May 16, 2021
“Ploop”, is the sound of the popper hitting the water. It’s late evening and I’m standing on the bank of a nearby cove looking for some top water action about a 10 minute drive from my house. I love popper fly fishing for Columbia River smallmouth bass. The fun is two V-words; a “vicious” take that is “visual”! No takers on my fly landing on the mirror calm surface. After the rings go flat from the landing, I make a quick tug on the line to make the popper dance with a “SPLOOSH” commotion! It only takes three and all heck breaks lose as an aggressive smallmouth pounces on my popper! I can never become bored with this type of fly fishing!
May is typically the start of the smallmouth season and surprisingly, the water temperature doesn’t necessarily have to be at 60+ degrees F. Even at temperatures above 55 F, you can rouse up smallies to the surface. I really enjoy my fiberglass rod for this and use a 6 or 7 wt. rod. A WF, floating line is the key (with an aggressie taper) to help turnover the poppers. Now there are commercial fly lines specifically for fly fishing for bass. The leader should be around 9 feet long to 10 lb. tippet.
Though bass can be raised on poppers through most of the day, the epic time is the first and last hour and a half of daylight. This is also the perfect time for the trophy class smallmouth bass over 17 inches.
I can’t say enough how crazy the takes are on top and I’d much rather catch the smallies on top over a sinking presentation any time, even if it means less fish!
The popper action should be good from now until around mid-July. So if you haven’t given this a try, you need to do it! If you only have a 5wt trout fly rod, that will work, just keep your popper size on the smaller side, like a size 2 or 4. As seen in the photo above, I was using a mini, Hula Popper, which, has been around for decades! It has to be the most popular popper ever made! I found some of these mini poppers in a close out and they are perfect for casting with a fly rod. The treble hooks are kind of small so you have to take your time on the hook set or you'll end up pulling the popper right out of their mouth.
Big Smallmouth Bass Continue to Show up!
Smallmouth bass fly fishing is on fire on the entire Columbia River! Plenty of reports from friends are coming to me with a big catches. Bob Spotts from Hood River, OR, recently took advantage of a warm calm day on The Dalles Pool and caught numerous 20-inch smallies! In fact he caught 8 like the one in the photo! That’s the Columbia River for ya, big smallmouth at its finest! Bob was using a floating line with a 6’ fast sink tip and his fly of choice was a 2/0 Clouser Minnow in chartreuse and white. Clousers are deadly and an excellent choice that smallies can never resist!
Now is the time to look for rocky shoal areas for pre-spawn and spawning times. You can never go wrong on rip-rap (rocky shoulders built by the Army Corp). Shallows with drop offs, and open pockets in weed beds are good places too.
Tight Lines on your fly fishing pursuits,