Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at stanfagerstrom@hotmail.com.

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September 05, 2012

Ever Go Buggy For Bass?

by Stan Fagerstrom

Part 1

Mention fishing with a fly rod and the thought most fishermen immediately have is that you're talking about trout.

Every now and then I hear from fly rod enthusiasts who maintain there just aren't that many opportunities to use the long rod in the areas where they live.

That might well be true if you're thinking only of going after trout.

What so many, including some who should know better, often fail to realize is there are fish other than trout that respond readily to fly rod lures. And some of them present a bigger challenge and are as much or more fun to catch.

One such fish is the largemouth bass. It used to be many fly rodders turned their noses skyward at the mere suggestion largemouth might be worthy of their consideration. That attitude is changing and it's time it did.


Got him! Bugging for bass provides its share of thrills for the fly rod angler. Don't ever let anyone tell you it doesn't.

I don't know who started that old business of trout being the only fish worth pursuing with the long rod and a box full of flies. I suppose angling literature was responsible for
most of this nonsense, but it amazes me that it hung around as long as it has.

I'm not denigrating fly fishing for trout. I've had brown trout belt my dry flies on the South Island of New Zealand in a fashion that had my ticker thumping like a jackhammer.

I've had similar experiences with monster rainbow in Argentina and Alaska But if you're one of the many who assumes a snoot up posture when it comes to fly rod bass fishing, it has to be because you flat don't know anything about it.

Let's look at the equipment you'll need before talking about technique. I'm not going to get into the specifics. You can find books and videos dealing with that subject.

Do get yourself a good quality rod. Get one that's rated to handle a line designed for bass bug fishing. You'll also want a premium quality line to go with the rod.

I'm talking here about fishing topwater bugs for bass. Your line will need to float and have a bug taper. Lines so designated have an abrupt taper at the head end. That will be an asset in getting your bug to turn over on the cast and out where you want it to be.

The reel isn't of special importance for fly rod bassin'. Bass don't make long runs like some of the trout species. The fight is certain to be in close and often around heavy cover. It's no place for a lightweight rod with spider web leader.

I have a couple of old Perrine automatic fly reels that I love for fly rod bass fishing. These two ancient reels have been part of my gear for almost 50 years and I'd hate like the devil to part with either one.

It's convenient to merely depress a lever when you want to pick up the inevitable loose line while you're playing a fish. My trusty old Number 80 Perrines still enable me to do that.

Eight to 10 pound test is usually a good choice for a bass fishing leader. Seldom is it a good idea to use anything lighter. Try to find leader material that has abrasion resistance. That's what you'll need to fish the shallows for bass.

There aren't many times in bass fishing when you can use the word "always" with assurance. That's because bass rarely always do anything. The only thing truly consistent about bigmouth bass is their inconsistency. But one thing they almost always will do is hang around cover.

Don't waste time fishing for bass unless there is some kind of cover they can get under, next to, into or around. Learn to present your flies as close as you can to such cover. Don't hesitate to bump this cover on the retrieve. Try, in fact, to do exactly that.

I've fished bass with a variety of underwater patterns, but that approach has never appealed to me all that much. I'm aware it can be very effective at times. Even so, as far as I'm concerned it's fishing floating bugs on top that offers the most fun. Oftentimes in the spring they also get more than their share of hits.

What kind of bugs should you have for surface fishing? Forget about those monstrous affairs the size of a small mouse. I favor a deer hair bug. I tie it on a number four or six hook with a couple of strands of plastic for a tail. The bug is about the size of my finger in diameter.

A fly this size is relatively easy to handle. No, it doesn't cast like a number 12 Royal Coachman, but with a bug taper line and a suitable leader, you'll do just fine.


My favorite bass bugs are made from deer bucktail that I tie myself.


Note the size difference in these two bugs. Those big jobs like the one on the left are much more difficult to cast than the smaller bug on the right.

So what's a suitable leader? I've tapered my own some of the time, and they worked all right. What I didn't like about them was the knots used in the tapering process sometimes caught in stuff floating on the surface. You can get by just fine with a level leader and eliminate those extra hang ups.

Bass aren't leader shy. But as I've already mentioned, you'll need a leader that's sufficiently strong for you to have a prayer of getting a good fish out of heavy cover.


Even smaller bass like this one let you know they're around when you take them with a fly rod.

You'll be wise to do a little research and seek expert advice in putting your bugging outfit together. As I've mentioned there is a lot of material out there regarding fly rod bass fishing.. You'll be wise to make use of it.

Getting the right gear is just part of getting into fly rodding for bass. You'll also want to consider the best techniques to bamboozle those bass with your bugs. I'll get into the tactics that have worked best for me in next month's column.

-To Be Continued-
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