This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
For fly-fishing on streams a lighter rod can be employed than on lakes, for reasons heretofore given. This should be ten feet and three inches in length and seven and one-half ounces in weight, with a somewhat stiffer back than a Trout fly-rod of the same length and weight. The rod may vary a little in its dimensions from this standard; it may be slightly longer or shorter, or a little lighter or heavier, to suit particular tastes or waters; but in no case should it vary more than three inches in length or one half-ounce in weight in either direction.
Of course, a Trout rod of about these dimensions will answer very well for Black-Bass fishing, but as the flies to be used are usually larger than Trout flies, and as the Bass is generally a much heavier fish than the Brook Trout, the rod will require a little more "back-bone" than is usually found in Trout rods. At the same time it must be almost as pliant or flexible, but more resilient, and these conditions are attained by a stiffish back-i. c, the lower third of the rod. And to obtain the necessary spring, snap or resiliency required in a Black Bass fly-rod, much consideration must be given to the material of which it is to be constructed.
In my opinion there is no material that combines so many good and essential qualities as split bamboo. It is strong, flexible, light, and the most resilient material used in rod making, approaching steel more nearly in this characteristic than any other wood. Ash, lance-wood, greenheart, beth-abara, and some other woods, when carefully selected, make excellent rods, if properly constructed, but the best are inferior to a good split bamboo rod. I will add, however, that most of the cheap split bamboo rods now in the market are inferior in every way to a good wooden rod, and they cost much less to manufacture.
The best reel is, of course, the narrow, single-action click reel, made expressly and only for fly-fishing. Most of the fine multiplying reels, however, are now made with an adjustable click, to permit of their being used for both bait and fly-fishing; and while they are heavier, and the spool wider (requiring care in reeling the line evenly), they answer very well for fly-fishing where the angler owns but one reel. My advice is, nevertheless, to use the click reel for fly-fishing, as the cost of a good one is inconsiderable.
The best line, by all odds, is the enameled, braided silk fly-line, tapered or not, the former being better adapted for long casting. Some are metal-centered-that is, having a very fine wire running through the center, and while they may be as good, I do not see that they are any better than the well-known enameled line; they are slightly heavier, which is some advantage in windy weather. The two smallest sizes, "F" and "G," should be used, the last being preferable for stream-fishing.
The leader should be five or six feet long, and formed of the best single silkworm gut that can be obtained. The gut lengths should be carefully selected, and be entirely free from all flaws or imperfections. None but clear, round, strong and sound lengths should be put into a leader for Black-Bass fishing, and then only after testing their strength up to a strain of two pounds dead weight. The caliber of the gut should not be much greater, if any, than that used for Trout-fishing. The leader should taper, somewhat, from the reel-end to the fly-end. The lengths may be tied by the old-fashioned water-knot; but the best knot, and the one now most generally used, has no name that I am aware of. It is simply a "half-hitch," except that it is tied in a double instead of a single cord. The ends of the two gut lengths to be tied (having been previously softened by soaking in warm water) are passed by each other, or lapped about two inches; and tied by a single knot, or half-hitch, drawing the knot as tight, firm, and smooth as possible, and cutting off the ends closely.
Leaders may be stained or not, according to the fancy of the angler-it will make no difference whatever to the fish. Leaders should be carried in flat, round, or oval metal boxes, between two layers of damp felt, to save time in straightening them by soaking or rubbing with gutta-percha.
The best "general" flies for any or all waters are the brown, red, and black hackles, to which might be added gray and ginger hackles. The best winged flies, according to my own experience, may be selected from the following list: Montreal, Polka, Abbey, Golden Dustman, King of the Water, Professor, Oriole, Oconomowoc, Silver Doctor, Grizzly King, Henshall, Queen of the Water, Red Ibis, Coachman, White Miller, and Academy.
Bass-flies are generally made too large, and tied on hooks of too great a size. Those Trout-flies known as "lake-flic-" are large enough for Black Bass, and hooks should never be larger than No. 2, even for lake-fishing, and maybe as small as No. 6 for stream-fishing. Sproat and O'shaughnessy hooks are the best. The fly should be tied with a small, twisted gut, or a gimp loop, instead of being tied on a gut-snell several inches long.
The other accessories for flyfishing are the landing-net, creel, or fish-basket, fly-book, and leader-box, to which may be added hip-boots or wading-stockings for stream work.
The best season for fly-fishing in the Central and Northern states is in May and June, also September and October, and in the Gulf States during autumn and winter.
The best hours of the day are from eight to eleven in the morning, and from six to eight in the evening-the late afternoon hours, even until dark being usually the very best.
In fishing a stream, the best plan is to wade and fish with the current, or down stream. The angler should proceed slowly and cautiously, with as little noise as possible, and should be very careful not to disturb the loose bowlders on the bottom, or stir up the' sand, mud, or gravel. The more careful he is in this the more successful he will be.
He should cast in all directions to the sides and in front of him before moving onward. His cast need not exceed forty feet, unless the water is very shallow and clear, when it should extend to fifty or sixty feet. He should cast as straight a line as possible, letting his flies alight without splashing, and should rove them to the right and left by jerky, tremulous movements, often allowing them to sink several inches below the surface at likely spots, such as the edge of weed-patches, in the deeper water under projecting banks or rocks, in the eddies of rocks and bowlders, in the pools above and below riffles, etc.
He should strike upon sight or touch; that is, the moment he sees the swirl of a Bass near his fly, or feels the slightest tug, he should endeavor to hook the fish by a slight but quick drawing away of the rod, either to one side, or upward with a stiffish rod, or downward with a very supple one. This "striking" is not in any sense a sweeping jerk, or a vigorous "yank," but is accomplished by a simple, quick turning of the rod-hand toward the angler, so as to move the fly but a foot or two along the surface should it fail to hook the fish. The slightest twitch is sufficient, with a sharp hook (and the angler should use no other), to fasten it to the jaw of a fish, aided, as it will be, by the fish itself in its resistance; and in eight times out of ten the Bass will hook himself (if the line is taut) unaided by the angler; from this it follows that the angler should always endeavor to have a straight, taut line.
The moment the fish is hooked the rod should be elevated to an angle of forty-five degrees, and the thumb placed on the spool of the reel, so that the fish will have to contend with the full spring and power of the rod. The angler should never give an inch of line unless it is taken from under his thumb by the fish, and even then it should be given grudgingly; and it should be reeled in again whenever possible, and the fish held as before, on the spring of the rod, until it can be reeled in to close quarters, and kept as near the surface as possible.
The angler should slip the landing-net under the fish as soon as it can be done without endangering his tackle. The fight should be between the rod and the fish, rather than between the fish and the reel, for it is the spring of the rod that conquers him. When the Bass leaps above the surface of the water, let the rod straighten as he falls back, but the moment he again touches the water elevate the rod as before.
The above directions for fly-fishing by wading a stream will answer in the main for casting from a boat on lakes or broad, deep rivers, so far as casting, striking and playing are concerned. The boat should be kept in deep water and the casts made inshore, along the edges of weed-patches, rushes, projecting banks, etc., also toward shoals, bars, etc., between the deep and shallow water.
A somewhat heavier rod should be employed in boat-fishing, for reasons heretofore given, though in no instance should it exceed eight ounces in weight in northern waters; in Florida and the Gulf States it may be an ounce or two heavier, for the bass of that section run up to twelve or fifteen pounds or even more.
For lake-fishing the "F" fly-line is more suitable than the "G" line; and the flies may be a little larger in size, and gayer in color, especially for rough water.