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Twenty Inch Smallmouth.... Edit: Finally Did It!
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I'm hoping maybe this will be my lucky year and I finally get an honest to goodness 20" smallmouth on a fly. While I haven't chased smallies with the fly rod for as long as I've seriously chased trout - I've been at it a dozen or so years and have steadily aquired a growing respect and admiration for this fish. Trout guys sing the praises of wild trout and profess their admiration (and I share this of course) for the beauty and challege of mountain brookies or a big wild brown in Letort or Penns. I have come increasingly to believe that smallmouth bass have earned as much of my respect as any 20" limestone wild brown trout. Over the years I've been able to fool my fair share of 20" wild trout here in PA but I have yet to get that 20" smallie. Probably a dozen or so SMs have come to my hand that taped at 19" or just under that, but the magic 20" continues to elude me. A river smallie of that size here in central PA is a very rare and very old fish - probably at least 11 years old, likely more like 13. And, of course, they're all wild. Smallies are, generally, slower growers than trout and for a SM to reach trophy size makes for a very special fish. These wise old giants are out there - I see 'em every year but just can't seem to get them to strike despite my best efforts. Often they'll just watch me with contempt, and slowly swim away. More than one trophy SM has charged my fly, scrutinized it, and turned away like a Keys permit. I've come to expect big wild trout that charge my streamer flies to hit hard and hook themselves. Not so with big SMs. They almost seem to have sixth sense for carefully examining a lure or fly and deciding it's fake. It's a shame that, in the minds of so many trout fishermen, bass are perceived as stupid lunkheads that will hit any lure and fine to kill and eat. Big river smallmouths are wily, old, great fighters, and a challenging fish to pursue with a fly rod. While the Big Bass regs have helped, I wish we had more protection for these wild, very old fish. Sure, in the end, 20 inches is just a number - but it's a magical one.
For the upcoming fly fishing season, we've all got our dreams - maybe hitting a great hatch, or a trip out West.
Me? I'm dreamin of a 20" smallmouth for 2009.

Posted on: 2009/2/23 20:57

Edited by Fishidiot on 2011/11/14 19:53:54


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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I hope you get that 20"!!

Myself, I am hoping to get into some smallmouth and more so I would like to catch carp on the fly. I have taken both with a fly rod already. However, not intentionally. So for me it doesn't count in my own eyes. From what I hear goin for carp is like going for bonefish. Sounds challenging....should be fun though. I hear when the mulberries start falling of the trees carp can't resist them. I have located a mulberry tree on one of my local waters. Come on June!!!

Posted on: 2009/2/24 8:40
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Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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Great post. Pretty much from June thru October I'm out chasing smallies. I managed a 20" last year on the delaware, what a bruiser. Can't wait until the weather warms up and they start getting active.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 8:47


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth
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I’m with you Fishidiot, SMs are one of my favorite fish. I look forward to fly-fishing for them every summer. No fish fights harder than a SM for its size. I now fish for them mostly in SE PA because I live there, but SM fishing, at least for the bigger ones, is really on marginal down here. I’ve been lucky, and have caught a quite a few 20” river SMs, but in the “D” way upstream, and on the north branch of the Susky near where I grew up. As you said, SMs of that size are rare since they must live a long time in the river to grow to that size, and many end up on a stringer before they can reach those dimensions.

I know some good spots to fish on both rivers. Maybe we can give it a try some time. Fredrick and JayL say they are up for a trip this summer. I was thinking of maybe planning a trip to the D in June for trout on the WB or upper main stem , and combine a SM trip downriver. I can’t think of anything better than battling big tail-walking wild bows and rod-busting, football sized SMs on the same trip.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 9:33


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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2006/9/18 8:28
From Attitudinally, one mile south of Lake LeBoeuf
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It's a high mark to shoot for. In all the years I've been chasing smallmouth, I've only got 2 that exceeded 20". One in PA a long time ago and one in WI last year.

One thing I've always found interesting about where I've caught the largest smallies I've taken is that the vast majority of fish between 18 and 20 inches I've caught have been out of approved trout water in PA, a lot of them out of streams no larger than the Allegheny at Coudersport. I think one of the reasons for this is that generally, these places are way underfished for bass.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 9:37


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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Quote:

RLeeP wrote:
It's a high mark to shoot for. In all the years I've been chasing smallmouth, I've only got 2 that exceeded 20". One in PA a long time ago and one in WI last year.

