The author with a feisty smallmouth caught on the surface

Expert fly-fishing tips for catching walleye, bass, pike and lake trout



It’s as though largemouth and smallmouth bass were custom-designed for fly anglers. They’ll willingly take flies off the surface, and they typically don’t spook when a fly splats onto the water. Fish with a floating line and a nine-foot tapered leader designed specifically for casting flies, rather than straight monofilament. Thicker at the base than at the tip, tapered leaders help your fly line turn over properly in the air, thus reducing tangles and facilitating a gentler landing.


Fishing bass on the surface is the most exhilarating way to catch them. Use popper flies, which are designed to jump and gurgle when retrieved in short strips. Remember to pause for a few seconds between each strip.

Popper flies jump and gurgle when retrieved

When bass aren’t willing to come up, you can go down after them with the same set-up using weighted streamer patterns that resemble anything from crayfish to leeches to minnows. After each cast, give your fly time to sink in the water column before beginning to strip it back. A slow but steady retrieve works well, but you can also try a jigging motion.