Indiana Flyfishing Guides

Flies and Techniques for Indiana Trout and Bass Fly Fishing

Tips and tricks for fly fishing Indiana rivers

Flyfishing Tips, Tricks, Tactics

Smallmouth Do "Spook"

Many anglers have the idea that Smallmouth are extremely aggressive all the time. Sometimes they are, usually during pre-spawn and sometimes when low light and warm weather collide. But aggressive doesn't mean "fearless". Even though they will attack with a vengeance, that doesn't mean that loud, aggressive flies won't send them finning for cover. What Smallmouth really are are "bullies". They'll attack defenseless looking things like they are the toughest punks in the parking lot... that is, until something acts tough itself. Then they turn into the chickenshits that bullies really are, and run for cover. The moral is that softer presentations catch alot more fish consistently than loud, obnoxious presentations. It's kinda like meeting girls... the loudmouth might get some temporary attention but the quieter, polite guy usually goes home with the "catch".

Fly pattern - Dying Ultrasuede Minnow:

• Take a piece of ultrasuede and cut it into a fish/teardrop shape. Ultrasuede HP or ST are the right thickness for this use. Colors include white, tan, gray, light olive, purple and black. Choose a wide gap hook with a short shank and straight eye (possibly a Mustad 3366, Tiemco 8089 or Gamakatsu SC15).

• Cover the hook shank with thread including going slightly around the hook bend. Tie in 2-4 pieces of flash off the back of the hook. Tie in 2 more pieces of flash and wind them forward around the hook shank to cover it and create a flashy lateral line.

• Put a tiny amount of crazy glue on the hook shank and push the hook down onto the ultrasuede body. Rock the hook back and forth to get the ultrasuede to roll around the bend of the shank. It should bond immediately.

• (optional) Paint the front portion of the fly with Sally Hansen sparkle nail polish and let it dry. Don’t try to rush the drying of the nail polish. If you do, the epoxy may not cure properly.

• Once the nail polish is dry, place a stick-on eye on the outside front of the fly.

• Then mix up some Gorilla Glue clear epoxy and put a light coat, top and bottom, on the portion where you painted the nail polish. The more epoxy you add the deeper the fly will fish, but too much epoxy will mute the action of the fly. Extending the nail polish and epoxy past the hook 1/8th inch helps keep the tail from fouling.

• Turn until dry.

Send me an email if you'd like a template for cutting the ultrasuede.

dying minnow spoon fly for fly rod

Drag-free drift... but JUST BARELY: It's easy to accomplish a drag-free drift if you throw an extra 10 feet of line on the water, however, it makes setting the hook nearly impossible. So, I try to accomplish a drag-free drift JUST BARELY. By dropping the cast "already mended" with a Reach Cast, or immediately doing a Full-line Mend when the cast hits the water, I set myself up for the repeated small "tip mends" necessary to keep the cast drifting drag-free with only a foot or two of extra line on the water. These repeated small mends are sometimes referred to as "stack mending"... stacking one mend on top of another to keep your fly floating drag-free. Every cast offers its own challenges in terms of a good presentation. If you look at the goal of a drag-free drift and experiment with different types of mends you will find yourself adding to your library of mending skills and recognizing when to use them to improve your presentations. Don't just stand in one place and do the same thing... you know what Einstein said about that. Change your position by a few steps, your depth, your mending pattern, and then your flies. Make 30-35 casts and then change something if you haven't had a strike... but the last thing you change is your flies. ~jc

