I'm a steelhead and salmon fly fishing freak. No other fish I'd rather fish for than salmon and steelhead on the fly. Trout are fun and I like catching them, no doubt. Stripers on the fly are also a blast, just not consistent enough to make it a true passion like my steelhead and salmon. Largemouth are also a blast at certain times and I LOVE watching an 8 pound large mouth explode on a deer hair popper on the surface. Umpqua shad on the fly are also awsome, but because of the past several springs being so cold and wet with high flows, my shad fishing has been a memory. But going out on the Umpqua and site fishing (and catching a hundred or more) smallmouth bass on flies is not as bad as having root canal either!
These little green slimy fish pull! and they pull hard! Their aggressive, will gladly take surface patterns (even better!) and most of the techniques and patterns I use allow my guys, gals and kids to watch the fish swim up and EAT the fly. So all in all, when summer time comes and I HAVE to go fish for smallmouth on the lower Umpqua...well its a dirty job, but someone has to do it : )
Fish from a boat if you can. Pontoon boat, drift boat or small powerboat all work. I prefer my little flat bottom sled. I have it set up just like a driftboat with oars, anchor system and everything else my driftboat has. I just don't need a shuttle to work out of this boat. I simply meet my folks in Elkton, put the boat in and run up river. Then I hop in the rowers seat, grab the sticks and start working my way back towards Elkton. My guests fish from a very stable platform that allows them to look down into the pools and along all the rock structure the Umpqua is known for and catch bass after bass after bass!
We use 8 1/2' 3-5 wgt. fly rods with full floating lines. 8-10' leaders tapered down to 6 lb. tippet works fine. We attach a sz. 8-10 black, brown, purple or olive girdle bug to the tippet and toss it overboard. Nothing fancy, just hit the water. Let the fly drift in a free fall fashion towards the bottom. If it hits the bottom, gently lift and let it fall again. It normally won't take more than two or three lifts and drops to hook-up. If the water is deeper than your leader length, let the fly drop as far as it can go until you loose sight of it, then simply lift and drop it again.
Most of the fish will swim up, inhale the fly and eject it just as fast so I always tie my bass flies with a spash of color so that it makes it easier for the folks to see the fly disapear in the bass's mouth, then they simply set the hook. Using this technique should produce a bass on nearly every cast.
In coming posts I'll cover a few other techniques that have been very effective for us on the Umpqua.