Reading a Smallmouth Bass River
|Smallmouth basson the line!|
Reading the water correctly is the best way to assure consistently good results in smallmouth angling. Without it one is relegated to the old game of"chuck- it- and-chance- it," covering all the water and hoping, by luck, to catch a good bass.
Reading a river is a three-step procedure. First try to determine exactly where a smallmouth will be located. This could be an actual feeding station which he would select strictly for that purpose under specific conditions. It could be a holding or cruising area, located close to a main food source, or it may be a resting area.
Once we feel we know where a smallmouth will, or should, be holding in a specific piece of water we must decide just where to cast the fly. This may mean dropping a nymph ten or twelve feet upstream in order for it to sink to our waiting bass five feet down under a logjam. Or it may mean casting our deerhair frog just off the upstream edge of a grassbed so we can swim it by the smallmouth holding just inside the grass.
The third step may be even more important than the first two. Where do I position myself in order to make my presentation, and how do I get there? If you botch this part of the game you have had it! This phase takes a little thought and requires a few minutes to evaluate the water, but it is worth the time and effort required. Correctly determining that a smallmouth is feeding on a shallow gravel bar and that a good minnow imitation, darted across the shaded side, should produce a strike is of little value if we approach him closely or with too much commotion.
Likewise, knowing that several good smallmouth often feed on hellgrammites in that deep fast run below a familiar riffle will not help if you don't know where to stand in the run to drop your fly above them so it will sink to their feeding stations; this situation is complicated even further by the fact that we must be able to detect the strike in order to set the hook. Your ability to take these fish is going to be determined to a great extent by the selection of your casting position. I have encountered this situation hundreds of times in my fishing schools, and often having the angler move as little as five feet will get him into fish he could not connect with before.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication