Published Jan 11. 2000 - 16 years ago

Susquehanna Smallmouth patterns

If you mention smallmouth bass fishing in Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River immediately comes to mind. This article features 14 efficient flies for Susquehanna smallmouth from the hands first time contributor Robb Nicewonger.

The Susquehanna River
The River is certainly wide enough to fish 2,3, or even 4 across.

If you mention smallmouth bass fishing in Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River immediately comes to mind. The river flows from southcentral New York through Pennsylvania and empties into Maryland's
Chesapeke Bay. The best bass water lies between Sunbury and Middletown, PA especially near the infamous Three Mile Island, which is now "trophy smallmouth habitat". This is considered by many to be the best smallmouth fishery east of the Mississippi. The Susquehanna is full of rock ledges and big boulders, providing ideal habitat for the bass. Most fish are 8-12 inches with a good catch being 15 inches, but the river does hold plenty of bigger fish. Besides snallmouth, the river holds plenty of walleyes, muskies, rockbass, bluegill, catfish, and carp--all are able to be pursued on the fly. I grew up fishing the Susquehanna and its tributaries the Juniata and Little Juniata Rivers and wanted to share some of my favorite flies for these areas.


Clouser Minnow #1

Clouser Minnow #1

Clouser Minnow #1
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
Originator: 
Bob Clouser
The gray and white variation of the Clouser Minnow

Most people know that the Susquehanna River was the birthplace of the Clouser minnow. Bob Clouser´s shop in Middletown is a must stop if you visit the area. Just about any color combination is successful at one time or another. My favorites are olive over white, chartreuse over white, gray over white, and brown over orange.

Materials: 
Hook
Mustad 3366 size 4
Eyes
Lead Barbell painted white with black pupil
Belly
White bucktail
Wing
Gray bucktail over pearl krystal flash
Difficulty: 
Easy

Clouser Minnow #2

Clouser Minnow #2

Clouser Minnow #2
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
Originator: 
Bob Clouser
An olive and white variation of the famous pattern.

Most people know that the Susquehanna River was the birthplace of the Clouser minnow. Bob Clouser's shop in Middletown is a must stop if you visit the area. Just about any color combination is successful at one time or another. My favorites are olive over white, chartreuse over white, gray over white, and brown over orange.

Materials: 
Hook
Mustad 3366 size 4
Eyes
Lead barbell painted red with black pupil
Belly
White bucktail
Wing
Green krystal flash over chartreuse bucktail over gold flashabou
Difficulty: 
Easy

Spin caught bass
This is my brother's brother-in-law, Slim, with one of the smaller bronzebacks from the River. What these little guys lack in size, the make up in sheer numbers and agressive hits.  

The river is easliy waded and in the summer a pair of cut off jeans and tennis shoes are all that is necessary. Drift fishing is also popular (boat, canoe, or intertube) with many 3-5 mile floats possible.
Most guides recommend a 7 or 8 weight rod, but I have had few problems with a 5 or 6 weight. A floating line is fine for dries and poppers, but a sinking line is a must if you want to get the flies down to the big fish holding in the deeper lies.

The primary forage includes crayfish, hellgrammites, river shiners, juvenile bass, madtoms, sculpins, and chubs. One of the biggest annual events on the river is the white fly hatch, which occurs in mid July through August. This snowstorm-like hatch brings smallmouth, trout, carp, and even catfish to the surface in a feeding frenzy.

Many famous fly tyers have come up with excellent smallmouth patterns--all of which have a proven track record. Flies from tyers such as Bob Clouser, Dave Whitlock, Harry Murray, and Ed Shenk are all excellent choices. I just want to offer some of my favorites from these tyers and others that have been successful for me. I did not include any surface patterns on the list. Basically any type of popper or deer hair bug will work. The best colors are white, yellow, "natural" and black. Usually, sliders or bugs that don't make a loud pop are more effective. Muddlers, marabou muddlers, and the Morris Foam Divers will all be in my box for next year, as well as some cork sliders. In general, larger flies will result in a larger catch. I tie the majority of my flies in sizes from 2-6 inches

The rest of the flies are listed below. Click on the small piucture or the name to see the full pattern description and materials list.


