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Fly Fishing For Bass On Elk LakeBy Hugh Partridge,
"Fly-fishing for Smallmouth Bass?", you say. Yes you heard it correctly. The fact is, despite the notion that Bass fishing incorporates an arsenal of plugs, spinners, divers, jigs and tails, fly-fishing for Smallmouth Bass has been proven to be equally as effective a technique for catching Bass as any other.
My first experience with this somewhat unorthodox technique for catching Bass was on Elk Lake, perhaps one of the best Bass fishing Lakes in all of British Columbia. I was joined by a fellow angler, who was suspiciously reserved about his successes while fly-fishing for Bass.
Being somewhat skeptical about the notion of presenting a fly in front of these predatory fish, I brought along my usual arsenal of Bass gear and spin casting rods, anticipating that I would soon revert back to my tried and tested methods for Bass.
There was one thing about this excursion I knew to be in our favor. We had chosen perhaps the best lake possible. A relatively large lake (224 Hectares), Elk Lake holds some of the largest Bass in the province, some of which are well over 5 pounds. Equally as impressive as the size of Bass that it holds, is the healthy population of Bass that inhabit its waters. Impressive catch results for Bass are reported each year in both Elk Lake and the adjoining body of water, Beaver Lake. Located 13 kilometers north of Victoria, Elk Lake is easily accessible from Hwy. 17, and is a popular choice for many recreationalists. So long as you don't mind sharing the lake with other boaters, it can prove to be one of the best fisheries you will ever encounter. This is one case where the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Contributing to the success of Elk Lake as a Bass fishery, was the implementation of a $30,000.00 program to enrich the spawning grounds for the Smallmouth Bass. Artificial spawning reefs were built and placed strategically around the lake. The results have been exceptional, as the fishery benefited well from the efforts.
We began to fish from our float tubes on the east side of the lake, in a productive stretch of water that has served me well over the years. Following my friend's advice, I was fishing with a 9 foot, 6 weight fly rod with a #2 sink line ( sink rate of 2 1/2 to 3 feet per second), a six pound tapered leader, and an olive/black Woolly Bugger as the fly of choice.
I positioned my float tube about 50 feet away from that of my co-fisherman's, letting him take the lead. Confidence in his abilities soon became evident, as I watched him move his float tube directly towards some of my personally favorite fishing holes. "Blasted", I thought to myself. Here I thought that only I knew about this one fishing hole that my fellow angler was zeroing in on.
No sooner than the time it took for him to reach this favorite fishing hole of mine, he was into a fish. A scrappy fish, I watched as he fought this healthy 3 pounder. "Nice fish", I exclaimed, watching him release the fish to be caught another day. He responded by saying, "It's a good start". I soon realized that he was not kidding when he said that. A half hour had passed and he had landed 3 fish of equal size. For me however, the batting average was somewhat poorer.
I did what any good angler does when faced with adversity, WATCH AND LEARN! I brought my line in and studied my friends technique. I knew that we both had identical outfits, right down to the same fly pattern, so it ought to be a question of mere presentation. What he did was ever so simple. He would simply place a short cast of about 15 feet in front of himself, let the fly sink for about one minute until it was just above the bottom, and troll the fly very, very slowly. By very slowly, I mean dead slow. His fly line was almost in a vertical position.
My studious approach paid out good dividends. Within minutes of my newly acquired knowledge, I was into a Bass. The fight was unlike any other. The 9 foot fly rod provided great action when compared to the stout, 6 to 7 foot spin casting outfits I was more accustomed to. After releasing the Bass of about 3 pounds, I had landed 3 others that afternoon, one of which well over 4 pounds. I learned quickly that presentation was one important key to success, as the Bass did not tolerate a fast moving fly. Other keys to success could have been applied to any other type or method of fishing; those being, proper depth and bottom structure.
Smallmouth Bass seem to prefer shallow water depending on the time of year. On this particular occasion we happened to be fishing in June, which marks the beginning of the prime season for Bass fishing. It is at this point in the season when Bass tend to move into the shallows, preferring about 8 to 15 feet of water. As the season progresses into July, the Bass will seek even shallower depths of sometimes only a couple of feet. This cycle marks the beginning of spawning season, and anglers should be aware not to disturb their spawning grounds. Moving Bass away from their spawning grounds at this time of year threatens the fry to which the Bass are protecting from other predators. The Bass will remain in the shallower regions of the lake, till around September when they begin their migration into deeper waters containing higher levels of oxygen, due to cooler water temperatures.
Bottom structure always plays a factor when fishing for Bass. Stumps, logs and rocky structures are favored grounds, as are drop-offs or pinnacles.
Collectively, my friend and I had caught over 10 Bass that afternoon, all of which on flies. Funny, I never did take out my spin casting outfit that day, and now it seldom leaves my basement.