Smallmouth bass—aka smallies, bronzebacks, brownies, and brown bass—are gaining traction as a favorite of fly fishers. If you’ve never caught a smallie on a fly, now is the time for summer fly fishing for smallmouth bass. As water temperatures rise in many trout rivers, it is nice to know other options may exist. 

Fishing a topwater popper in the summer heat is one of the greatest experiences with a fly rod. With populations in nearly every state in the U.S., smallmouth bass are a gamefish that anyone can target.

Fly fishing for smallmouth bass will scratch your warm-water fly fishing streamer itch across the nation. Pound for pound there are few fish that put up a Tyson-esque fight like a smallmouth bass. That’s why many of us on the onWater team can’t get enough of them…and our app let’s you explore places to feed your smallie addiction. 

Susquehanna River smallmouth

For nearly every warm-water fly rodding fanatic out there, it’s hard not to be romantic about the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the greatest fly ever created, the Clouser Minnow, took its first swims in this river and as if that wasn’t enough, the river produces fat bronze slabs for most of the year. Fishable by boat or foot, it’s a must-hit river with legendary status. This river is ideal for summer fly fishing for smallmouth bass. 

The Clouser minnow is an effective pattern for smallmouth bass

The Clouser minnow is an effective pattern for smallmouth bass

Grand River River smallmouth

At over 250 miles long, there are few rivers in the nation that can offer the amount of quality smallmouth fishing like Michigan’s Grand River. Beginning in central Michigan and flowing west through two of the states biggest cities, the Grand River is available to many, yet is underfished compared to most Michigan waters. So if you’re looking for solitude, the Grand River has access throughout most of its length. So load up the canoe, bring the streamer box, and start the Grand chase. 

Devils River smallmouth

Despite the name, the Devils River in Texas is a beautiful oasis cutting through the south Texas desert. It can be difficult to explore with hazards such as waterfalls and rattlesnakes, but for seasoned anglers, it is a warm-water paradise. Cool, clear waters allow for smallmouth to thrive and for the ability to sight cast for them. Crawfish are nearly always on the menu, and in the Texas heat, a cold beer should be on yours too. It is a one-of-a-kind fishery in the desert, and even though God blessed Texas, he loved the Devils River. 

Lower Black River smallmouth

When you’re talking smallmouth waters of the West, the Black River in Arizona is one of the finest. Beginning as a trout fishery, its waters warm in the lower elevations and big smallies can often be found in a variety of habitats from skinny water to deeper holes and runs. Some areas require a tribal permit and have special regulations, so be sure to check the regulations section on the onWater app. When you visit, bring a floating line and some heavy Wooly Buggers, and be sure to soak up the Arizona sunshine. 

John Day River smallmouth 

With steelhead and smallmouth, the John Day River in Oregon has undoubtedly caused an angler or two to forego the responsibility of their normal profession’s daily duties. Cutting north from central Oregon to join the Columbia River, it is designated a National Wild and Scenic River. The John Day River flows through a rugged and remote canyon that is gorgeous and is home to a burgeoning smallmouth fishery. Additionally, when the steelhead migrate into the river in the fall, winter, and late spring, you can swap one streamer out for another and maybe luck into a steelhead.

Explore other smallmouth waters…

This list is only the beginning of the many waters that hold smallmouth. And if you do not explore, you cannot find the fish. The onWater app can help you discover a variety of warm-water fisheries all over the United States. Targeting them is truly one of the greatest experiences you can have with a fly rod.

You’re throwing big streamers at big eaters that fight like a pissed-off cat; I mean what more could you want? 

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