Fly-Fishing for Smallmouth

Reviewed by Randy Dunbar

There are many places in the West were you can find large, self-sustaining populations of non-native smallmouth bass. For better or worse, those spinyray fish are getting more than a passing nod from the trout-and-steelhead crowd.

Thus, Bob Clouser's book Fly Fishing for Smallmouth will be of interest to some western fly anglers.

What You'll Find

The book begins with the natural history of smallmouth. A description of the seasonal behaviors and feeding habits follows in chapter two. Since the book's slant is on fishing for smallmouth in moving water, the next focus is on where to find fish in rivers and streams. Holding structure and lies in various types of water are covered; drawings illustrate the author's points.

But the book's meat is in its descriptions of aquatic fare and their imitation. Some prey species are not found uniformly across the country, but Clouser does his best to give an idea of their range. This section is illustrated with clear color photos of both the prey and the appropriate fly patterns. It shouldn't be a surprise that most of the patterns are variations of Clouser Minnows .

Clouser doesn't stop with baitfish , but includes considerable detail on crayfish , aquatic insects, frogs, and mice. Of course Clouser mentions that if you want to tie the patterns in this book, you really need his other book, Clouser's Flies.

In his "My Fly Box" chapter, he lays out what flies to have and why. He explains that each fly was designed to respond to conditions such as time of year, water flow and color, light intensities, and numerous other situations. I found this to be the key chapter in the book.

He winds down with chapters on casting, equipment, presentations, and tips on catching a trophy fish. He ends with a chapter on regionally-important smallmouth streams. Each stream is covered by a familiar name in the fly angling profession; in the Westfly world, John Randolph gives his nod to the John Day River as his favorite bass water.

Bottom Line

Fly-Fishing for Smallmouth is a good book. It is well written and laid out nicely. My only criticism is the choice of photos: many are well directed, but others are simply eye candy and fluff up the page count. How many photos of someone holding a big bass are really needed? That's a nit in the overall scheme though.