How To Fly Fish For Sand Bass in Southern Creeks – Part 3

| March 9, 2012

By now you probably realize that sand bass are not PMD sipping brown trout. And that’s as it should be – it’s a southern thing (be sure to read that with a twang). Catching sand bass on a fly rod is not the most efficient way to fill your ice chest, but I am beginning to believe it’s a way to catch fewer larger fish – if you follow some simple tips.


Even the greats carry spinning rods. Ask Lefty Kreh. For the purpose of Texas Fly Casters, we will limit ourselves to the sand bass on fly rod, but believe me – you can catch a heck of a lot of sand bass on a spinning rod with simple lures.


Shorter is better. Then, it depends on what your goal is for a day of sand bass fishing in your local creek. If you just want to fight, catch-and-release sand bass, then go with a slower, lower weight rod – a four weight or five should do well in extending battles and bending rods into a fairly radical arc. IF you are catching fish to eat, then you want to make short work of them so that you can add to your taco feast. Move up to a strong six, seven or even eight weight rod to give you tight loops and quicker fights. The main thing is wielding a shorter rod – unless you don’t mind being in the overhanging branches and trees instead of in the water catching fish.


I hardly ever talk about leaders, but I am starting to realize they make a difference on creek fishing for sand bass. Why? It’s possible that there’s enough current to keep your leader from dropping far enough if:
1) it’s too short
2) you’re using a shallow running lightweight fly
Your casting in tight quarters is good, right? So, a nine foot leader will give enough sink in current to get a fly down into the zone. That may seem strange when you could be dealing with such shallow water, but if you find yourself getting hung on the bottom – change out for a shallower running fly. I am a big fan of fluorocarbon leaders I tie myself, but again you could change from fluoro to mono if you are getting hung up on underwater obstructions. Leaders are less about what a sand bass sees, and more about what gets and keeps the fly in the strike zone.


For every sand bass fly fisher, there’s a fly they like and will swear by on a stack of bibles. For me, it’s what’s easiest to tie, cheapest, and what I have confidence in throwing. That would be the Clouser Minnow. It would take a week to feature all the flies I’ve seen that are dedicated to a fish, sand bass, that have no reputation whatsoever for being picky. There are a couple of things that I do that make a difference, in my confidence at least, when it comes to my Clousers for sand bass. First, I tie exclusively on jig hooks. It makes the fly much less likely to be run hook down, and means you will keep that fly through several dozen sand bass (if well tied). Feeding sand bass are pretty much relentless, so they will keep after a fly until it bites them back. I have also had great results with circle jig hooks. There are colors I am more confident in, and they include; red over chartreuse, red over white, chartreuse over white and black over black. That last one is specifically for stained water, just before dark, or overcast days.


You have to be a very good caster to limit yourself to bank casting a fly rod in southern creeks. In most cases, you battled the brush to get to a spot on the bank, and then you do battle with low hanging branches. It’s a losing battle. You will have more fun if you take the plunge, and wade the creeks to catch the stampede. you can open up your casting, and there’s no reason not to cast downstream, swing a good drift into current, and vary your strip until you find the speed they like.


There are some environmental conditions and behavioral nuances of fly fishing for sand bass.

When sand bass are running in the creeks, it’s a gradual arrival, followed by a full-on stampede. Right now, they are trickling in, and you can catch some and none depending on a number of factors. Call them moody.

Male sand bass lead the way, followed by much larger female sand bass. When the males are running, you will see fish in the eight to ten inch range. Females typically run a couple of inches larger and are fuller bodied, slabby.

Whether they are just starting to run, or are stampeding, a lot of times you will experience waves of fish coming through. They will be hitting your fly every cast for ten minutes, and then it’s over … for ten or twenty minutes. Then, they come on again. You just have to cast through the slow times, and don’t second guess yourself.


Just because everything is right, doesn’t mean everything is right. If the water is muddy due to fresh rain runoff, you could have a challenging time catching sand bass in the creeks.

There are times when you can actually smell sand bass in the creeks. Once you smell that smell (my last Lynyrd Skynyrd reference), you know what it is. It’s a fishy smell that just seems to linger in the creek bottoms.

Look for nervous water. When sand bass are stampeding, they will be in shallow creeks by the hundreds, and through a long creek run – by the thousands. With that many fish, there has to be some nervous water. It can be right along the cut banks, in shallow gravel runs – again, you will know it when you see it. They can run, but they can’t hide. If you find a spot that progresses from a deep pool upstream to a shallow run, gravel bar, or any other obstruction, you can bet there are sand bass bunched up in the deep pool. Bet on it.

Remember that sand bass runs come in a latitudinal wave – from south to north. So, if you are reading about sand bass stampedes down south, and you’re up north, it may not be time yet where you are. If you don’t see other fishermen fishing during normal times, then it may not be time yet.


Sand bass are a great fish to expose young fishers to – whether fly fishers or spin fishers. If you have a kid who needs that spark to learn to enjoy the success of fishing, sand bass are the ticket. They can easily have one of “those days” when conditions are right for southern sand bass stampedes.

Sand bass are often the fish that symbolize spring for me, and knock the rust off my winter bones in short order. Most of us have survived the winter, and we’re ready for one of “those days” ourselves. Sand bass will oblige. And I’ll be honest, during these hard economic times, sand bass just taste good.

NOTE – Still in Seattle, Washington, so keep your eyes on the tweets for sights from there.

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Category: Central Texas, Culture on the Skids, Equipment, Fishing Reports, Fly Rods, North Texas

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