Smallies on the fly

Smallmouth bass provide a rewarding experience for fly anglers, especially this month. (Picture by The Catawba Angler)

Don’t overlook western NC’s smallmouth fishing

Smallmouth bass get very active in western North Carolina this month, and they’ve almost always taken a backseat to trout in that region.

“Smallmouth bass have always been overlooked by trout anglers, but I hope I can convince you to start targeting them if you haven’t already,” said Matt Evans of The Catawba Angler (

Evans said smallmouth are extremely aggressive fish.

“Smallmouth bass are the hardest fighting fish we have around the mountains of North Carolina. These fish will test your drag, jump, and then tail slap water at you when you release them. They are an aggressive species, which makes them a perfect fish to chase using the fly rod,” he said.

Evans loves to catch trout, but he said smallmouth take things to the next level, especially once spring sets in.

“Fly fishing for smallmouth bass can be the most rewarding thing you can do with the long rod from spring to fall. It’s not an easy task, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding than when a 3-pound smallmouth takes a topwater bug drifting parallel to the bank,” he said.

In the spring, smallmouth start off in pre-spawn mode, actively feeding on crayfish, hellgrammites and baitfish. They’ll congregate in big, deep, slack water pools. So getting flies to sink down into the strike zone can take some patience.

Aggressive feeders

Once the spawn is over, water temps begin to climb, and the smallmouths matabolism goes up as well.

“After the spawn is over, these fish need to replenish their calories to obtain the weight they lost during the spawn,” he said. “In May, you start seeing smallmouth coming out of the deeper water. They’ll stage anywhere there is structure, safety, good current and food.

“It is not uncommon to see smallmouth in just a few feet of water chasing minnows or eating mayflies off the surface. One of the coolest things I get to witness guiding the same rivers year after year is seeing smallmouth bass in the French Broad sipping mayflies.”

When that happens, Evan said anglers need to be prepared with the right kind of fly.

“Anytime you see a sipping smallmouth, they will be eager to take a popping bug,” he said.

Generally during May, Evans looks for smallmouth to feed primarily on baitfish imitations. For anglers doing it on their own, he suggests keeping a journal to help develop patterns for certain times of year.

“Ever since I’ve been guiding, I’ve kept a log of notes from every day I’ve fished. This has allowed me to form patterns, and it gives me the proper baits to start with, instead of going out there guiding by the seat of my pants,” he said.

Details like water temperature, pressure, weather, water levels, and what flies you’re having luck with are all notes that will help you in future trips.

For a guided trip with Evans, contact him at 828-460-2390 or at

About Brian Cope 2762 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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