The rod was bent to the cork as a tank smallmouth hauled on the working end of the line. It’s been said that pound for pound the smallmouth bass are the hardest fighting freshwater fish and this one was living up to that reputation. Hovering beside a shallow boulder I’d spotted her just a minute before. While it took some coaxing she couldn’t resist the dancing strip of rabbit fur just inches away and now she was jumping, head shaking and stripping line from the reel.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, when tank smallies move into skinny water get after them!

Sometimes you have to give up what you really want to see the gift that is sitting there right in front of you. For the past two and a half weeks I’d been slinging my 10 and 8 weight rigs chasing pike. While I’d had some success, the fishing had been great just the catching in the warm summer waters wasn’t spectacular. Occasionally, with the shoulder needing a rest I’d break out my 4 weight to chase some bass and enjoy the effortless casting of a light rod.

Being my second to last day at the cottage I was trying to get in every last minute of fishing before heading to Toronto and flying west, back to British Columbia. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, a dying wind and water calm as glass. The lightest of breezes crawled the boat across the largest rock shoal in the lake. It quickly became apparent through my polarized lenses that there was smallmouth bass scattered everywhere.

Warm days and cool September nights brought the water temperatures into the smallmouth bass’s preferred range, moving them into the shallows to hunt.

The end of summer is an interesting time in southern Ontario, the noticeably shorter days and cool nights of early September had dropped the water temperatures into the high 60’s which brought the bronzebacks up to feed on the rocks. There was no doubt in my mind that they were chasing crayfish and filling their bellies. Standing on the decrepit middle seat of our old aluminum boat I was elevated enough to see 20 to 30 feet ahead. There was bass all around me, in the hour and a half of calm conditions I saw well over twenty smallies and made successful casts to at least ten of them.

Hooked up and bent, these bass gave the 4 weight rod a real work out.

Often spotted in pairs I would cast 5 to 10 feet beyond, the splash of the Zuddler often intriguing them. While not actively feeding I would dance the fly in front of their face until one would suck it in. The take is so subtle on the slackline that the hookset relied on me watching for when it was safely in their mouth. More often then not I would set too early or too late but I did get hooks sunk a few times and managed to net two large fish (and lost several when they became airborne) the first afternoon.

With similar conditions the next morning it was game on again, standing on the seat, sight casting to large smallmouth bass, watching the strike in gin clear water. If anything they were in a more aggressive feeding mood and in the end I’m not exactly sure how many I hooked but it was without a doubt the best session of bass fishing I’d ever experienced and all on a light fly rod. These smallmouth bass were absolute bruisers and in over thirty years of fishing experience on this little lake, I’d never seen anything like it. They were everywhere on the one-acre shoal. This unexpected bonanza of bronzebacks left me shaking and if I could change anything it would’ve been to have had my wife or nephews all who are learning to fly fish with me to experience it.

Waking early on Saturday, I’d planned on getting in one last little mission before heading to Toronto. While sitting outside by the water, drinking the first coffee of the day with my parents I decided to breakdown my rods and stow my gear away. The past two days of fishing still had me buzzing, the muscle memory of the fights still there I decided to end my trip on that high note. I had disturbed these big bass enough, in a way it was satisfying to leave wanting more, already planning for next year’s trip east in my head.

Article from Matthew Mallory, a writer, and photographer based out of Whistler, British Columbia. His work has covered mainly mountain biking and mountain snowmobiling and now has found a passion for fly fishing. Check him out on the web at

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth/Largemouth Bass: Your Complete Guide

Fall Fishing for Smallmouth Bass [Tips and Techniques]

When Things Don’t Go Pike


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