These past few weekends the fish were really keyed in on small dry flies. BWOs seemed to do the trick for us. As we carefully drifted them into a pocket of slack water, near a down tree, the fish would slowly rise and delicately sip the flies off the surface.
It is cool when you get the opportunity to catch trout on dry flies in Minnesota in February, but these were not trout; these were smallmouth bass. Yes, you heard correctly. Smallmouth bass sipping size 16 dries in mid-February like a cutthroat sips a hopper in mid-August.
Warm water is needed to make this possible and during February in Minnesota, warm water is hard to find. If you are able to find a source of warm water, however, you will find fish. These locations are not always the most picturesque, but the sight of a sipping bass and sound of a click and pawl reel zipping makes up for it.
Standing knee deep in what felt like bath water, we delicately cast our small dries near the previously mentioned fallen tree which was covered with ice caused by frozen steam. Not many drifts would pass before a small disturbance in the water would occur and our flies would disappear. After a quick, vertical hook set, our light rods and tippet were quickly put to the test. At best, we landed 70% of the fish we sunk our size 16 hooks into. Smallmouth bass are very aggressive, so keeping them pinned with a small fly and lighter tippet, is not an easy task, but the challenge is a blast!
Smallmouth are one of my favorite species to target on the fly rod, but up until recently, I had never witnessed them sipping small dry flies so consistently. Even though the average size that we caught was much smaller than during summer months, it was still a super fun experience. It was good change from winter trout or ice fishing, but only made me more anxious for a warm summer day, drifting down one of our numerous trophy smallmouth rivers throwing poppers on 8 weights to 3lb bass. Until then, I will appreciate the weekends that I’m able to fish for a few hours and the beauty that is experienced outdoors during the snowy winter months.