Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass
Fly fishing for smallmouth bass can be tricky, so, here is how I would approach and fish this pool. There are still a few leaves on the trees so this must still be the early fall, therefore the water will be chilly. Chilly water means that surface flies won't produce all that much, so I should use sub surface patterns.

I can see into the bottom and the water is gin clear. I need to keep the fly as far away from the fly line so that I don't spook the fish. The obvious choice is a 15 to 20 foot level leader of 4-pound Vanish. I'd keep in mind that I may have to drop down to a 2-pound tippet. If I need to I would cut off the end of the leader so that the overall length would not exceed 20 feet. Say 16 feet of the 4-pound with a 4-foot tippet of the 2-pound. I am using a 5-weight rod with a double tapered floating line, so 20 feet is the maximum leader length I can turn over accurately. I need the accuracy because most of the fish will be under the willow or tight to the bank. In water this low, there is no point in using anything other than a floating line.

The trouble with a 2-pound tippet is that there may be carp or redhorse mixed in with the smallmouth bass. If I see carp cruising around, or if I can see redhorse flashing as they are nymphing, then off comes the 2-pound tippet and I will add enough 4-pound to bring the leader length back up to 20 feet. A 2-pound tippet will do nothing but snap off when a big carp or a redhorse takes the fly. If they don't bust the fly off on the take, they will no doubt succeed in rubbing the tippet over the rocks and structure on the riverbed, which I can clearly see. I don't want to have them swimming around with a fly stuck in their mouth, because I was too silly to switch back up to a 4-pound tippet.

Remember, with a 20 foot leader I am very comfortable knowing that if the fish are refusing the fly, it's the pattern which is wrong. It is not that they are refusing the fly because the fly is too close to the fly line and the fly line is spooking them.

I said that I would be using a floating line. I need to coat the last 8-feet of it with Gink. Yes, the same stuff you put on a dry fly to make it float. The Gink will keep the fly line on the surface. This will make detecting the hits easier, as the tip of the line will stop or jump if a fish touches the fly. The greased up fly line will ride high on the water surface making it easier to lift off, remember there is a 20 foot leader out there. I won't spook away the fish by ripping the line from the water surface as there will be less friction when the line is riding high on the surface once it has been coated with Gink.

If you take a close look at the foreground of the picture you will see that I have created a small wake. That is not good. However, you will also see that I did not created a mud trail. A mud trail drifting down over any fish in that sort of low clear water, when they are in close to the bank or under a tree, is the kiss of death. They will bugger off or simply go off the feed. The good thing about the wake is that by the time the wake settles down and disperses, I will have enough time to get my leader sorted out and my fly tied on. From here on in I will only make small steps of about a foot at a time in order to prevent making anymore waves.

Note that I said "fly" and not "flies." Fishing two flies in low clear water which has a lot of structure is nuts. In order to prevent spooking the fish, the flies would have to be at least 6 feet apart. If I have two flies out there, which are 6 feet apart, one of them is going to hang up on something. Busting off a fly is no big deal, but it would sure as heck leave a large section of leader in the water, and that is not good for birds and wildlife.

The other reason I don't want to fish with two flies is that a hooked fish will at some point head into the structure at the base of the tree. One of the flies is sure to hang up and I will bust off.

Take a look at rocks in the photo. You will see that the water level is dropping. This is good, because at last there will be fresh water moving over the area. If the water mark on the rock was constant, i.e. no damp line on the rock above the water level, then things would be different and I would need another approach. But, seeing that the water is on the way down, there is a good chance that the fish are picking up some extra oxygen, making them a bit more inclined to chase food items. Then again in the fall there is quite a bit of oxygen in the water, so the flow will not be as much of a determining factor on how I would fish then if it was the summer. In the summer when there is less oxygen in the water, any movement of fresh water is good.

Another thing I have working for me is that the sun is in front of me. This is a biggie. Take a look at the shadows. With the sun in front of me, I won't be casting a shadow into the area I am going to fish. My shadow will spook the fish but because the sun is in front of me, my shadow will be thrown out behind me and it won't spook the fish.