Clouser Minnow #3

Clouser Minnow #3

Clouser Minnow #3
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
Originator: 
Bob Clouser
An orange and brown variation of the famous pattern.

Most people know that the Susquehanna River was the birthplace of the Clouser minnow. Bob Clouser's shop in Middletown is a must stop if you visit the area. Just about any color combination is successful at one time or another. My favorites are olive over white, chartreuse over white, gray over white, and brown over orange.

Materials: 
Hook
Mustad 3366 size 4
Eyes
Lead barbell painted orange with black pupil
Belly
Orange bucktail
Wing
Brown bucktail over tan krystal flash over orange bucktail
Difficulty: 
Easy

Shenk's Minnow

Shenk's Minnow

Shenk's Minnow
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
This albino pattern is tied to immitate chub

A great chub imitation, I like to fish this one in slower pools where the marabou and rabbit fur give that extra motion to the fly. I also like to substitute estaz for the spun rabbit fur onsome flies to add a little extra flash.

Materials: 
Hook
TMC 300 size 6
Tail
White marabou
Underbody
About 20 wraps of lead wire near the eye
Body
White rabbit fur spun in a dubbing loop and then trimmed to shape
Difficulty: 
Easy

Black Woolly Bugger

Black Woolly Bugger

Woolly Bugger (Black)
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
A traditional black Woolly Bugger with extra weight added

Probably my best fly on the Susquehanna River. I tie them in black (hellgrammite or leech), brown (crayfish), and gray, usually weighted with lead wire or a bead or two. I like to use a rabbit strip as a tail for slower water. I think a Grey, Black or Copper Frede would translate very well here.

Materials: 
Hook
Kamasan B940 size 1
Tail
2 black mini-marabou feathers and midnight blue Tiewell Sparkle Flash
Body
Black chenille, with a gold bead at the mid point and at the head
Hackle
Palmered grizzly saddle
Head
Gold bead
Difficulty: 
Easy

Brown Woolly Bugger

Brown Woolly Bugger

Woolly Bugger (Brown)
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
One of the World's most efficient and universal flies In a brown version developed for the smallmouth in the Susquehanna River.

robably my best fly on the Susquehanna river. I tie them in black (hellgrammite or leech), brown (crayfish), and gray, usually weighted with lead wire or a bead or two. I like to use a rabbit strip as a tail for slower water. I think a Grey, Black or Copper Frede would translate very well here.

Materials: 
Hook
Kamasan B940 size 1
Tail
Brown marabou
Body
Brown chenille with a gold bead at the tail and at the head
Hackle
Palmered grizzly saddle
Rib
Counterwound gold metallic thread
Head
Gold bead
Difficulty: 
Easy

Gray Woolly Bugger

Gray Woolly Bugger

Woolly Bugger (Gray)
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
One of the World's most efficient and universal flies - this one is gray as opposed to the traditionally black version.

robably my best fly on the Susquehanna river. I tie them in black (hellgrammite or leech), brown (crayfish), and gray, usually weighted with lead wire or a bead or two. I like to use a rabbit strip as a tail for slower water. I think a Grey, Black or Copper Frede would translate very well here.

Materials: 
Hook
Kamasan B940 size 1
Tail
2 grizzly chickabou feathers
Body
Gray chenille
Hackle
Palmered grizzly saddle
Head
Gold bead
Difficulty: 
Easy

Woolly Bugger (Variant)

Woolly Bugger (Variant)

Woolly Bugger (Variant)
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
A small variation over the black Woolly Bugger utilizing the mobility of rabbit fur.

Probably my best fly on this river. I tie them in black (hellgrammite or leech), brown (crayfish), and gray, usually weighted with lead wire or a bead or two. I like to use a rabbit strip as a tail for slower water. I think a Grey, Black or Copper Frede would translate very well here.

