While bass are generally considered the ultimate game fish in the fishing sport community, they are still a fringe species when it comes to fly fishing. In most cases, fly anglers are going after trout, and as such, most typical fly patterns are designed specifically with trout in mind.
However, if you want to experience fly fishing and catch bass at the same time, the 10 flies we’ve listed here should help you get started.
The Clouser Deep Minnow may just be the most essential fly period, but is widely considered a must-have weapon for fishermen angling specifically for bass. In fact, this particular baitfish imitation was initially invented – in 1987 by one Bob Clouser – as a solution for scoring smallmouths. Since then the Clouser Deep Minnow has become an essential fly fishing standard. Its renown has been spurred on at numerous points by legendary fly fishing writer Lefty Kreh, who coined the fly’s name in 1989, and who has used the Clouser to wrangle approximately 90 different species of fresh and saltwater game fish. No matter where you’re fishing, this white-and-chartreuse fly pattern needs to be in your tackle box.
If your main game fish target is bass, then you need at least one frog fly in your arsenal, and the Dahlberg Diver is arguably the most effective and essential frog fly out there. Rather than zipping through the water, as many flies do, like a small baitfish, the Dahlberg Diver Frog plunges into the depths, flits around on the bottom, and swiftly resurfaces, all with the simple pull or strip of the fishing line. The result is that this particular fly displaces a lot of water and causes a lot of noise, drawing the eyes of big predator fish looking for a sizable entrée. In other words, it’s perfect for drawing in the monster bass you’ve been dreaming about.
Essentially the miniaturized minnow version of other styles, the Fathead Diver is perfect for anglers who want the results of the high-performing flies, but want to maintain a bit more subtlety and stealth with their catch.
A crayfish pattern is something that you need to have in your tackle box for bass fishing expeditions. The Soft Shell Crayfish is a solid imitator of these particular bottom dwellers. It’s a weighted wet fly that takes a design perk out of the Clouser Deep Minnow book in order to work effectively on lake, river, and streambeds. It may not look like as big of a feast as larger flies, but it will still do the trick in many situations.
Like the Clouser Deep Minnow, the Woolly Bugger is widely considered to be an essential standard for all fly anglers, not just for bass fishermen. In most circles, the Bugger – a wet fly streamer – is considered most effective in catching sizable trout, but it can also get the job done for bass. In fact, this black and fluffy fly is one of the more versatile fly lures out there in general: fish it in either fresh or saltwater, for virtually any type of species, and you’re likely to see similarly positive results.
As versatile and widely used as the Woolly Bugger, but serving as a top water skimmer rather than an undersurface streamer, the Gartside Gurgler is notable because of how it has been modified over the years. The original Gartside Gurgler is a simplistic design meant – as its creator Jack Gartside noted – to attract the attention of fish by causing commotion on the surface.
Gartside developed the fly with the intention of it being customized to suit different fishing environments, with a range of different sizes, colors, and other modifications or adaptations being added to the fly by the tyer. The fly’s versatility makes it a no brainer for any fishing trip, and that includes a bass expedition.
It’s right there in the name, as the Deer Hair Bass Bug lives up to its reputation as a great fly for catching bass. It’s a popper, and made primarily from deer hair. Many fly anglers don’t love fishing with deer hair, mostly because – more than other materials – it can easily become waterlogged and therefore loses its effectiveness over time.
However, for introductory casts, the Deer Hair Bass Bug may just be the best bass fly in your collection, a flitting, eye-catching splash of color that will have bass erupting from the water in an attempt to swallow it whole.
Like the Deer Hair Bass Bug, the Bunny Bass Leech is the rare fly that is specifically meant for catching bass. It’s also one of the most easy-to-tie flies in the book and consists of little more than a piece of dyed rabbit fur. For largemouth bass, the Bunny Leech fly is most effective if it uses black or purple fur, but the fly can be turned into a lure for virtually any other game fish by simply playing around with colors.
Like many other flies, the Muddler Minnow is considered to be, first and foremost, a weapon against trout. However, this fly’s note-perfect imitation of baitfish from the sculpin family will work on just about any big game fish, from trout to steelhead and from salmon to bass.
A classic fly more traditionally used to catch trout, the Hopper is ideal for rivers and streams in the summertime when the grasshoppers are out in droves. It’s one of the rare dry flies that should be in your pocket when heading out to fly fish for bass. You won’t use it as much as some of the other flies on this list, but for a brief moment in the summer, it can be a real winner. The foam design, like the one pictured, is exceptional.