The cool temps this summer have caused many fly anglers to change their tactics in order to be successful catching smallmouth bass on the Mississippi. Standard tactics for fly fishing the Mississippi during the mid July to mid August period primarily include active casting to the shoreline using topwater poppers and shallow running minnow imitations. This year these tactics have been far less successful leaving many fly anglers to ponder why they've been having these "less than spectacular" outings on a river that is consistently productive at this time of year.
One theory that is continuing to prove itself out is that the fish are just not concentrating in the shallows as they usually do at this time, They are locating on the deeper water breaks and therefor are not as active in the first foot of the water column. Our trip on Saturday helped us to "believe" as we changed our tactics to sinking tips and weighted minnow and crayfish imitations. We did pound the banks as well but had far more success pulling away from the banks and fishing the mid-river breaks and slow deep water pools. Fish were caught more readily crawling slowly along the bottom rather than the active strip, strip, strip of shoreline fishing. A few beautiful, broad shouldered smallmouth were boated and released on a day that would have been slow had we continued business as usual.
Changing tactics from the "usually successful methods" is many times difficult for anglers to have confidence in. The key many times is talking to other anglers. In our case it was talking to conventional anglers who have spent countless hours on the Miss fishing deep and slow, considering it their normal tactic.