The Water Column is a Complex Thing: We are conditioned to look at moving water "horizontally", assessing what's happening across the top of the current. There may be a fast tongue of water running through the middle of a pool with an eddy on one or both sides, etc. I noticed that my nymphing skills improved when I started think about the water column in a vertical fashion as well. The water on the top of the water column moves the fastest (when it is unimpeded by obstructions). The water on the bottom moves slower because it is contacting rocks, sand and rubble on the stream bottom. The water on the bottom also causes an upwelling and a backwards spin as it progresses downstream contacting and bouncing off of rocks and other obstructions. This is evident in the roiling on the top of the water where the upwelling appears to "bubble up". So, there are 2 things that impact indicator/nymph presentation: 1) The top of the current moves your strike indicator faster than the nymphs below are moving, causing the nymphs to be dragged downstream and pulled up in the water column... not good. 2) The upwelling can cause your nymphs to be pushed upwards and not sink into the bottom 3-5 inches where the fish tend to sit to avoid fighting the stronger currents directly above them. The only things I have come up with to help combat these problems are as follows: 1) When I drop my cast I try to make sure the nymphs land downstream of my indicator using a hook cast or a quick mend of the indicator. This allows the nymphs to sink quickly and provides at least a few feet of drift where the indicator and nymphs are "inline" above the targeted slot I am fishing. 2) In rigging my nymphs, I use flourocarbon (which sinks), I use the lighest leader butt I can get away with and still turn the flies over (which also helps sinking), on a 2-fly rig I use a Copper John or other heavy fly as the first fly in the chain, I think of the first fly as "a weight with a hook". The point fly may or may not have weight to it. Then I use a single large split shot rather than several small ones strung along the leader. It's a work in progress for me, but this is what I've learned so far. Hope it helps. Holler back if you have other ideas or more detail. I have been experimenting with putting the weight on the end of the leader and the flies above. I still suck at presenting that, so I'm no help there yet. ~jc

Mending is key for many types of fly fishing: Mending is often thought of as a skill only necessary in nymphing or dry fly fishing. However, mending is also necessary for proper presentation of streamers and topwater flies. Mending can be used very effectively to both animate flies and prevent drag. For example, to fish a topwater fly, you might cast across a faster current into softer water at the edge of a drop-off, or into a rock garden that slows and roils the water... primary ambush points for river fish. When you drop that cast, the faster water instantly starts dragging the flyline downstream and creating a belly in the line. This drag begins moving the fly out of the strike zone at a steady speed. Then, when you add your strip to the fly it is sped up even more and rushes away. Unless the fish are crazy aggressive, this seldom brings a strike. However, if you throw an upstream reach cast or an immediate full line mend (see below) and then maintain the upstream position of your flyline by continuous small upstream mends of the flyline (see below), you accomplish 2 key things that make your presenatation much more desirable to the fish; 1) You keep your fly sitting in the target water (the strike zone). And 2), the small upstream mends you make, twitch the fly slightly to give a sign of life and tease the fish into striking. To make these small mends, I draw a small "C" in the air, low to the water, with my rod tip. Perhaps an 8-12 inch "loop" is all. Big mends will yank your fly out of the strike zone. These mends will sometimes cause you to have more slack line than is ideal for the hook set, but I prefer battling that slack rather than not needing to make a hookset because no fish hit the fly. Of course, sometimes you'll cast across slow water into faster water. Adjust your mending accordingly by mending your line downstream in the slow water. Much harder to do, but ya gotta try!

I think of two different types of mends and two different methods to accomplish them. The "full line" mend is intended to move your entire flyline from where it landed on the water to another parallel location... usually upstream. I frequently use this when I first drop a cast with a complex nymph rig such as 2-3 flies/weight/strike indicator. The way I perform the full line mend is to raise the entire rod above my head parallel to the water's surface and then move the rod forcefully in the direction I want the line to move. The amount of force necessary is determined by the amount of line you have cast (and the action of the rod... softer rods make easier mends. Longer rods make easier mends. (My best mending rod is a TFO BVK 10ft 4wt with a 5wt line. It can mend 50ft of line with a twitch of the rod.) It is best to do this mend immediately after the cast lands so the line doesn't have too much time to "dig in" to the miniscus or move downstream too far. The "tip mend" is intended to adjust the position of a small portion of flyline and is used to extend/continue an already good drift. If you are nymphing or dry fly fishing, you will be attempting to adjust the position of the line on the water without moving the fly. If you are streamer or popper fishing, you may be intending to adjust the line without moving the fly, OR to reposition the line and twitch the fly in an enticing manner. In any case, learning to mend effectively is a sure way to increase your catch rate and therefore, your enjoyment of flyfishing. There are many other types of mends, including my favorite "in the air" mend, the Reach Cast, which I recommend every flyfisher learn and use frequently. Learn the mending techniques. Read the water. Plan the mend. Solve the presentation problem. Don't just let the current drag your fly out the strike zone. ~ jc

