It would be hard to think of a better location for catching bass on a fly rod than farm ponds, small natural lakes and creeks backed up by beaver dams. The reason these waters are so appealing is that much of the water is shallow to medium in depth. That makes it perfect for fly fishing. And a strategical advantage is that the fish are confined in a fairly small area, so you know you’re putting your offering in front of the quarry.
For this type of fishing a rod of 8-9 feet for a 6-9 weight line is perfect. Make sure it has a bit of backbone, for punching out heavy poppers and setting the hook. I like to use a floating bass bug or weight forward taper fly line, with a sinking tip or hi-density sinking tip line kept handy on another spool or reel if the fish are holding in deep water.
Backing isn’t necessary, but a tapered leader is. I like store-bought knotless ones, so weeds don’t catch on the leader. If weeds are not a problem, you can tie your own. Six to 10 feet is a good length, and the tippet should test 8-12 pounds, depending on the size of bass present and the amount of cover.
The best approach for farm ponds with a fly rod is the same way you would with spinning or baitcasting tackle. Divide the pond into three depth zones — shallow, medium and deep. During spring through fall fish the shallow end early in the morning, the mid-depths from around 8 or 9 till noon, the deep water from then until mid-afternoon. Then reverse the process through the remainder of the day.
In winter it’s the opposite. The shallows can be productive during midday when the sun warms them, while the medium and deep waters are better early and late.
For shallow water fishing, nothing can compare with the thrill of watching a bass bust a popper or deer hair bug twitching on the surface. Size 6-2/0 bugs are useful, but the specific pattern or color of the bass bug isn’t usually too important. Frog colors, white, black, orange, purple and chartreuse have all been productive for me. What’s more important than color is to have extra-sharp hooks and deliver the fly smoothly and quietly, so the line doesn’t splash loudly on the water and spook the fish.
Manipulate poppers and deer hair bugs with soft twitches and long pauses in between. If this doesn’t produce, go to a faster, louder presentation. Sometimes a slow, steady hand-twist retrieve is best of all.
For the middle levels of a pond, stick with the floating line and probe any cover you see such as weeds or logs with poppers and deer hair bugs. If no strikes come, switch to streamers fished deeper.
Good choices include the Zonker, Sculpin, Marabou Muddler, Flashabou Muddler, Clouser Minnow and Whistler. Leech and nymph patterns can also be deadly when probing this middle zone. Work the streamers with a spurting retrieve, the nymphs and leeches with a hand-twist retrieve.
When action slows in the shallows and transition zone of the pond, switch to your sinking or hi-density sinking line, shorten the leader and use the same nymphs and streamers employed in the middle level of the pond. Be sure to allow your flies to sink close to the bottom before beginning your retrieve in these deepest waters. You just may wind up hooking the biggest bass of the day in these dark, shadowy waters near the dam.
You can certainly have lots of fun on ponds with spin fishing or baitcasting gear, but these small, confined waters seem custom-made for the fly rodder. And there couldn’t be a better month for this type of fishing than June.