If there’s a best month to learn how to fly fish, April is it.
Hard-fighting white bass are starting their move into the White and War Eagle tributaries at Beaver Lake and up the Kings River on Table Rock Lake to spawn. Catching white bass with a fly rod is a major thrill in fishing.
Smaller male white bass move up the tributaries first, followed by the larger females that can weigh three pounds or larger. The Arkansas state record is a 5-pound, 6-ounce white bass caught in 2005 from the Mississippi River. April is the prime month to catch white bass, but action can last into May.
One myth about fly fishing is it’s hard to learn. Another is that a fly fishing gear is expensive.
First, it’s easy to learn the basics of casting a fly rod. The motion is simple to create those graceful candy-cane-shaped loops of fly line seen in videos and photos. A back and forth motion with the rod, and a little timing, will drop your fishing fly into the water on target.
A computer search of “learn to fly fish” will turn up all sorts of videos that show the basic casting technique. A fly fishing friend can also teach the basics. State parks, fishing clubs and outdoor stores may offer programs on fly casting.
With a little practice, a beginner can be casting a fly in short order with the basic back and forth fly-rod motion that creates those nice loops of fly line. A roll cast is easy to learn and handy for fishing when there’s brush behind you that prevents back and forth casting.
With a conventional spin-cast rod or bait-cast rod, the weight of the lure pulls line off the reel as the lure flies through the air. In fly fishing, the weight of the fly line gets the fly out there. That’s why feather-light fishing flies can be cast with a fly rod.
Myth No. 2 is that fly rods are expensive. Complete fly fishing outfits with rod, reel and line are available for less than $100. That’s comparable to a good quality spin-cast or bait-cast rod and reel.
Like conventional fishing rods, fly rods come in various degrees of stiffness, from ultralight to heavy duty. A weight number, such as 4-weight or 6-weight, determines the stiffness and actual weight of the rod. The smaller the number, the more ultralight and whippy the rod is. A 6-weight rod is good for white bass and most other game fish such as trout and black bass.
I like a 4-weight rod for white bass and trout. It’s light in the hand, a breeze to cast and the limber action makes catching even small fish a blast. Others prefer a 6-weight. It’s a little more heavy duty and makes it easier to land fish. My good neighbor, Bruce, routinely catches 20-pound striped bass at Beaver Lake with his 6-weight fly rod. The heavier rod also casts larger flies better.
Those beginner fly fishing videos will also teach you what size of tapered fishing line, called a leader, attaches to the end of the fly line.
Tie a fly to the end of the leader and you’re ready to fish. For white bass, any fly that looks like a minnow is a good choice. A Clouser minnow is a popular white bass fly. A white fly with a little chartreuse, red or gray in the pattern is good. So are white woolly buggers. Stores that sell fly fishing gear will have these.
One truth about fly fishing is this: Catch a white bass on a fly rod and you may never want to catch them with anything else.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org