Rod Weights/Line Ratings: The line ratings for fly rods are just the manufacturers educated opinion of what line will cast best on that rod at about 30-40 feet. However, that doesn't take into account what fly (or group of flies) you will be fishing, what fishing situation you will be in, or your personal casting style. When you test a rod, try it with 3 line weights... the recommended weight, one weight heavier and one weight lighter... and tie on a fly with the hook cut off or some yarn to add casting resistance. This will give you a real sense of how the rod will perform at different ranges. My personal experience is as follows:

1) Most rods cast their rated line weight just fine with light or small profile flies... it's when you tie on a heavier or more wind-resistant fly that the rated line weight doesn't load the rod "deeply" enough to move the large fly easily at normal fishing ranges.

2) When casting the bigger flies we tend to throw for warmwater species, most rods need to be "over-lined" by one line weight to perform well within reasonable fishing ranges. Over-lining may limit your casting range a bit as your rod begins to "fold-up" while extending the distance. Usually not a problem, though... in most normal fishing circumstances, the maximum reach needed to catch fish is about 60-70 feet.

3) The reason for "under-lining" a rod is to cast farther with light flies and make a softer presentation. For example, if you were fishing Hebgen Lake in Yellowstone, casting midges 60-80 feet on fine tippets for spooky trout sipping on the surface, under-lining could be an advantage in softer presentation and the fact that your rod doesn't have to strain to cast the line an extended distance. Another application for underlining is when you are fishing in heavy wind on the flats for bonefish as the lighter line has less mass and "cuts" the wind somewhat easier. The problem with under-lining is that the rod doesn't load until you get 45-50 feet of line out, so working out the first 40+ feet takes practice.

The main thing to remember is that the rod is capable of casting more than just it's rated line size, and adjusting up or down in line size can be a very effective way of "tuning" your casting to make fishing easier and more effective. In fact, in the past, rods were often rated for multiple line weights. In the old days, you would see rods for "6-7 line" or "5-6-7 line". The rod manufacturers finally figured out that they were losing rods sales by advertising that capability, so then rods began being rated for only one line size.

UPDATE ON ROD/LINE WEIGHTS: The grain weight of a flyline is the weight (in grains) of the first 30 ft (the "Head") as originally defined by AFTMA (American Fly Tackle Manufactures Association). In the past, the AFTMA standard suggested that (for example) a 5wt fly rod would begin to flex into it's power area when 140 grains of flyline was extended outside the rod tip while casting. 140gr is the weight of the first 30ft of a 5wt flyline. Flyline manufacturers have now abandoned the traditional rod/flyline weight balance on some of their specialty flylines. This is a good thing. They are trying to make casting easier and more efficient. But because of this it is necessary to check the grain weight of the flyline you are considering and make sure you cast it to test that the line will do what you want it to. As an example, here are the standard grain weights of flylines by size. Let's think of these as standard weights for the lines the manufacturers now refer to as "trout tapers". ~jc

