent trip to Alaska, I fished
several big, fast, deep rivers and found that the singing line was the
best fish producer. I wasn't overly excited about the prospect of throwing
the heavy line and wasn't sure I could manage a good drift the full sinker.
For almost two weeks this was the only line I used and I came to rely
of the fact that I shot out like a bullet, even on windy days, and plunged
to the rocky bottom of swirling riffles seeking out fish. I used a leader
of no more than three feet and weighted flies. It is important to strip
the line back in before attempting to pick up for a new cast. With the
extra weight and water resistance too much line out is realty impossible
to move with the rod tip. I've since used this same line for stripers
off of Montauk, Long Island and for smallmouth in deep rocky lakes. When
conditions demand depth I won't hesitate to use the full sinker. Take
my advice, don't be intimidated by lines that get down, they add to the
versatility of the angler and take fish in situations that maybe less
Dennis Galyardt currently lives in Tecumseh, Missouri. He was the Warm Water editor of the Federation of Fly Fishers magazine Flyfisher. He is the 1999 recipient of the Federation of Fly Fishers' Dr. James A. Henshall Warm Water Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Promoting the Enjoyment or Convervation of Warm Water Fishiers.