Review: Smallmouth Fly Tactics

By Scott Richmond

When handed a lemon, do you make lemonade?

For better or worse, the Columbia River and some of its tributaries hold large numbers of non-native smallmouth bass. The Columbia's smallmouth are an invasive species that feeds on juvenile native salmonids, among other prey. On the other hand the bass are an excellent sport fish.

So there they are, and if you live in Pacific Northwest urban centers such as Portland, Eugene, or Boise, smallmouth are an opportunity you might consider, along with other non-natives like carp and shad.

While there are plenty of books and videos to help you learn how to fly fish for smallmouth bass, most of them focus on the fish's native range in the east and south. What about us here in the upper left corner of the US?

If you have an interest in bass, Joe Warren's video Smallmouth Fly Tactics should be on your must-buy list. Joe is a fisheries biologist from Carson, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge. If you're not familiar with the local geography, that's about 40 miles east of Portland.

Joe has chased bass in the Columbia system for many years and shares his practical knowledge with us in this video.

What You'll Find

There's a genre of fishing literature referred to as "Me and Joe Went Fishing." And that's what this video is all about. Literally!

Joe Warren goes fishing in the Columbia Gorge, the John Day River, and the Columbia above John Day Dam. The video covers different times of year from spring to summer. On each trip, Joe talks about how to fish for smallmouth under different conditions and in different habitats. It's like you're in the boat with him, learning as you go.

While he's talking, Joe catches a lot of bass--some of which are pretty respectable fish! So you can see that it's not just theoretical. Take a good look at those fish, and you might feel an urge to go out and give it a try.

The video chapters are:

  1. Places
  2. Finding the Depth
  3. Poppers
  4. Wading streams
  5. Gear--rods, reels, flies
  6. Rigging
  7. Fishing rocky shorelines

Joe gives particular attention to effect of water temperature on bass behavior, including what depth to present your fly for each temperature range and how to achieve that depth.

Smallmouth Fly Tactics is produced by the folks at Fly Fish TV. They use multiple cameras, which keeps the video visually interesting. But--as is typical of this highly professional crew--you never see the camera. Sound quality and production values are excellent.

Bottom Line

Joe Warren is an articulate and knowledgeable host, and Smallmouth Fly Tacticsis an excellent resource for Northwest fly anglers who want to take advantage of an abundant resource which is, for many, in their backyard.

Smallmouth Fly Tactics with Joe Warren. Ninety minute video. $19.95 for DVD, or $9.95 for streaming. Available at some fly shops and online at, Fly Fish TV, and other online sources

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).