Line Rating

Weight in Grains

1-Weight

60

2-Weight

80

3-Weight

100

4-Weight

120

5-Weight

140

6-Weight

160

7-Weight

185

8-Weight

210

9-Weight

240

10-Weight

280

11-Weight

330

12-Weight

380

13-Weight

450

14-Weight

500

15-Weight

550

Now, most standard bass tapers (sometimes called Power tapers) are 10-12 grains heavier (in the first 30ft) but have the same line size rating as their trouty counterparts. Beyond that, several manufacturers have now added lines to their catalog that are much heavier than the standard weight rating while still calling them by their traditional weights (ie: 5wt). As an example, Rio offers the Rio Grand line and the 4wt flyline weighs 140gr, which is the standard weight of a 5wt. All of Rio lines now stray from the AFTMA standard, which has been sorely in need of an update since the introduction of high-modulus graphite fly rods. Graphite rods are much more powerful and capable of handling a range of line weights. Orvis offers the Bank Shot, a line solely designed to throw heavy or wind-resistant flies such as giant streamers and poppers. The 5wt Bank Shot comes in at a hefty 210gr (an AFTMA 8wt) and has a head shape like Mike Tyson's fist...great for delivering knockout punches, but not much on finesse and will certainly limit the amount of line you can hold in the air. But that's not what it's for. The intent of the line is to minimize false casting while delivering large flies to targets within normal fishing distances. Fly lines have evolved drastically. There are new textures that purport to extend casting distance and improve flotation, new head shapes that offer improved presentations for specific purposes, and heavier line weights to load your rods quicker and deeper. This is all good, but requires an educated buyer to choose the right lines for the job without buying everything on the shelf. Make sure you know what your fishing situations will demand and buy accordingly. Since we live in warmwater country, buying a 6wt rod and overlining with a bass bug taper 7wt flyline is my standard recommendation. That gives you a very versatile rod that can be used for streamers and poppers, will handle a multiple nymph rig easily, give you a fighting chance with most Great Lakes Steelhead, and even extend into light saltwater fishing if you attach a decent grade of reel. ~ jc

The "Escape Strip": I've been subconciously doing the "escape strip" for years, until finally it dawned on me what I was doing. Fish are fast... alot faster than we could every strip a fly. Fish also love to play "cat 'n' mouse" with their food. I've watched them do it thousands of times. So, one of the stripping techniques I use starts by stripping the fly in tiny, short, jerky pulls of 2-3 inches. (Of course, you have to have the rod tip down and have the fly line and leader quite straight to even make any noticeable movement of the fly.) Then, after some number of the short, rather jerky little strips, I will strip once or twice in 8-12 inch pulls, letting the fly sink after the long strip. Watch the tip of your flyline closely. If it pauses, jerks, or otherwise behaves differently, set the hook. My thinking is that the fish are nosing up to the fly, swimming behind it and "toying" with it. Then, when the fly attempts to escape by moving faster and farther, the fish jumps the fly and inhales it. This has worked enough times that I incorporate it into my fishing quite frequently with both submerged flies and topwater. ~ jc

Tying beadhead flies: The sizes of beads for fly tying has always confused me, so I put together this little chart to help me remember. Maybe it'll help you, too. Sizes will vary among different brands, but this chart should at least get you closer to making sure you don't buy a bead the size of a green pea when you're trying to tie size 18 Prince Nymphs:-) jc

size chart of fly tying beads

Better presentation of sinking flies: While I am a fan of the artful turnover of a well-tied leader, there are times when getting a sunken fly "truly sunken" requires sacrificing the perfect turnover and going with straight mono (or flourocarbon) in whatever tippet size balances the fly correctly. The reason is that the stiffer the leader to more it resists sinking and sinks at an angle rather than allowing your fly to plummet straight down. I admit to using extremely heavy flies for years to combat my leaders' unwillingness to sink. I've finally wised up. Rather than fighting the sinking problem, I just cut my leader back to the butt section and tie in 6-8 feet of tippet to balance my sinking fly (usually 6-10lb test for most warmwater sinking flies). The fly plunges to the bottom and I'm fishing deeper sooner. I'm also able to use flies that are lighter in weight and might not knock me out if I hit myself in the head with them:-) This works for straight retreives and for indicator nymphing a sunken fly.

