Yesterday i was fishing with my 3 weight for the stocked browns in the creek near my house. I was drifting a size 14 bead head hares ear and a size 16 red copper john bead head. I saw the line hesitate for an instant and raised the rod. I thought i had one of the huge 20" stockers, but after a very fun battle i brought to hand an 18inch smallie. I have never seen this happen. Anyone nymph for smallmouth bass and catch nice ones consistently?. He ate the size 16 copperjohn. It looked tiny in his mouth. I never thought this possible. Such a big fish eating such a tiny fly. i have caught some dinks with nymphs, but anyone get nice fish consistently with nymphs? i really love to fish with nymphs for trout, never really considered it a viable option for bass, after yesterday i'm wondering. If anyone is successful doing this, what are your go to flies and fly sizes. Thanks
Most of the streams that hold trout by me also hold smallies. They eat nymphs like candy every season . Don't really matter much as long as it gets their attention. What I like the most about small stream smallies beside the fight is the beautiful dark color. And when the stream feeds into a lake they get big and stay dark and still feed on nymphs. You can always tell a stocker smallie here they are light in color.
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First - congrats on catching that 18" smallie! On the 3wt, that had to be an absolute blast!!!!
Getting back to your question - I don't deny that the smallies feed on nymphs quite regularly....What I do question is if it is really a viable/best presentation if you are out specifically targeting them. I am sure a lot of that decision would be based on the stream itself. For bigger waters, I would almost always throw a streamer of sort. It's bigger and in my opinion lends itself to actually being chased instead of having to rely on placing that nymph directly in front of the fish.
If you are fishing a super clear creek, I could see the benefit of possibly using a nymph - especially if the fish have lock jaw with your streamer.
My intro to river run smallies were accidental catches file fishing for trout. Biggest smallie I ever landed was on a 16 Light Cahill DRY. Fish was rising in the same spot regularly sipping duns of the surface gracefully.For me that was up in the wierd-factor range with watching a little bunny swim across a narrow section of the Farmington.
My experience with smallies is rather limited with sort of a hit-or-miss-best-guess approach. I do have several largish Picket Pins (weighted) and some big heavy stone fly nymphs in my smallie boxes.
Have a buddy who throw a #12 GR hare's ear at just about anything and has picked up a lot of smallies with it.
The smallies acting like trout have all occurred in the lower Deerfield not so far upstream from where it flows into the Conneticut.
Smallies are pretty oppotunistic feeders. They eat a lot of aquatic insects. You should not be all that surprised you got one that way.
I agree very much with Dan & what others have said. Smallmouth bass are not often selective like trout may be. I've occasionally caught them on small nymphs while fishing for other species, but when targeting them with nymphs, a larger size is usually a better choice. In my younger days, a size 2 or 4 Montana Nymph was a frequent choice for targeting them.
They're quite fond of Hellgrammites, so any big, dark colored pattern can be very productive in waters where there are a good abundance of Hellgies.
Here's a fly I like for Smallies, even in bigger waters. This particular pattern is intended to imitate large Stoneflies, but again may imitate Hellgies or possibly even crayfish. Really doesn't matter what the bass mistake it for, they'll eat it!
BTW, I generally only tie this pattern now on a size 2 hook. The recipe is on my blog.
Back in PA I used to fish the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers for smallmouth bass. These are both large rivers (300+ feet across) and I did best in areas where islands broke the river down into smaller "trout stream" proportions. Here I would fish a large Stimulator dry fly with a 24" dropper down to a #8 or #10 Prince Nymph. Both of these rivers had excellent stonefly populations and those river smallies gobbled that nymph like crazy (mostly chubs and sunfish on the Stimulator). At first light in June/July I could get them on a Madam X dry fly, but the Prince Nymph was more consistent by far.
If you're really interested in nymphing for smallies, go right to the master himself - Harry Murray. His book is the best I've seen on this subject (illustrated by Dave Whitlock) with large portions dedicated to his patterns and nymph fishing techniques.