Improve Your Bass Fly Fishing Strike Rate

You would think that fly and bait anglers fish in the same type of sea conditions. Well, they don’t. When it comes to fly fishing for Bass, you can improve your strike rate by focusing on the conditions that affect the Bass's smell, lateral line, vibration, and sight.

One of the most important things a fly fisherman needs is a stable and clean water column for fishing relatively shallow water with a floating saltwater fly line when wading or drifting. The reason becomes apparent when you look at the way Bass hunts and what it relies on when stalking its prey – namely smell (foraging), lateral line (vibration) and sight (visual impact).

Cortland 333 Saltwater Fly Line
Bass uses all these factors either in isolation or combination, but when you are fly fishing it is imperative that a clear water column is present because it makes visual location much easier for the predator to intercept its quarry.

Bass Streamer
When you are beachcasting, the predator can smell out your bait, but when you offer a saltwater fly it can’t smell or locate the lure through either its lateral line or its nares (nostril holes) and therefore to maximise the fish’s killing window – which is roughly about 12-15ft square – clear water is essential. If you need to fish a bit deeper, you can add a saltwater polyleader to help you explore the water column.

Climax Salt H2O Fluorocarbon
It is also important to understand what affects the water column and its clarity. In inshore shallows or estuaries, the water column will be influenced by the speed of the water coming in and out.

Bass Territory
A big spring tide colours the water as the tide scours the channels and picks up debris from the high tide line. You will see a cloudy hue due to the suspension of particles. Bass will visit turbid water because food gets caught up in it. While Bass will remain keen forage feeders, it is harder for anglers to catch one because the fish’s vision is reduced. On the flip side, fly anglers will prefer to work a fly with a saltwater fly rod during a neap or intermediate lunar cycle, when the tidal range and water velocity is lower.

Greys GR70 Salt Powerlux Fly Rod
Wind can act for or against the fly fisher. A wind coming from a northerly direction will keep the sea flat, with less energy pushed against the foreshore. In contrast, a warmer southerly will stir inshore waters and a lot of energy will hit the foreshore, and it is this natural tumbling of the sea that causes sediment to colour the water.

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel
Best conditions
So what are the best conditions for fly fishing a new mark for Bass? Decide first whether you are drifting or wading. If drifting, select a neap cycle on a light south-westerly or westerly wind.  Observe just enough breeze to take the mirror off the surface but not enough to make fishing unsafe or put too much colour in the water. A smaller tide also gives more time to cover likely areas as your drift will be slower.

Vass 305 Breathable Chest Waders
When wading, observe the mark on a big tide so you can study the area in low water. Once the tide has entirely ebbed, it will disclose to you the backbone of the tidal streams which remain. These streams are commonly called ‘subterranean food highways,’ and it is these channels that hold bait. Not because the fish want to hold there but because it gets pushed through the remaining highway of water.

Futurefly Coastal Line Basket
If possible, fish a mid-tide with reduced velocity, which will result in cleaner water, especially if the wind is low. You may not be able to get right on top of the mark by wading, but you should be able to offer a fly near or around it, based on what you learned over a low water spring. Neap tides can hold large numbers of baitfish, as the tidal velocity is not strong enough to bully or distribute the bait balls over large areas.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler Magazine.