Mono vs flouro: Flourocarbon is expensive stuff, but it has a few properties that make it invaluable in certain ways... 1) It doesn't rot like mono does. 2) It is more abrasion-resistant than mono. 3) It is (supposedly) less visible to the fish, although I haven't actually asked any fish which is less visible, mono or flouro. I assume the manufacturers have. They wouldn't lie to us just to sell us a $10-15 spool of 90 feet of tippet material. Here's what I came up with to help me decide when to buy flouro over mono: I buy flourocarbon tippet material in sizes 2x and smaller for trout and steelhead fishing (nymphing and streamers). Since it doesn't rot and weaken over time like mono does, it actually saves me money on replacing tippet sizes that I don't use very often. For heavier than 2x, I use mono. For flourocarbon tippet I like Orvis Mirage.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that flourocarbon sinks quite handily, so, while it is great for nymphing and streamers, not so much so for dry fly fishing... it'll drag your flies down. Same goes for popper fishing. Stick with mono for dry flies and poppers. For monofilament I really like Orvis Super Strong.

Tippet/Hook Size Balance Chart: The following table shows the correspondence between tippet weights and hook sizes to balance the presentation of the fly. Using this chart as a guideline, a tippet choice should be made by considering the following factors:

flyfishing tippet hook size balance chart

Of course, the tippet used has to be balanced by being attached to a leader designed to turn over that weight of tippet and style of fly. Example: You wouldn't want to try to cast a size 1/0 bass bug on a 0x tippet attached to a light trout leader. As a general guideline, the heavier the tippet you need to use, the heavier the butt of the leader needs to be to provide energy transfer from the flyline, through the leader to the tippet/fly. Leader butts can can vary widely from a light trout leader where the butt might be as light as .017" (and limp) to heavy bass/salmon leaders where the butt might be as heavy as .030".

If you are planning on buying extruded leaders, remember that most extruded materials are more limp than level (non-extruded) mono. For general warmwater flyfishing, I recommend buying heavier ones such as 7.5ft 0x bass or saltwater leaders, then trimming the tippet back 8-12 inches, tie a perfection loop in the tippet end, and then tie your tippet to the loop.

For my general warmwater flyfishing I tie the following leader butt/turnover sections:

Heavy Butt Leader: 7wt - 9wt rods

A lighter version for the low, clear water of Summer (and the resultant smaller flies): 5wt - 7wt rods

These make excellent 7.5 foot leader butt and turnover sections. Tie a perfection loop in the butt end to attach to the flyline, and one in the tippet end to attach the tippet. You can attach the tippet loop-to-loop or just tie it on to the perfection loop. Use 2 to 4 feet of tippet to make a 9.5 to 11.5 foot leader. I use Maxima Ultragreen material. For general purpose saltwater leaders, I use these same recipes but use Mason Hard Type Nylon or quality flourocarbon, which is much stiffer for good turnover on long casts in the wind and more abrasion-resistant.

To barb or not to barb: Those who believe strongly in barbless fishing often don't really consider their viewpoint from a common-sense position. I was one of them. I believed that barbs were the end of all evil and anyone who used them was a "barb-arian". (Sorry). Then I started thinking about it (rationally) one day while fishing a size 18 nymph to an 8lb Erie Steelhead. I realized that the barb itself is not so much of a problem... it's the size of the hook/barb in relation to the size of the fish. Should I have worried about the tiny barb on that #18 nymph causing injury upon removal to the Steelhead? It would be a mere pinhole in his jaw reminding him that humans are peckerwoods and he should stay away from them, but it would cause no lasting damage. If I were tarpon fishing, should I worry about a #2/0 hook in a massive tarpon. Again... no contest. On the other hand, ANY barbed hook stuck in the jaw of a 10" Trout or a 12" Smallmouth can do some real damage because of the way you have to handle the fish to wiggle the fly out. So, here's what I came up with... I fish barbless when the size of the hook versus the size of the fish could cause any harm to the fish. I fish barbless when there are other people around who could get hooked. I fish barbless when the shirt I am wearing cost more than $5. I fish barbless because I don't like tearing my flies up trying to get them out of fishes mouths. I fish barbless because I don't need a barb to hold on to a large majority of the fish I hook. Then I fish barbless for everything else anyway because I don't like handling the fish too much and I don't like causing the fish anymore stress than I have already caused him by fighting with him and pulling him out of his habitat. I fish barbless, well... all of the time. But when I go to Florida to fish tarpon with my buddy Capt. Pete, I think I'll leave the barb up and feel ok about it.

