Summer is often a time when fisherman struggle to get on the water and, if they do, it is usually a challenge to find ideal conditions – specifically for trout. High water temperatures, bright and hot sunshine, streams blown-out from recent storms, and family obligations which force anglers into a smaller fishing window are all legitimate challenges in the summer. However, one type of fishing that exists nearby for almost every angler in the Mid-Atlantic states is pond fishing. Luckily, pond fishing – targeting panfish and largemouth bass – is something that solves most of these summer challenges.
Finding a suitable pond for a quick outing is as simple as pulling up Google Maps. In the ‘Default’ map setting (not using Satellite view), look for ponds and small lakes surrounded by patches of green. The green indicates public lands, meaning that the body of water is most likely accessible from the shoreline. Once you’ve identified possible waterways on the default view, switch to ‘satellite’ view to determine if shoreline access is reasonable, if the lake has open/fishable water, and if the lake has adequate depth and structure which will hold fish. Chances are good that you can find a suitable pond/lake within a few miles of your home. Chance are better that most of you already have a pond in mind!
In the summer, I prefer targeting largemouth bass with topwater flies. Gurglers and frog patterns will work best. Topwater flies not only elicit violent strikes from ambushing bass, but they also help to avoid the weeds and gunk that often hides just under the surface of warm-water ponds. Depending on the pond, anything from a 4wt to a 6wt rod should be sufficient. Since topwater flies are meant to be fished splashy and provoke reactionary strikes, use a heavier tippet to avoid breakoffs. Heavier line won’t spook bass the same way it might spook trout, so I would recommend 1x or 0x tippet on the end of a 7′ leader.
The greatest part about this type of fishing is that the planning and preparation required are minimal. There is no need for waders, day packs, multiple fly boxes, a change of clothes, an on-stream meal, or a long drive. I typically wear an old pair of shoes or boots, a pair of long pants (to protect my legs from stinging nettle, bugs, and ticks), a t-shift, polarized glasses, and a hat. I carry my fly rod, a small box of flies, a pair of forceps, nippers, and a spool of tippet. For me, this all fits in two pockets.
Time of day is also an important consideration for topwater action. The after-work bite (6pm-dark) is usually one of my favorite times to be on the water. When you first arrive, focus on weed edges and areas that are shaded from the setting sun. Work your topwater fly with long, violent strips to get as much pop/splash from it as possible. When the sun is still above the tree line, I prefer to let the fly sit on the water for a few second between each ‘pop’. This will give the fish a little more time to key in on the presentation, since late afternoon largemouth are often under weed beds or tight to structure.
However, when the sun dips below the tree line and the entire lake is blanketed in shadows, the bass usually come out to feed. This is when I typically speed up my retrieve, hardly pausing between violent strips, and leaving my fly in an almost constant skipping motion. Actively hunting largemouth can’t resist this offering, and soon your rod will be doubled over from the weight of a feisty bass.
So, next time you look at your watch and see there is only an hour of daylight left, don’t crack a cold beverage and settle in on the couch. Instead, throw on an old pair of shoes, grab the 5wt rod and hit the road – there is still fishing to be done.
Evan Dintaman lives in the Washington D.C. metro area and enjoys the area’s access to a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Evan is the founder of Surf to Stream Fishing, a blog highlighting saltwater, warm water, and cold-water fly-fishing in the Mid-Atlantic states. Please check him out on Instagram @dcflyfish.