The Muskegon River, in addition to providing world-class fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout, is alsoone of the best small mouth fisheries in the area. Smallmouth Bass are one of the toughest, hardest fighting fish in freshwater and are perfectly suited to be pursued with a fly rod.
Here is a short intro on what gear to use when chasing these fish. I am by no means an expert, so for more indepth information I recommend the DVD “Big Appetite, Small Mouth” which was made by Jon Ray and Kevin Feenstra who have each probably forgotten more about these fish than I will ever know. It can be purchased through Jon’s site Mangled Fly Media or through Kevin’s retail site Swing A Big Fly.
RODS AND REELS:
Due to their fighting ability as well as the fact that the flies used are often quite large, fishing for smallmouths requires a rod with the typical 4 or 5 wt most people use for trout and panfish. Anything from a 6wt to a 9wt can make a decent smaller rod. My preference is a faster action 7wt. I feel it’s morethan capable of putting the brakes on the fish and it throws flies from small poppers and little baitfish patterns all the way to large articulated streamers and great big surface flies. However, if you already own a 6, 8, or 9wt, they will work just fine too. Any reel with a decent drag system that can hold your fly line and a little backing will work just fine.
As we have all seen over the past few years, the number of different fly lines on the market has been growing at a staggering rate and frankly, it can cause confusion. It is absolutely possible to fish smallies in most conditions with a single weight forward line and a couple of versileaders in varying densities. However, the more you get into it, the more it becomes apparent that have three different lines can be very beneficial. An aggressive weight forward floater, The following are all good choices for FLOATING LINES FOR SMALLMOUTH FISHING:
- Scientific Anglers: Siege and Magnum
- Rio’s Outbound Short, Power Fly, and Smallmouths Bass
- Airflo’s 40 Plus and Streamer Float
The next type of line is a good fast sinking tip line (which doubles as a line to streamer fish for trout). We recommend:
- Scientific Anglers Sink 25 Cold series (These replaced the old Streamer Express models)
The third type of line that is often a great asset is a slow sinking intermediate such as:.
- SA’s Titan Taper Clear Tip
- Rio’s Outbound Short with the intermediate head.
The idea by having the three different lines is so that you can fish different depths and with different types of bass flies: The floating line is for fishing on the surface with poppers, divers, mice, gurglers and sliders. There are also some situations where a floating line with a long leader and heavy fly can be the ideal way to fish sub-surface.
The intermediate line is to fish the two feet below the surface with baitfish patterns or with any fly that you want to present in that water column. They cast nicely and are great for weary fish. The fast sinking line is for fishing deeper. This is perfect for presenting flies like Crayfish, Goby, Sculpin and others that are usually found at the very bottom of the river. They do not cast as nicely as the floating and intermediate lines but after a little practice they aren’t so bad.
FLIES FOR THE MUSKEGON:
Note: This list is simply the patterns that I personally like the best. There are 100’s of others that can work just as well so don’t be afraid to experiment. Kevin Feenstra’s site FeenstraOutdoors.com and Matt Zudwegs site BoneyardFlyGear.com are both great resources for fly tying recipes.
- Matt Zudwegs Zudbubbler
- Deceivers in White/Chartreuse, white/blue, white/pink, white/red, white/yellow, white/gray, white/black, all white and all yellow
- White/Chartreuse Clouser (pink, green, blue, red, gray, and many others with white can all work too, as can solid white, solid yellow, solid chartreuse and many others.)
- Crayfish Patterns
- Goby Patterns
- Sculpin Patterns
- White Circus Peanuts
- Near Nuff Sculpin
- Whitlock’s Scorpion
- Balsa Poppers
- Crease Flies
- Deer hair and foam head divers
- Sneaky Petes
- Mice imitations
- And many others!