A nice trick for securing metal eyes to a hook: Take an emery board and sand a little of the lacquer coating off of a bronze hook. Wrap the thread into place, add a drop of super glue on the bare hook area, place the eyes on the super glue, position them quickly and wrap in with thread. This gives you a “metal-to-metal” bond. Use figure eight wraps, locking wraps, and encircling wraps to secure them in place. The super glue will soak into the thread and make a very strong bond. Let the superglue dry. This will prevent the eyes from spinning around the hook shank. No need to sand down stainless hooks. Just add the super glue for a metal-to-metal bond. If the metal eyes are painted, also scrape some of the paint off to expose the metal. (Thanks to Junior Burke for this tip!)

PS: I prefer Loctite brand glue... excellent containers that don't clog up as badly or dry out as quickly as other brands.

Fly tying instructions - Clouser Deep Diving Minnow: There are lots of versions of the venerable Clouser... here's mine.

Fly pattern recipe for tying the Conrad Sculpin streamer:

The Conrad Sculpin is an articulated streamer intended to imitate the action of an escaping sculpin (when stripped) or a dying sculpin (when drifted). I designed the fly after watching huge numbers of sculpins flee from bankside structure on Michigan's Au Sable River. I sent the fly to my friend and mentor Bob Linsenman, who fished and liked it. He shared it with Kelly Galloup who also agreed it had some merit, so Bob forwarded it on to Pacific Fly Group, who now mass-produces them for sale in fly shops. If your fly shop doesn't carry them ask them to contact PacFly. I must credit Kelly Galloup for his innovative use of spacer beads slid over the mono to attach the rear hook and create the articulation. I don't know if Kelly invented that method but I do know that his TA Bunker pattern is where I learned it.

The best colors are all black, all white, all yellow, white/chartreuse, tan/olive, and black/chartreuse. The fly is best fished on a heavy sinktip, although occasionally can be fished on a floating line, especially in still water. You can size this fly up or down. Just remember the ratio of the size of hooks. If you want a smaller fly use a size 4 front hook and a size 8 rear hook.

Another nice variation is to leave the lead eyes off. Slithers like a snake! Killer in low water or when bass are crashing the surface. Clich here for the fly pattern and pictures...

Developing Solid Flyfishing Technique: There is nothing like the repetition of correct casting technique to build muscle memory. And while flycasting is a group of elementary movements of the hands and arms, the part that needs practice is putting those disparate motions together into a well-timed flow to generate a smooth cast with enough line speed to get the fly to its target. After you master the basics of flycasting (on the lawn, ponds, etc.), there is simply no better way to really learn to cast (and fish) than to take float trips with guides who are good casting and fishing instructors. On the average, you will cast 90-120 times per hour for the duration of the trip. You'll will be asked to put the fly tight to cover, against logs, under trees and right over rocks. Meanwhile, the boat is moving, there are trees behind you, the flyline needs to be adjusted on the water (mending), the flyline inside the boat needs to be managed (because you are probably standing on it), and there is usually another person 10 feet from you trying to do the same thing. There is no other flyfishing situation that will accelerate your learning curve the way fishing a river from a moving boat will. Oh... and its great fun!

Use the right equipment for the job (don't bring a knife to a gun fight): Flycasting all day can take alot out of you. An adequate flycaster can throw a popper or weighted streamer with a 4 or 5wt rod. But can you (or would you want to) throw that heavy fly 90-120 times per hour for the duration of a 9-10 hour float trip? Probably not. Many anglers bring "trout rods" to fish for Smallmouth. They usually wear out quickly or get frustrated with the extra false casting required to move a larger fly with an underpowered rod. Most end up using my boat rods, which are 6wt rods which are "over-lined" with 7wt lines and heavy-butt leaders. These rods provide the efficiency you need to cast 1000+ times during a long float trip, and you'll actually fish more because you are limiting the false casting and are able to cast farther, quicker.