Materials: 
Hook
Mustad 4xl streamer size 8
Tail
Black rabbit strip
Underbody
Lead wire on front half of shank
Hackle
Palmered grizzly saddle
Body
Black plastic leech yarn (similar to estaz, but much more sparse)
Head
Tying thread
Difficulty: 
Easy

Susquehanna Shiner

Susquehanna Shiner
Susquehanna Shiner

Susquehanna Shiner
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
An imitation of the small baitfish river shiner

This is my most recent imitation of the river shiner, probably the most prevalent baitfish in the area. I took the pattern from a saltwater fly tied by Mike Martinek at a United Fly Tyers´ meeting and adjusted the color scheme. The best color so far has been olive over white, but I'm tying plenty of gray/white and violet/white.

Materials: 
Hook
Any long shank streamer hook
Thread
Monofilament
Tail
Pearl krystal flash
Body
Holographic tinsel
Underwing
Pearl krystal flash
Wing
Bucktail (olive, grey, pink, or violet)
Eyes
Prismatic stick-on
Throat
Red fabric paint, the whole head is then coated with softex
Difficulty: 
Easy

Murray's Hellgrammite

Murray's Hellgrammite

Murray's Hellgrammite
Pattern type: 
Nymph
It might not be beautiful, but it works...

This is an excellent fly for short line nymphing in fast riffles--the bass hit this one very hard. Don't be afraid to tie this one large--I've seen hellgrammites 5 or 6 inches long! The ostrich herl tail gives this fly a distinctive swimming action in the water.

Materials: 
Hook
TMC 5263 #6
Tail
About 20 ostrich herl fibers 2x shank length
Body
Black chenille (over lead wire)
Hackle
Palmered dark-grayish hackle (dark dun, dark brown, or any dark variant saddle feather)
Antennae
2 strands rubber
Head
Tying thread
Difficulty: 
Easy

Crayfish

Crayfish

Crayfish
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
When it comes to the Crayfish Small is better than large for the bigger fish

There are plenty of good crayfish patterns especially the Clouser and Whitlock flies. I keep my version very simple. For this fly, the "big fly for big bass" rule is the exception. A small crayfish (2 inches or less) with small pinchers is preferable to a larger imitation. Brown over orange and olive over yellow are two good color cominations.

Materials: 
Hook
TMC 5263 size 6
Body
Orange antron dubbing (brushed out after fly is completed)
Claws
Fox squirrel clipped flat near the ends
Overbody
Brown furry foam
Difficulty: 
Not selected

Olive Kluting

Olive Kluting

Olive Kluting
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
Originator: 
Martin Joergensen
Generic upside-down pattern for fishing on and near the bottom.

Thanks for the pattern Martin! I had an incredible day a few weeks ago using a white/silver version of this fly. I landed over 150 fish, with a large chunk of them coming on the kluting. This has quickly become one of my favorite all around searching patterns. In addition to white/silver, I tie these in the usual drab olive and black. I’ve also used wool for the head--its a little easier to tie and shape around the lead eyes.

Difficulty: 
Medium

White Kluting"

White Kluting

White Kluting
Pattern type: 
Wet fly
Originator: 
Martin Joergensen
A heavy upside down pattern for bottom fishing for many species.

Thanks for the pattern Martin! I had an incredible day a few weeks ago using a white/silver version of this fly. I landed over 150 fish, with a large chunk of them coming on the Kluting. This has quickly become one of my favorite all around searching patterns. In addition to white/silver, I tie these in the usual drab olive and black. I've also used wool for the head--its a little easier to tie and shape around the lead eyes.

Difficulty: 
Medium


I don't have any pictures of me with bass, so here's the next best thing.
My daughter and I spotting fish on a warm July afternoon. Its never too early to get the little ones started.

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Comments

Gotta love the smallie fight like mad and eager to take a fly top water or deep. Love to see good articles on such a noble fish,try fishing a small variation of a whistler all olive works for me or white if bait fish are present. Keep up the good articles coming. Love to read them.

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