Smallmouth Bass Fishing
On The Grande Ronde River
The Smallmouth Story
The first Smallmouth Bass I caught in the Grande Ronde River on a fly came from the lower river just after Labor Day in 2002. I was swinging for an early steelhead with a friend from AZ and much to my surprise the hard pulling fish was a nice 2 pound smallmouth. Three nice skyward jumps and a few solid runs left a lasting impression. Little did I know at that time how much fun this unintended quarry would bring in the seasons to follow. The next June I starting exploring the canyon section for good bass prospects that might lead to additional guiding opportunities during the summer. What I found was nothing short of remarkable.
Almost every stretch of the Grande Ronde River held Smallmouth Bass that were willing to take surface flies. Add this to absolutely no other anglers on the river makes for a dream come true. Even with the higher water flows of early June the bass would still come to the surface to attack a well placed fly. I started fishing with traditional bass bugs and poppers and they would bring fish to the surface.
Hoppers, salmon fly adults, and Chernobyl Ants also brought fish to the top. The fateful day for the fish came later that summer on one of my very first guided Smallmouth Bass trips. We spent about half the day casting poppers at the banks and catching fish then broke for lunch. Sometime during lunch I lost my popper box and at the next run we lost a fly to the bushes. I searched frantically for the box but it was not to be found. I scrambled through my vest looking to find some kind of replacement fly and I found an old matted up mouse pattern from a wilderness Alaska trip years prior tucked in an inside pocket. I fluffed it up the best I could and tied it on for my client. The smallies went nuts over the mouse as long as it was presented on the bank, bushes, or rock ledges. As the day continued on, we kept finding the larger bass would attack the mouse. With only one mouse in the boat, my two anglers fought for the mouse fly at every hole. That night I went home and started tying mice for the next day’s trip. The following day started just like the previous day’s finish, big smallies destroying the mouse right on the bank. Like they say, the rest is history. I have adapted the mouse pattern a few times over and have found that a basic deer hair mouse with a red bunny fur tail is the ticket. We have come to name this new fly "The AL Mighty Mouse." That’s " Mr. AL" to all you smallies out there.
The best time to chase the big Smallmouth Bass (3-5 pounds) on the Grande Ronde River is from early to mid June until mid July depending on water flows. After mid July the water starts getting low and a little too warm for the adult fish to stick around. The larger smallies seem to migrate back down to the Snake when this happens and the catching remains great, but the size of the fish shrinks to 1-2 pounders. Mid July until the end of August is a great time to teach new fly anglers the skills needed to fish out of a drift boat and have a blast doing it. The water is small and long cast are not required. Add this to dozens and dozens of takes each day and you have the making of a great instructional fly fishing trip with constant fish action. Just what the doctor ordered to solidly plant the fly fishing seed in both beginners and youth alike. Change a life, Take them fishing!
The 1st Big Smallmouth that fell victim to AL.
Sam with his 1st Grande Ronde River
Trophy Smallmouth Bass
Justin with his 1st Grande Ronde River
Trophy Smallmouth Bass
Don't miss out this summer on one of the best fly fishing trips in the Western US. Lots of fish and very few people will cause you to rethink what fly fishing the Grande Ronde River is all about. See you on the river.
Hey Mark and Ben, You Guys Rule! GO ZAGS!
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