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  • Writer's pictureDonavan Clary

Fly fishing for Neosho bass and Smallmouth bass on the Illinois River


Fly Fishing with Sink Tip Lines for Neosho Bass and Smallmouth Bass on the Illinois River, Oklahoma: A Guide with Donavan Clary


Fly fishing enthusiasts and anglers alike find a unique thrill in pursuing Neosho and smallmouth bass along the scenic Illinois River in Oklahoma. With the stunning landscapes and abundant fish population, the Illinois River offers an ideal setting for those seeking a memorable fishing experience. I have spent over 30 years learning from mistakes and mishaps on how to effectively catch trophy bass on the Illinois river. Over the last 6 years I have averaged around 200 days a year on the river. In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of fly fishing with sink tip lines for Neosho and smallmouth bass on the Illinois River, guided by experience and experiments.


Understanding the Illinois River:


The Illinois River meanders through northeastern Oklahoma, carving its way through breathtaking scenery and providing a thriving habitat for a variety of fish species. Neosho bass, native, endangered and known for their energetic fights, and smallmouth bass, celebrated for their strength and resilience, are two prized catches that attract anglers from all over the world.


The Art of Fly Fishing:


Fly fishing is a delicate and rewarding angling technique that requires finesse and precision. Experience shines through the mastery of this art. It emphasizes the importance of selecting the right equipment, including a fly rod with an appropriate weight, a matching reel, and, most importantly, the right sink tip line. The line is most important of them all.


Sink Tip Lines - The Key to Success:


Sink tip lines play a vital role in fly fishing, especially for Neosho and smallmouth bass. These lines allow your flies to reach the desired depths, where these bass species often hide.


Selecting the Right Flies:


Matching the hatch is essential in fly fishing. I highly suggest studying the local aquatic insects and baitfish in every body of water you fish to determine the appropriate fly patterns to use. For Neosho and smallmouth bass, native patterns of minnows, baitfish, Woolly Buggers, and our specie of stone fly nymphs prove to be successful choices day after day.


Technique and Presentation:


Fly presentation is an art in itself. Some anglers try to cast upstream and allow the fly to drift naturally downstream, imitating the flow of the river. Others swing offerings through riffles and runs by casting down and across. At other times heavier line casted down stream, allowing to sink and slowly dragging your patterns up strean in varying currents is whats needed. Varying the retrieve speed can entice strikes from curious bass. Additionally, adjusting the sink rate of the line and experimenting with different retrieves can help find the sweet spot that these bass find irresistible.


Conservation and Respect:


As stewards of the environment, it's crucial to practice ethical fishing. I

highly advocate for catch and release practices to ensure the sustainability of the fishery. Handling fish with care, using barbless hooks, and respecting fishing regulations are all essential aspects of responsible angling. The native Neosho bass deserves our respect and protection especially.


In Conclusion:


Fly fishing with sink tip lines for Neosho and smallmouth bass on the Illinois River in Oklahoma is an adventure that combines skill, strategy, and appreciation for nature's beauty. Guided by my expertise and experience, anglers have the opportunity to create lasting memories while connecting with the serenity of the river and the excitement of the catch. So, gear up, head to the Illinois River, and experience the thrill of fly fishing in the company of these remarkable bass species.

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