I love smallmouth fishing. I love how they hit hard and fight harder. But mostly I just love the experience of fishing for smallies. Especially in the heat of the summer, wet wading, catching some rays, traveling light. Fishing all day with no vest, just some tippet, hemostats, clippers, some smallmouth-friendly flies, then adding some ice cold beer at the end of the day (full disclosure: sometimes I do not wait until the end of the day).
But I've always been a little 'under-clubbed,' to use a golf analogy from the days before I first picked up a fly rod and let my clubs gather dust. I've always used the 5-weight, mid-flex fly rod that fly shops are so fond of pitching as a good 'all around' fly rod. It took about a year to realize that around here, most of my trout fishing is better done with a short 3-weight, and util now to realize that the 5-weight is inadequate for throwing bigger bass flies on bigger and deeper water.
The worst part about not having the best gear for smallmouth fishing, is that I fish for smallmouth much, much more than anything else. The Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet less than a fifteen minute drive from my house, and parts of the Potomac are even closer than that. But as much time as I've spent doing it, I have made little progress in how well I do it. Those rivers push pretty hard, and it's next to impossible to get any kind of streamer that you can throw with a 5-weight down to any depth at all. I think I'm catching smaller fish (the one pictured above is about the largest I've caught) that are relatively high in the water column.
So I have decided that it is time for my first very good fly rod. I have picked this Sage Z-axis fast-action beauty. And although I go back and forth between the 6-weight and the 7-weight, I am afraid the 6 is just going to be too similar to my 5 and I still won't be able to do what I want to do with it.
It'll be loaded up with this Rio Grand fly line, and I'm considering trying these poly leaders from AirFlo. You can get a set of variable sink speed leaders that might help get flies deep even in fast moving current. I haven't tried these before but I like the idea of these over a sinking or sink-tip fly line.
I also need to look into tying tippet material onto these. Whatever tippet material I have certainly won't be constructed the same as these, so I might need a tiny barrel swivel or something to make that transition. I know strategies and equipment will get tweaked as I go, but I think this setup will go a long way in bringing more success -- and bigger smallmouth --this summer.