Au Sable River Scene
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Bass Bugs & Other Critters
Smallmouth Bass Beware
The flies that we will feature in this article are some of the most productive that you can use in fly fishing for
bass, both smallmouth and largemouth. Like many flies that we use in fly fishing, they imitate natural foods
preyed upon by lunker bass on the prowl for a quick and easy meal of hearty protein. When fished properly,
they are sure to lure a vicious strike from lurking bass, often being taken clean out of the water by a
marauding, hungry bucket mouth or an acrobatic, feisty smallie. You might even tempt a strike from a toothy
pike or musky if fishing the proper waters where they live.

Our first selection is the ’deer hair frog’
{pictured above}. This floating frog imitator is famous for it’s uncanny
effect on hungry bass, whether it is fished in a rapid retrieve or just kind of jiggled in place, tempting a strike.
Bass will go out of their way to suck down a nice, fat, juicy frog. This fly should be cast in between the lily
pads or clumps of weeds, or right up next to a line of reeds. Then  retrieved in a jerky motion to create the
plopping swimming action of a frog. As with any of the plugs or poppers, sometimes I’ll let them sit in place
right where they land from my cast till the rippling rings travel a few feet, the whole time anticipating a strike.
Then I’ll just twitch the fly a few times trying to tease any fish in the area to make a jab. Another productive
method is to cast this frog up onto the pads and then to slowly drag it into the water to and start it’s swim.
One of the things that I like best about this particular frog imitator is the fact that his legs are hinged at the
body, floating behind him in the water to create additional action as it is retrieved. It really looks like a real
frog swimming in the water. It also has a monofilament  weed deflector, which works very well when it is
fished in the foliage. The perfect place to connect on a trophy bronze back or bucketmouth.

The pictured bass popper
{pictured below left} looks to me as if it might be trying to imitate a frog, seeing that
it’s body is frog patterned. But it also has a bright yellow feathered tail with some crystal flash and a yellow
row of hackle for added attraction. It also has some rubber appendages sticking out from it‘s sides, which
create extra water movement. What is it really supposed to be? Well your guess is as good as mine, but I do
know that it attracts strikes. Like any popper, it’s flat front surface makes a great deal of splash and pop, with
the audio frequency of the pop attracting the bass’s keen senses from some extraordinary distances. It
should be cast into and around weed beds, lily pad groves and clumps of reeds. it should then be retrieved
with a quick, jerky, erratic motion. If you aren’t getting an audible pop from the action in the water, you aren’t
fishing this fly properly. It also has a fully functional weed guard protecting the hook from snags on the
foliage. This particular popper is always included in my fly box arsenal of bass getting weapons.

The fuzzy brown creation here
{pictured lower right} is actually a bass fly that is made to imitate a crayfish,
one of the smallmouth bass’s favorite foods. It is meant to be fished right on the bottom in clearer sandy
areas or over a rocky bottom where bass are known to scout for tasty mini-lobster like dinners. This fly is
constructed of dyed rabbit fur strips, with eyes and feelers just like their real counterparts. Heck, if I was a
fish, I’d eat it. I like to fish this fly in calmer water, often in a pool or eddy, letting it sink to the bottom after it’s
cast, and then to slowly jerk it back imitating the fluttering, spurting travel of a real crayfish and creating the
little 'mud puffs' that fish watch for intently. This method is, many times, very deadly on smallmouth. There is
an eddying  pool on Michigan’s Au Sable river, the bottom covered in silt, on the edge of a rocky shoal, where
I have had great results with this fly trying to catch smallies. It is also a good bait for perch, especially in the
bends of old river bottoms of flooded impoundments, such as Michigan's Fletcher's Floodwaters. Sometimes
it also attracts monster carp, who love to mouth the bunny fur, maybe trying to figure out what it is while you
set the hook. The crayfish is a much sought after food by many fishes, especially when the crayfish have shed
their harder old casing and they are growing a new one, which is at first very soft. This crayfish pattern is
great at imitating that soft shelled phase of this crustacean, and it is very productive.

These patterns have been found to be very productive for fly fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Captain Steve Kunnath, and his Florida Flats style boat fly fishing clients, have tested these flies extensively
right here at our back door on Lake St. Clair, possibly the best smallmouth bass fishery in the United States.
He and his happy clients can attest to their fish attracting ability. Do your self a favor. Don’t enter the water
without them.
By: Jerry Kunnath
Deer hair Frog
Deer Hair
Frog
Frog Colored Bass Popper
Brown Bunny Hair Crayfish
Frog Colored
Bass Popper
Brown Bunny
Hair Crayfish
Brian Henderson with a nice St. Clair smallmouth bass
Brian Henderson with a
    nice Lake St. Clair       
     smallmouth bass