Big Idaho Smallmouth Bass!

by | Jul 19, 2019 | fly fishing for smallmouth bass

July 18 & 19

flyfishing-for-bassWhen I’m camping and I don’t wake up in the back of my Explorer but rather outside on top of a picnic table, this usually means I’m at least a few hours from home and a friend did the driving with his car.  That’s exactly the scenario these last two days.  Longtime friend Boots Allen and new friend, Alec Losee, drove the 3 hours to the lower Snake River in Idaho where we chased smallmouth bass and carp.


Snake-River-fishingI can tell you where we were because it’s no secret.  We were fishing around the famous Massacre Rocks area between American Falls and Twin Falls, Idaho on the Snake River.  It may be new water to me and unknown to most my neighbors in Victor, but this has been a prime smallmouth fishery for a number of years.  In fact so good, we saw numerous pros practice fishing from shiny and expensive bass boats preparing for the Snake River Valley Bass Club tournament scheduled for Saturday.


Boots-Allen-flyfishingThe river is huge down here and honestly, without a good bit of drift boat rowing experience I wouldn’t recommend it.  Furthermore, the wind blew so hard on us both days so you also need a motor.  I’m sure the three of us could have fought our way downstream to the take-out but the motor was a saint.


July 18


Jeff-Currier-fly-fishingOur method of attack on the bass were 6-weights, sinking lines and Clouser Minnows that looked like crayfish.  I prefer poppers for bass.  I’ve gone as far as to say that if the bass aren’t hitting poppers I’ll fish for something else.  But today was an exception.  With the heavy current and strong wind the poppers simply didn’t pop right.  Furthermore, the nice thing about fishing the Clousers is we had a shot at some huge trout as well.  While we managed a fat rainbow of about 18”, this is me fighting “The one that got away”.  I haven’t been worked over by a trout like this in years and after nearly five minutes of having absolutely no control of the fish, he came unbuttoned.  Bummer!


bass-on-flyWe caught our share of smallmouth bass.  We eased our way down the rocky banks dropping our flies close to the edge.  After my flies hit I make two hard strips then let them sink.  Once deep, I strip slowly using my rod tip to add some up and down action.  I started out busting up the fish fast and furious while Alec wasn’t hooking any.  He’s an observant lad however, soon he adjusted his methods and stuck some fish of his own.


Alec-Losee-bass-fishingWhile the majority of the smallies we caught were small (8” to 10”) there were a fair number of 12”-14” bass.  These fish fight very hard.  In fact I’ve always found that smallmouth from rivers fight harder than their stillwater cousins.  It makes good sense because they combat current all their lives.


Boots-Allen-fishingIt wasn’t like 12” bass were something to celebrate however.  There were plenty of larger fish.  All three of us landed several bass up to 15” while Boots bested his personal smallmouth record with this dandy 16 incher with exceptional girth.


carp-on-flyThere’s more to the great fishing down the lower Snake.  The place is loaded – and I mean LOADED – with both common and mirror carp.  You don’t hunt them in the rocks where the smallies live but every time we went from rocks to weeds or passed a shallow slough, we eased in with our carp rigs.  Alec had never fly fished for carp in his life but unlike some, he was wise enough to be eager to try.  He quickly learned that this underestimated invasive species that isn’t going anywhere, is hard to catch!


Alec-Losee-carp-fishingWe chased the carp for about two hours.  It wasn’t easy with the wind.  Wading the flats would have been much more effective but the bottom was soft here and unwadable. Persistence pays off though and finally Alec nailed a stylish looking mirror carp.


fly-fishingThe night ended with one more smallmouth session then a nice steak dinner and a few beers at camp.  It’s always invigorating to explore a new place.  We headed for bed before 11 and made it back on a different section of water bright and early.


July 19



Though the forecast today was for less windy conditions than yesterday, it was windier.  In fact, it was really windy and we considered looking for a more sheltered region of the Snake.  I’m not sure how to explain where we were but it was downstream of the Massacre Rocks a good ways and much more wide open.


boots-allen-snake-riverAfter some consideration, Boots made the call that his boat could handle the waves and off we went.  He generously took charge of the challenging rowing while Alec and I went to work delivering our magic along the rocks.  The fishing wasn’t fast and furious but our first bass was larger than yesterday’s average from upstream.


carp-fliesWe caught a few of these nice sizes smallies but then I got a thump that came with an exaggerated heft of weight.  I heaved back and stripped and to the surface waves came an angry common carp.  He took one look at us and sizzled off to the races.


It’s not often that you catch a carp blind while fishing deeper water.  I was surprised when I saw him.  But you know me, no doubt I was extremely excited!


Currier-carpIt’s been years since I brawled with a carp in such deep water that he could sound on me.  But that’s exactly what this big boy did.  He got down about 25 feet deep below the boat and started to remind me of yanking on grouper in the Seychelles.  I put my Winston Air to the test and ultimately won this battle.  About a 12lb common carp!


smallmouth-bassAfter I released the heavily scaled carp we were far from done.  The smallmouth bite came to life and Alec and I caught and released a bunch.  All of which continued to be nicer sized than yesterday.  One however caught our eye.  While Alex landed this nice 13” bass, another of substantial size hovered below.


Jeff-Currier-smallmouth-bassDespite me casting to him as he chased Alec’s bass to the boat, the oversized smallie sank from sight without intercepting my Clouser.  We motored back up to where Alec hooked his fish and fished the area again.  This time my Clouser got crushed and instantly the words flew out of my mouth, “I got the one!”


And indeed I did.  Seconds after my hook up this fish launched three feet in the air in classic big smallmouth fashion – only a few feet from the boat with gills rattling and all!  The three of us let out a roar and for the next few minutes I fought back.  Patience came through along with the help of 0X Flouro and soon I was posing with the largest smallmouth bass I’ve caught here in Idaho.  If only I could catch one like this in the Ririe Reservoir Bass on Fly Tourney. . . .


Idaho-fishingBoots had to head home at 3 PM.  Alec and I kept the boat and despite our 3 hour drive home, fished hard till 9 PM.  We caught a ton more smallmouth and each another carp.  The carp were special because they came this evening after the wind stopped.  Each were tailing and fishing to them was so much like chasing redfish in Louisiana.


bassIt’s a great weekend in the books with the boys.  Unfortunately most fishing this summer will be without Granny.  Her shoulder is a mess from the Baja fall and she still can’t fish.  She’s still avoiding the expensive MRI but doing physical therapy by the day.  Hopefully things get better.  Now for me it’s back to the office to continue to catch up on life and start another painting.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!