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Bring on the Bugs for Late-Summer Smallmouth

The chorus of cicadas echoes on a steamy late August morning. Sycamore trees are already starting to turn yellow as summer is nearing its end. Abundant underwater grasses undulate in the crystal clear flow of Virginia’s James River. It’s officially the ebbing of summer, a time frame that fly anglers cherish when it comes to sight-fishing for smallmouth bass.

It’s Insect Season

In my opinion, the conditions in late summer and early fall favor the angler that approaches the river with a fly rod verses a conventional or spin fishing outfit. This time of the year is insect season on Virginia’s warm-water rivers and streams. While smallmouth will absolutely key in on aquatic hatches like damselflies and dragonflies, it’s the abundant terrestrial insects that get fly anglers so excited about smallmouth bass during this timeframe.

Low and clear water in late summer and early fall creates arguably the best site fishing conditions of the year. This, combined with a seasonal abundance of terrestrial insects, is the perfect combination for the fly angler looking to fool smallmouth on the surface. While forage fish and crayfish are staple food items for the smallmouth bass, dietary studies have shown that these omnivorous fish will be opportunistic when it comes to finding a meal. And opportunities are plentiful during the end of summer as terrestrial insects routinely find their way into the water.

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