One of the most common bass flies is the woolly bugger - and for good reason...it catches fish. The woolly bugger is a streamer that typically comes in natural colors - browns, blacks, and greens. Some may have some white, crystal flash, purple, or other colors mixed in. It can mimic just about anything depending on size and how you fish it. Some days it is hard to beat the traditional black woolly bugger, but my favorite is olive with crystal flash. Especially in smaller rivers and lakes that are clear, it mimics small minnows nearly perfectly and can catch just about anything.
The muddler minnow is another similar pattern in that it looks like a little bit of everything - sculpins, hoppers, emergers, mice, tadpoles, shiners, creek chubs, and other minnows. The muddler is unweighted, traditionally, which is great for immitating a number of those species. Just add a small split shot to get it to sink and target a completely different section of the water column.
Another tried-and-true favorite is the clouser minnow. I have thrown just about every color clouser under the sun and they all produce in different conditions. For bass, I like going with a size 2 or larger in either natural shad or chartreuse and white. But if you experiment with the size and weight, you can catch just about anything that swims on a clouser.
A few of my clousers
And no fly box is complete without some poppers. I have said publically and will again say that I don't love poppers. I just always seem to find something in my box that either works better or catches bigger fish. However, I have thrown them more than usual this year when fishing with some of our Froggy Waters Outdoors clients. They have been particularly productive in ponds and around mixed vegetation for bass up to 15". Plus they are another pattern that just about anything will eat.
Another popular fly, because it works, is the frog. Personally, I think frog flies can be made to move more naturally than the frog lures used with conventional gear. My frog flies are almost all divers. Some dive a few inches and others just under the surface. But I believe that diving, chugging, floating combo is what sets certain frog patterns apart. I prefer natural colors such as greens and browns with white or yellow stomachs. My all-time favorite frog fly is top secret (and super hard to find), but has caught a pile of bass over 16" in the past couple of years.
A couple diving frog immitators
I am terrestrial junkie. If it is summer and I am fishing a bank with grass anywhere near it, you better believe I will be throwing a big terrestrial - most likely a hopper immitator. Some days you can pop them and fish them fast. Most days you want a slow retrieve with some erratic pops - much like a wounded insect thrashing on the surface. Other days you may need to fish them nearly motionless. In fact, there have been numerous days where I cast a hopper and let it sit motionless while watching bass stare at it for a minute, or more, until finally coming up to suck it in. If I moved it at all, they would not eat it. The parachute hopper is probably my all-around favorite terrestrial. It will catch trout, sunfish, and smaller bass like clockwork, but big bass will eat them too, especially toward dusk. There are also a ton of really cool and different terrestrial patterns out there now so make Google your fly finding friend.
A few flies I drop shot - the helgrammite/leech strip is deadly!
Another great smallie pattern (although it too can catch any bass) is the crayfish. Now it is important to note that not all crayfish are created equal. Some look great in the store, but just don't catch fish. Others don't look nearly as good, but are magic underwater. I now use the Schultzy's Low Water Crayfish the majority of the time after it was recommended to me by my fly fishing guru buddy Levi.
A couple of tubes and an assortment of crayfish
And keeping along the line of bottom bouncers - don't forget your worm flies. Anything with chenille, rubber legs, rabbit strips, or a twister tail will do the trick. Chenille flies are growing on me, in particular, but the twister tail worm will catch a ton of fish. The way it falls is so enticing to bass.
Worms of all shapes and sizes
I have also started to fish more and more big streamers - articulated and not. Something Levi noted that I agree with, is that many articulated streamers don't look any better in the water than non-articulated streamers. It varies a lot from pattern to pattern, so don't feel like you have to break the bank on huge articulated offerings. Here in NC, I mainly use streamers to mimic shad and shiners. I also have a few sunfish streamers. Other places, you may use other colors and patterns. Foam head minnows are another streamer pattern that has been super productive for me.
And last, but not least, is the Zaggin' Zook - a topwater fly you can walk the dog with. I use a split ring on front of this fly (and many of the others above) to increase its action. You can also use a loop knot, but I prefer the strength of my favorite knots to that of the loop knot, so a split ring is an easy and effective solution.
The Zaggin' Zook - it walks!
I will also add a few tips and tricks I use. I always carry a few different color markers with me - mainly black, red, and green. If a certain fly isn't working and I feel it should be, I will color part of it. I often darken the bottom of brighter flies and add red around the gills of lighter streamers. I use chartreuse, garlic scented lure dip in the same way - sometimes dipping the tails of my flies for added color and scent. And don't be afraid to grab that same "Hawg Sauce" you put on your conventional jigs and spray it on your flies - particularly crayfish immitators. It adds an extra dimension that most other anglers don't use. Another thing to consider is using rattles in flies. Much like the silent crankbait in the traditional world, a rattling fly gives a different sound and vibration and can lead to more strikes, particularly around pressured fish.
Of course, there are tons of other great flies out there. In fact you could probably catch a bass on just about anything with rabbit strips and rubber legs. I encourage you all to share your favorite flies in the comments and maybe inspire me to add a few flies to my box as well. Until next time, tight lines!