Picking The Right Fly
The temptation here would be to go with a terrestrial pattern like a Smushed Hopper and fish it close to the bank. A Klinkhammer Special or a Double Elk Hair Caddis could also do the job fished close to the bank. The bank is steep and it also has a clayish look to it, so any bugs that fall in would have a hard time getting back out again. An easy meal for the fish. I am not going to use a hopper because any items which have been washed into the river would be moving downstream quickly as the water is on the drop.

I would go with a crayfish pattern as at this time of the year, in the cold water, crayfish can be a bit lethargic making them an easy meal. The fish are looking to put on weight as the change in the weather should have let them know "Winter is just around the bend, so you had better start pigging out and beefing up." If the crayfish fails to produce then the next patters, in sequence, would be: White Puke Fly, Black Puke Fly, Muncher Nymph, Hare's Ear Nymph, Blackwell's Baitfish, Dexter, a small Mickey Finn or a very small and thinly dressed Blacknosed Dace.

I am starting out with soft, squishy and easy to catch items/flies, and then working up to flies which need a faster retrieve. If I start with drab flies and flies which I can fish effectively with a slow retrieve, then I can fish longer without spooking the fish. With all of these flies mentioned above, I can easily cast them on a long 4-pound leader, so I don't have to faff about switching leaders and flies. In order to hook fish I need to keep the fly in the water for as long as I can, so I don't want to have to use up valuable fishing time by faffing about changing flies or leaders.

Once I have tied the fly onto the leader using a Palomer knot I will sharpen it and then make sure the hook point is sharp by dragging the point across my thumb nail. I want to make certain that if I get a tap, the fish will almost set the hook itself and I need a sharp hook point to do that. Next I will poke the hook point through my shirt sleeve to make sure it is barbless. Barbless hooks are easy to remove from the fish and a barbless hook will "stick" much easier than a barbed fly.

Next I will straighten out the leader by pulling it through a bit of inner tube rubber and I will also pull and straighten out the last 8 feet of my fly line, so that there are no kinks of twists in it. I want a straight connection between the fly and the fly line. A straight leader will help me to detect any hits.

The Cast
To start out I would begin with short casts, paying close attention to make sure I can get the flies to drift over the darker spots in the river. I would also start to count down the fly to make sure I know how deep the smaller pockets are. Sure I am going to bust off the fly, but I need to get it down to where the fish are. Even in clear and shallow water there are often hidden pockets which will hold fish.

Once I have cover the area directly in front of me with short casts, I will lengthen the cast until I end up dropping the fly inches from the far bank. Once I have made a few drifts with the longer cast, I would take a small step down stream and begin the process again by making short casts and working out to the longer cast.

The Retrieve
I always use the same system for retrieving a fly. I start out with a slow retrieve and then gradually speed up the retrieve until I find the speed the fish want. Remember if a fish wants the fly, you will not be able you retrieve it fast enough to keep them from grabbing it. The key here is to try and get the fly over the fish, or where I think the fish are, as many times as I can without spooking them.

The Kicker
To fish this pool properly it should take about an hour or two. It would have 5 or 6 changes of flies as I fished through it, which would make me feel very confident that I had covered all the water as effectively as I could. I would also be on the look out for any holes, hidden structure or pockets which may not be easy to see when I first looked onto the pool, and I would mark those spots on a small map before I walked down to the next pocket. I always carry a note book and a pencil to make notes as I fish the river. They may not be of much help when I am making them, but in the long run they do help.

In the fall smallmouth bass, carp and redhorse will start to seek out winter habitat which means that they will start to congregate in small areas in which they can over winter. Many of the areas which held these species during the summer will be void of them, so you need to be prepared to think outside of the box to find them. When you do find them, quite often there will be 20 or 30 fish in the one area, so you need to make sure you don't spook them.

Sorry if this is a bit disjointed, but that is how I would approach fishing this pool. There are a few other tricks I would use, but unless you are a fellow Aquarian you would not have a snowballs chance in hell at following my thought process on fishing this pool.