Choosing the Right Equipment: Take a common-sense approach to choosing your equipment. Don't buy a rod/reel/line setup of every weight. Instead, choose a light, medium and heavy weight and you will build yourself an arsenal of rigs that will cover most of your fishing. ex: a 4wt rig, a 6wt rig and a 8wt rig should cover everything from bluegill to salmon and mid-sized saltwater species. If you are headed out to fish for tarpon or sailfish, you will usually be doing so with a guide who will provide the rig you need for the species. If you live in smallmouth bass country, I believe the most useful all-around rod/reel setup is a 6wt rod with a 7wt "standard" line or a 6wt Bass Taper (read the article above for my reasoning on this). It will work well for streamer and popper fishing for bass, and, if you buy a good reel with a disc drag it can work for Great Lakes Steelhead and, although maybe not the perfect tool, it could work for light inshore saltwater fishing such as bonefish/redfish/snook/trout.

Rod Tip Down: When fishing streamers or poppers, put the tip of your rod right at the surface of the water or even in the water and inch or so. This creates a direct connection between you and your fly, which does 2 things...it maximizes the number of takes that turn into hooked fish, and it enhances the action of your fly. When you have slack line between you and your fly, you are really just retrieving the slack and the fly is being pulled in by the slack, which imparts little action to the fly. Also, fish are incredibly fast at taking in and then spitting out our flies. If you are directly connected to the fly, chances are much better that you will have the opportunity to set the hook when a fish takes.

Clousers and Leaders: The up & down swimming motion of Clouser Minnows and other "jig" type flies can be improved by using longer, lighter tippets than would normally be recommended for flies of their size and weight. ex: A size 6 Clouser would normally be fished on a 1x or 2x leader, however, the action of the fly is better when using a longer leader with a lighter tippet. If you are fishing good water and the fish aren't responding try changing to a longer leader and a 3x or even 4x tippet. When extending you leader to extremes, don't just add more tippet or the leader will not turn over a heavy fly very well. Extend the butt of your leader, keeping your tippet 2.5-3 ft long, and you can get away with a much longer leader that will still turn over heavy flies (if your casting is well-timed). You can also use this approach in slower moving or still water to avoid using sinking lines, which don't impart as much jigging action to a weighted fly.

Use a Loop Knot for streamers and poppers: The loop knot allows the fly to swim more naturally than if it is tied tight to the tippet. My favorite loop knot is the non-slip mono loop. The Duncan Loop or Rapala knot can be used as well.

Nymphing in Warmwater: We all like the visual take of a fish slamming a topwater bug or chasing a streamer. Unfortunately, the fish are in control of this game and our job is to present the flies they will eat in the manner they want to see them. Indicator nymphing can be effective when other methods are not producing. Try a lightly weighted crayfish pattern, Wooly Bugger, Hellgramite, or even a small Clouser Minnow. Put the fly under an indicator about 1 foot deeper than the estimated water depth you are fishing. Look for the fly to tick the bottom while being pulled downstream by the indicator. You can impart more action by twitching the indicator a bit or mending it upstream for a dead drift. Since this method is usually used when more active tactics (streamers or poppers) are not drawing strikes, don't just float the fly through a hole or run once, but rather anchor up and "nymph" the water, adjusting your presentation and fly offering until you have fished the water thoroughly.

High Water Smallmouth: In high, off-color water, using larger flies (sculpins, large baitfish patterns and crayfish) on sinktip lines can entice hungry Smallmouth and other warm water species when smaller baitfish patterns may not be visible. Two fly rigs can also be effective, such as a light-colored Half & Half with a dark Wooly Bugger as a trailer.

