CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
Colorado's Largemouth Bass
Bass Fishing the Slow Lane
Dennis McKinney
Article published 6/19/07 in the Outdoors Journal of the Colorado Division of Wildlife

I once knew a fisherman from the South who claimed that largemouth bass fishing in Colorado was hardly worth the effort. “Too small, too few, and too far between, ” he said. Too bad he never knew what he was missing.

Bass anglers, in general, may be are categorized into two groups; those with a passion for fast boats and electronic gadgets, and those with a passion for fly rods, float tubes, and waders.

The first group are the tournament types. Their method of fishing involves speeding across the water in low-slung, high-powered bass boats chirping and beeping with sonar and satellite technology. Like hummingbirds, they buzz around sampling as many honey holes as possible. Their basic strategy is fishing at a fast pace, making as many casts as possible in the shortest amount of time. More casts means more chances for getting a bite. A good day is putting every bite in the boat. The bass of their dreams are known as bucket mouths and hawgs.

The second group takes a more relaxed approach. Time is their ally. They wade the shallow edges of ponds and small lakes, moving quietly down the shores, hiding from the bass behind curtains of cattail and willow. Some take to the water in float tubes or canoes; slow, quiet craft powered by fins and paddles. Theirs is a world of fly rods, wide-brimmed hats, and deer-hair poppers. Here, the swish of a fly line and the plop of a fly landing on the water are the only sounds that the equipment makes.

In the slow lane, the size of the fish is secondary to the fishing itself. Here, the visual reward is the ultimate gauge of size. A two-pound bass bursting through the weeds to smash a top-water fly seems twice as big as the same bass caught by any other method.

Fly-fishing for bass is fairly simple. All that is needed is a suitable rod and reel, and handful of bass flies. The rod is the engine that drives the line that delivers the fly that catches the bass, but it is the size of the fly, not the size of the bass, that determines the size of the fly rod. A 5- or 6-weight trout rod and a floating fly line are ideal for casting small poppers and streamers, but a heavier 8-weight rod does a better job of casting the big, wind-resistant dry flies and weighted streamers that largemouth bass often prefer.

The fly reel is the least important part of the equation. Any single-action fly reel will do. Bass seldom make long runs, where a lot of backing and a smooth drag are needed.

Bass flies are just plain fun—fun to fish with, fun to tie, and fun to look at. Thanks to a largemouth’s curiosity in just about anything that moves, bass flies come in outrageous colors and shapes. A largemouth takes a yellow and green deer-hair fly on the surface and we assume that the bass thought it was eating a frog. But why does the bass take the same fly in bright blue? The beauty in bass fishing is caring not why the bass eats a blue frog or a purple eel, it’s just fun watching them do it.

Traditional bass flies are made mostly of fur and feathers. Spinning deer hair around a hook and trimming it to form a body is the foundation for a variety of top-water flies. Flies with dish-shaped faces that spray water when retrieved are called poppers, or chuggers, and flies with rounded noses are called sliders. Both styles are effective, but on calm days the sliders seem to produce more strikes.

When bass are holding near the bottom, it’s necessary to get the fly down to the fish’s level. Weighted flies such as leech and crayfish imitations are designed to hug the bottom down to about ten feet.

Another type of fly worthy of its space in any bass angler’s fly box is the streamer.  Streamers are fashioned to imitate minnows and shad. Traditional streamers are tied using bucktail and soft hackle feathers. Modern streamers are made with what seems like an endless array of synthetic materials. When bass are actively feeding in open water, a fast moving streamer is usually met with open mouths.

Finding a place to fly fish for bass in Colorado is easy. In some areas, it is as simple as a walk in the park. Towns throughout Colorado at elevations lower than six thousand feet usually have public ponds and small lakes that are stocked with largemouth bass.

Front Range fly fishers have a great selection of bass waters to choose from. From Ft. Collins to Denver, the countryside is dotted with dozens of ponds, small reservoirs, and flooded gravel pits. West Slope fly fishers also have a great selection of ponds and reservoirs where they will find good fishing for largemouth bass.

Some of the best largemouth bass fishing is found at State Wildlife Areas such as Totten Reservoir, Summit Reservoir, Pastorius Reservoir, and Echo Canyon Reservoir on the West Slope. And, all State Wildlife Areas with warmwater fisheries located in eastern Colorado.

While largemouth bass are capable of natural reproduction at many warmwater fisheries,  the Colorado Division of Wildlife periodically reinforces some populations with  fingerlings. The largemouth fingerlings are spawned at raised at the Las Animas Fish Hatchery for distribution throughout the state.
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