One thing I've always found interesting about where I've caught the largest smallies I've taken is that the vast majority of fish between 18 and 20 inches I've caught have been out of approved trout water in PA, a lot of them out of streams no larger than the Allegheny at Coudersport. I think one of the reasons for this is that generally, these places are way underfished for bass.


I agree, My first smallmouth was probably close to fifteen inches. I was fishing a put and take stream for trout. I was swinging a wooley bugger and then stripping it back to me and then bam. I thought I had a huge trout on. Here it was a real nice smallmouth. I remember thinking to myself these fish really put up one hell of a fight!!!

Posted on: 2009/2/24 10:14
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Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth
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The 20" SM I've caught have come from the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, I guess for the most part, because that’s where I fished for them 90% of the time, and the big rivers had the forage and habitat to allow them to grow to those dimensions. I lived a block from the Susquehanna River and fished it nearly every day as a kid. Later on I camped out on many summer weekends and fished the Delaware River. I suppose if you fish enough in places that hold trophy fish, you’re bound to latch on to one once in a while. Also I found a few places on those rivers that didn't get hammered too hard by fisherman.

I caught a lot of trophy SMs before I fly-fished for them. I was a stonecat / hellgrammite guy (called caddies & clippers back in NE PA) and I used lures later on. I now FF for them exclusively, and I have caught a few 20” SMs on flies.

I believe that today, C&R and many angler now fishing with artificial lures has had a positive impact on the SM populations, especially for the larger fish. There was a time when every fisherman wading the Susky or D had a stringer and an Old Pal bait can tied to his belt. Now most anglers practice C&R for SMs and, IMO, the average size of the fish has increased since when I fished as a kid.

Most of my SM fishing has been in NE PA, but the fishing in lower Susky was unbelievable a decade ago. It’s really a shame how far downhill it has slipped. The great SM fishing may return some day to the lower Susky, one can only hope.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 10:27


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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Got started last year on the warmwater FF. Tons of water here in western PA for that type of fishing. Never caught a carp on a fly rod yet and look forward to that. Got some good advice on this site last year for that stuff.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 10:48
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Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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What wt/length fly rod did you make the catch on? I am looking to give smallmouth on the Delaware a try this season.

Posted on: 2009/2/24 19:28


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth
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My rod choice for bigger water like the D or Susky is a 9' 8wt. I like a medium fast rod that can cast weighted flies and bigger topwater flies with ease. By far the best line I've ever used for fishing big and heavy flies is Rio Clouser line. For smaller waters using smaller flies and catching smaller fish, a 6 or 7 wt will work.

Fredrick bought a 10'6" switch rod for smallies at the somerset show this winter. When the weather breaks, I look forward to trying out our rod.

Posted on: 2009/2/25 7:59


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth
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Suit,
My preferance for most medium to large bass rivers is a 9' for a 7WT. Most of my bass fishing is on the upper Potomac or the main stem Juniata. Both of these river sections are largely enclosed in mountain ridges and don't seem to get really bad winds. Of course, what one considers bad wind is relative. Since I do a lot of FFing in saltwater I'm used to much heavier winds. The Susky around Harrisburg has mountains too but seemed to me to be a bit more windy, perhaps because the river was wider. Whatever the case, rod size/length is a matter of personal preference. I used to use an 8WT for the big rivers and still do on occasion. Most of my SM fishing is on small, local trout streams and on those waters I often just use trout tackle.

Posted on: 2009/2/25 9:04


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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OUR ROD ????????

Posted on: 2009/2/25 22:11
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Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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The question is:

Do I bring the 11 foot 6wt or the 9ft 9wt?

Posted on: 2009/2/25 22:37


Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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2009/2/7 23:48
From Harrisburg, PA
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Late pre-spawn bass fishing on the Conodoguinet Creek in Cumberland County will land you a 20+ incher :). I've only caught one that big on my ultra light spinning rod but they're in there and can be sight cast to if you know the waters. PM me sometime if you're looking for suggestions on locations.

Posted on: 2009/2/27 14:58
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Re: Twenty Inch Smallmouth

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2008/12/29 12:54
From Frederick, MD & New Philly, OH
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I'm going up to fish at Clemson Island tomarrow and I hope to land my first 20incher on fly gear. The susky is in great shape with 30,000 flows @ City Island. Oh grass islands here I come!!!!
I'll give you all a full report :)

Posted on: 2009/3/6 14:05



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