Low Water Smallmouth: Switch to less visible (more impressionistic) fly patterns as the water drops and clears. Try Clouser Minnows or Murdich Minnows tied sparsely with synthetics. My favorite synthetic for these purposes is called "Slinky Fiber" (single color) and "Slinky Blend" (mixed colors). It doesn't tangle together like as badly as most synthetics and doesn't collapse into a thin profile when wet. Also, during low water times, reduce the size of your topwater poppers and use the quieter flies such as deerhair divers and Sneaky Pete's.

Surface Flies on Sink-tips Lines: You can offer a unique diving presentation by fishing a floating popper on a sink-tip line. This presentation makes the bug dive when stripped and causes it to suspend below the surface when left to drift. This can be effective when fish are aggressive but surface-shy. This can be very effective with Todd's Wiggle Minnow, Sneaky Pete's, etc.

Popper With a Dropper: Add some extra spice to your popper presentation with a dropper 3-4 feet behind. Use a Clouser Swimming Nymph, Wolly Bugger, a Spoon Fly or other "swimming fly" on 3-4 feet of 2x to 4x tippet tied to the bend of the popper hook. Each time you twitch the popper the trailer does it's dance and can draw strikes from fish that won't come up for the popper. I use this technique during the transition season into late-Spring to test the waters and see if the fish are "looking up" yet while still fishing below the surface to maximize the chance of catching fish.

Structure: Cast deep into “the woods”. Tangles of wood cover in deep, slow water are “high-density housing units” for fish year-round. In order to reach them, use floating line with long (but stout) leaders. Use weedless bead-head leeches, crayfish, or baitfish and cast them straight into the structure or just beyond and crawl the fly back through. Plan on losing flies… even weedless. Traditional fishing techniques such as throwing a rubber worm or a weedless jig are more effective for this but it can be done with fly rod.

Ambush points: Actively feeding fish will set up in places where they can hide from their prey and jump out for the kill. Examine the water for such places. Common ambush points are behind rocks, at the end of sweeper logs, holes downstream of anything that interrupts the current (points, logs, rocks), on the downstream side of a sunken log laying across the current, etc. Think like a predator to catch a predator. Fish looks for safety (cover from predators), rest (not fighting current) and food (right near a source of food being delivered continually).

I Start with a surface fly if water temp is above 60 degrees and water flows/color are normal: Since surface fishing is so much fun, you may as well start there when the water temp/condition is conducive to a surface attack. You can always go to a streamer if the surface bite isn’t active enough. I usually prefer sliders/divers over poppers for a more subtle disturbance. Sneaky Pete’s, Dahlberg Divers, etc.

Reduce fly size as water drops and clears: During high and/or off-colored water, larger flies will tend to draw more attention as they disturb more water and are more visible. As the water drops and clears, fish smaller flies and use a more careful approach and presentation. For streamers such as Clousers, I find synthetic materials create a more ghost-like appearance and get eaten more often in clear water. Also, Clousers tied with natural hairs such as arctic fox, oppossum, or even craft fur will present a more ghostly profile and draw more strikes in low, clear water. For low water surface fishing, I find that small deerhair poppers or medium-sized terrestrials draw more strikes. Even a Turck's Tarantula or generic "hopper" patterns will serve the purpose. The general wisdom is "the clearer the water the lighter the color of fly"... of course, the fish can change their minds on that one at any time, and sometimes they just don't care.

Night fishing: Try quieter surface flies first, as sometimes fish are spooked by big noises, even in the dark. Go to the noisier flies if quieter presentations don’t draw strikes.

Fishing the spawn: Don’t pester actively spawning fish. In the time they are away from their nests, bluegill, crayfish, etc. can strip the nest of eggs or Smallmouth fry. During spawning season, fish the faster, deeper water for non-spawning fish and leave the shallow spawning beds alone. Expect a few weeks of lull in the fishing after the spawn.

Mend/twitch retrieve: When retrieving a streamer or popper, try moving the fly by doing small, quick mends of the fly line.  Draw a quick “C” in the air (very low to the water) with your rod tip and then quickly recover the slack you have created. This type of retrieve imparts a more jerky action to the fly than the tradtitional “strip and pause” retrieve.