Editor’s note: Tom Adams is general manager of Backwoods in Oklahoma City and a fly fishing instructor
Oklahoma’s weather has transitioned from winter to spring, and the state’s winter trout areas have closed, but that doesn’t mean you should put away your fly rod.
Trout isn’t the only fish that will chase and eat a fly. Oklahoma does have two year-round trout streams, the Lower Mountain Fork and Lower Illinois rivers, but the state has numerous warm water species of fish that are willing to take a fly.
Perch, bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, stripers, hybrids, sand bass, white bass, crappie and carp all can be caught on a fly rod for anglers willing to give it a try.
In most cases, the fly rig you have for trout fishing can be adapted to pursuit of other species with very little effort or expense.
A change in fly size will dictate how big a fly rig you need. The bigger the fly, the bigger the rig you will require. The general size of fly line and rod that can be used for trout would be 4,5,6 weight lines.
When moving to larger species such as bass, the recommendation is 7,8 and 9 weight lines and rods. Many of the trout type flies will work for perch and bluegill. The large fly rods for bass will be a big benefit in the Oklahoma winds.
When getting started in your quest, think about water temperature and how it affects your particular targeted type of fish. A couple of degrees difference in water temperature will change where you will find them.
For bluegill or perch, while the water is warming in the shallows, most of these fish will be located just next to the shallow water in deeper locations.
Use weighted flies in getting to them in their hideouts. Nymphs, small streamers and micro-jigs will get down to them.
Keep your size and colors imitating the food source that is available to them, flies such as the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, Guides choice, Wooly buggers, black nose dace, Zonker’s and Clouser minnows. Work these flies slower with short twitches and slow retrieves.
Warm afternoons and longer days will bring fish into the shallow water. That is the time to bring out the top water flies. Poppers, diving bugs and sliders will open up a new level of excitement. Flies might include V.I.P. poppers, Blockheads, Pan Pop’s and Dixie Devils.
Moving to larger predators such as bass means a change in gear. Larger flies mean larger rods to throw those flies. The flies can be floating or sinking and will offer a larger meal for these eating machines.
Just like for bluegill, use subsurface patterns to start with. Work around structure adjacent to shallow water where the bass will eventually end up spawning.
The larger subsurface patterns can be fished with a floating fly line, sinking fly line or a sink tip fly line. The sink tip fly line means the front portion sinks and the back portion floats. These are different tools for targeting bass at different levels of the water.
Use flies that imitate a meal for bass, such as Cowen’s Baitfish, Granato’s Ghetto Craw, Whitlock’s Sheep Series, Articulated Leeches and Foam tail Super worm.
As summer starts, the top water bite is on for the fly fisherman. Fishing early or late and on cloudy days will be the most productive. Flies for top water action could be the Dahlberg Diver, Whitlock’s Airjet Bug, Todd’s Wiggle Minnow and Femme Fatale.