Driftless Trout Anglers

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#1 Posted : Wednesday, July 25, 2018 4:04:06 PM(UTC)
Rank: Stone Fly

Joined: 6/11/2012(UTC)
Posts: 211
Location: WBL

Thanks: 4 times
Was thanked: 3 time(s) in 2 post(s)
Lets talk about fly fishing for Smallmouth.

1. Where do you go? Upper Mississippi? Upper St. Croix? Secret ponds and lakes? Good places to float, and if you don't have a boat, good places to wade? I'm not asking you to spill the beans on your honey holes...

2. Rod weight & tackle. What size rod? Leader, length and test? What flies/color?

3. Tactics.

I'm going to start my 5-day trip to the UP, by stopping off at the confluence of the Snake and St. Croix to fish for Smallmouth. I'll be using my 7wt. Echo for the job, with a WF line, and maybe some poly-leaders if need be. I'm hoping for the water temps to be a little warmer so I can throw poppers, but if thats not in the cards, I'll throw some Clousers and crayfish patterns. Being pretty new to fishing for SMB, I'm still trying to figure out what to do for a leader. I've read that you can use a mono tapered leader w/some flurorocarbon tied on, to just tying on a chunk of fluorocarbon straight to the fly line.

What works for you?
#2 Posted : Wednesday, July 25, 2018 5:59:54 PM(UTC)
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 6/30/2011(UTC)
Posts: 567
Location: Far west suburbs of Chicago

Thanks: 16 times
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I'm no expert on smallmouth, but I do my share of it just because there is some pretty good smallmouth fishing close to home (and I enjoy the battle they put up when hooked).

As far as moving water, I usually fish the Fox and sometimes the Rock River. But I enjoy fishing the Fox tribs much more. They're more like trout streams. In fact, some of them are so narrow that I cast upstream whenever possible to avoid spooking fish-similar tactics as fishing small-stream trout. In these kind of waters, nothing other than a floating line is needed. Have some unweighted flies, some with a few wraps of lead wire, others with dumbbell eyes or coneheads and you can cover the entire water column. Minnows, sculpins, leeches, tadpoles, crayfish probably comprise most of a stream smallmouth's diet, so anything imitating those should be effective. But of course it's a lot more fun to have them blow up on a deer hair mouse or frog. The Kankakee is probably the best smallmouth stream in northern Illinois, but it's not as easy for me to get to as some others, so I don't fish it as much as I should. Every year I say I'm going to put in more time on the Kankakee, but never get around to it.

The only lake fishing I really do for smallmouths is up in Vilas County. They mostly eat the abundant crayfish in there, so anything dark colored fished near bottom will take fish. The problem arises as the water warms up in the summer and the fish move deep. As much as I'd rather fish and cast a floating line, I also like to catch fish, so I'll use a sink tip or full sinking line to get to where the fish are. Another solution is to fish before sunrise or after sunset when they've moved in shallow to feed. Again, I'll give a frog pattern a try in low light conditions to see if I can coax a surface hit out of them.

Most smallmouth experts would say they're not line-shy, but when fishing a spring-fed lake (very clear water) or a small stream that is running low and clear in the late summer, I often use a fluorocarbon tippet. But in murkier water or when night fishing, a level piece of mono works just fine; no taper necessary. it should be stout enough to turn over a big fly, 15-20 lbs.

I'm looking forward to getting after some smallies in the evening after work later this week. I tied up some marabou leeches yesterday and would like to get after some fish with the new trout Spey rod-enough of all this instruction and practicing it's time to actually fish. I hope you take lots of photos of any smallmouths you encounter-I'd love to see them. Good luck.
#3 Posted : Friday, July 27, 2018 10:47:01 PM(UTC)
Rank: May Fly

Joined: 2/24/2013(UTC)
Posts: 337

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Love fishing for smallmouth in the summer. I've found my favorite small stream water to be in Iowa.

I don't get too big into tactics. Basic 3 piece leader and throw out woolly bugger/leech type of stuff, occasionally have some fun with foam and legs hopper that I tie.

Still need to do a Sauk County WI river day trip and throw for smallies, but I've never really found them and not sure I'd enjoy the crowds as much.

Really enjoy the smallies up north. It's like they're angry or something, haha.
#4 Posted : Sunday, July 29, 2018 3:51:56 AM(UTC)
Rank: May Fly

Joined: 2/24/2013(UTC)
Posts: 337

Thanks: 2 times
Was thanked: 13 time(s) in 12 post(s)
New note on this.

Was in Grant County today and aside from woolly bugger type flies I caught quite a few smallies on a #14 dog hair scud. Tied it on out of boredom and actually caught a couple of my nicer fish on it.
#5 Posted : Wednesday, August 8, 2018 3:17:14 PM(UTC)
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 9/18/2014(UTC)
Posts: 1,239
Location: Prairie Du Sac, WI

Much like trout fishing, it depends on the water you fish as to what your tactics will be. I fish the lower Wisconsin River which is wide and slower. Much different than smaller streams. That said, I fish a fast action 6wt (Sage Response) with a furled leader and section of 6 or 8 lb test tippet. I usually use a floating line, but carry a sink tip in case there is some deeper water and/or I want to throw crayfish flies. I usually look for current seams and fish smaller baitfish patterns. Sometimes the small and almost imperceptible seams are the best fishing, guessing because other anglers don't see or fish them. Many times I will find smallies and stripers chasing baitfish in the slower eddy behind, which is typically fast action with lots of fish. IMO a decent striper is every bit as much fun as a smallie on the fly, total bulldogs as opposed to the acrobatics.
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