Smallmouth Bass are arguably one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish pound for pound. They can be caught in lakes throughout the country on a variety of different flies. One thing that has become more and more popular of the past five or six years is fishing for river bass during the spawn. Lakes that have tributaries flowing of 40cfs (cubic feet per second) or more will generally attract bass during the spring and they will migrate up the rivers to spawn. These fish generally like to have an influx of water somewhere between late April and late May to trigger them to migrate up the river. These fish will swim upriver until they find an adequate place to build a bed. This may take a week or so for them to do which gives you plenty of opportunities to fish the deeper pools and eddies on the river where the fish will congregate prior to forming their beds. These fish can be finicky at times and very often will follow a fly in multiple times without eating. When this happens, I’ve found one consistent way to trigger a strike. Let your fly sink all the way to the bottom and make very hard, short strips. This have proven to work many times and gets the fish fired up and aggressive. Once the fish get on their beds they can still be caught in similar ways but disturbing them during the actual spawn can be frowned upon. After the fish have spawned the males will stay on the beds and protect the fry while the females will leave the bed and head back to deeper pools in the river or back to the lake. The length of time the fish will remain in the river has a lot to do with water flows. As longer as the water stays up the fish will stick around. We’ve guided on streams into July during rainy summers and still caught good number of bass. We’ve also had dry seasons and not seen any bass in the rivers all spring.
A couple good flies to make sure you have in your box are Keller’s Montana Mouthwash, Black Wooly Buggers, Zonkers, Rubber Buggers and a couple of poppers. As far as rods go, a 5-7wt works great. If you’re going to be fishing heavier flies a 6 or 7wt rod will make things much easier. A TFO BVK rod has a sensitive enough tip that you’ll be able to detect light bites but has plenty of back bone and can tame a 4-5lb smallie without a ton of effort. If you live in the Northeast, chances are somewhere not too far from you there will be fat smallmouths swimming up into tributaries to spawn. These fish can be an awesome change up from trout fishing and will surely put a bend in your rod!