Trophy smallies during peak season!
As water temps reach 50 degrees or higher on the Snake River and adjoining tributaries a vicious predator, and fantastic fly fishing target, begins to awake and feed with abandon. Smallmouth bass are not only plentiful and cooperative, but in this particular watershed are highly invasive and wreak havoc on native salmon smolt, as well as juvenile steelhead. Thus making them a prime target for harassment from fly fisherman as well as their frying pans. Washington and Oregon have even removed limits of these fish in many waters due to research illustrating the impacts on our struggling native species.
Catching bass in this early season can be super productive for both numbers and size of fish. There are basically two food sources that make up most of a smallies diet in these waters (or any for that matter). Crayfish, a small staple worldwide, and baitfish. In this case, baitfish, that means immature salmonids later transitioning to other rough fish and of course piles of sculpin as the smolt leave the area. Flies reflecting these forage sources and heavily weighted to cut through springs high water will do well if properly fished.
Early season Smallies are just waking up and are not as aggressive on the eats as folks may expect bass to be. They sit in the stained water waiting for a unsuspecting smolt to happen by their ambush spot and simply suck them in with a flash making bite detection the biggest hurdle for most fly fisherman to overcome. You have to stay tight enough to the fly to feel the bite, while also allowing it to get down in high water to where the fish lay in wait. Also, watching for line jump and not always waiting to “feel” the fish to strike (and strike hard). The technique is half swing half dead stick, or Czech nymph turned into a short tiny strip retrieve through the slower eddies. As it gets warmer they feed even more recklessly and more traditional bass presentations and aggressive eats become the norm. With water temps this behavior can go back and forth from sips to murderous takes for weeks through the spring pre runoff.
When the Smallies are hot you will see them running smolt up on the sand and chasing them like little pelagic demons around the river, often puking up several on the way to the boat or bank during a fight with a fisherman. Upon examining the stomach contents of hundreds of them after fights like this I have personally found up to, and well beyond, half a dozen more in their guts... I am talking about (average) 14 inch sized bass! It is worth noting that bass up to 22 plus inches are very possible on this fishery and that is anywhere from a five to six plus pound fish! Though it can take some experience and practice to get proficient at catching these larger fish the good news being that gaining experience on this fishery is action packed fun!
This behavior only goes on for a few weeks until the runoff comes, then as the waters recede in June typically we get another couple weeks of fantastic fishing. As the bass begin to spawn warmer temps and full bellies make the larger fish seemingly more cautious during mornings. Low light becomes the hot times and bigger fish (all sizes for that matter) become trickier to fool. Good news is that even during the peak of summer a terrible day of bass fishing is still quite probably going to be a double digit day. It is worth noting that these critters begin to feed heavily again late August and September in preparation for winter and large fish become more accessible during this period as well.
This fishery is in full swing right now as it warms and if fisherman follow the magic 51 degree plus water temp there are some silly (like stupid silly) days on the fly to be had this time of year for trophy fish!
If you are interested in booking a bass trip please give Silver Bow Guide Manager Bo Brand a call to get you on the calendar! 509-924-9998
- Travis De Boer
Lead Grande Ronde Steelhead Guide