By Al Raychard
For many fly fishing enthusiasts trout are the name of the game. I’m a big fan of the various members of the “trout” clan, too and have been fortunate to travel from the remote fly-in regions of Labrador, Quebec and Alaska to the high altitude ponds in the Rockies to pursue them. I enjoy the wild bastions trout call home. I get excited when they finally accept a well- placed fly and I marvel at their colorful and delicate beauty. But closer to home bass are my name of the game, especially at this time of year.
Part of the reason is that bass are readily available, perhaps the most readily available game fish in the bottom two-thirds or so of the state. That’s quite a statement considering that neither bass are native to Maine. According to a Black Bass Management Plan dated way back in 2001, smallmouth bass are found in 471 lakes and ponds and largemouth in 372. It doesn’t mention anything about rivers.
I dare say the number is now higher on both counts and will stick my neck out and say practically every river crossed, and the vast majority of lakes and ponds in the bottom half of Maine, regardless of size, is home to either largemouth or smallmouth bass, in some cases possibly both.
Another reason I like bass is they’re fun to catch, particularly on flies. It doesn’t matter what kind of fly. For me surface flies are the most exciting, but whether it’s something on the surface or something subsurface it doesn’t matter. Bass are nowhere as colorful or pleasing to the human eye as trout, but ounce-for-ounce or pound-for-pound when comes to giving a tussle on the end of a fly line they have nothing to be ashamed of. For what it’s worth, fishing smallmouths in moderately moving water, whether wading or casting from a canoe, is one of my favorite things to do. Although casting weedless flies into dense, dark cover and having a largemouth explode in acceptance is not far behind. It’s all fun.
July can be a challenging time to fly fish for bass. By now bass and fishing for them have gone through some changes. The spawn and post-spawn periods are long gone and, as water temperatures warm, bass tend to seek cooler temperatures in deeper water. For that reason the early morning hours before the sun is fully on the water and late in the day once the sun starts to wane in the west casting dark shadows are my favorite times. Bass always seem to be on the feedbag but at these times of day waters are coolest, or are starting to cool, bass increase activity and move to where feed is most abundant and there’s a good chance of finding them in spots where a floating or sink-tip line will suffice.
This doesn’t mean that the fishing is easy. July bass fishing can be downright challenging, often frustratingly so, particular with flies. But I’ve found that if the same tactics used for t rout are employed success comes more frequently.
It’s July, folks. If you’re not off camping, at the beach or saltwater fishing, looking for trout, hiking somewhere or just wiling away the coming dog days of summer pick up your fly rod and try casting some flies for bass. There’s tons of them out there, finding good water isn’t a problem and you’ll be glad you did in more ways than one.
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