Texas Guide to
Fly Fishing for Sand Bass
ABOUT SAND BASS FISHING IN TEXAS
When the cold grip of winter starts to release and the buds begin to bloom, anglers in Texas start to think about millions of fish pushing up the creeks and rivers to begin the fishing season. Morone chrysops is the scientific name of the fish also known as the white bass, sand bass, or as most Texans call them, sandies. Whatever you choose to name them, these fish mark the time of year when anglers break out their rods, tie on a fresh leader, grab a handful of clousers, and head for the nearest creek in search of running fish.
The sand bass run begins when water temperatures reach 55 degrees. As the sun warms the lakes, the fish feel an ancient urge to swim towards the creeks and rivers to lay their eggs and begin the cycle of life. The first fish to lead the charge are the smaller males. These early runners will swim in waves, usually a trickle that turns to a torrent when the larger females join in. They’ll push through the water and journey until they can no longer forge ahead. Sometimes they hit a dam or weir, or maybe a massive log jam. Other times, the water just stops. The creek level is too low and the fish can no longer swim. It’s at these obstacles and along the path that anglers wait. Often the sandies provide the first catch of the year and signify that winter is over.
OUR FAVORITE FLIES FOR SAND BASS
If you asked a dozen fly anglers which fly is best for sandies, eleven will tell you a clouser. The ubiquitous clouser, the staple of Texas fishing and perfect imitation of threadfin shad is the reigning champ of sand bass. Tied with a white belly of bucktail, a little hint of flash, and topped with chartreuse, the clouser represents just what the fish want. As Lefty Kreh used to say, “If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use”, but the well equipped sand bass angler is well advised to add other colors such as pink, grey, orange, purple, and black. It’s also wise to carry a few with lead eyes and a few with bead chain to ensure you can handle any depth the fish are cruising. As far as size is concerned, flies in the 4 to 6 range tend to be the perennial favorites.
If you’re a bonefish junkie and have tons of Crazy Charlies in your boxes, grab some white and pinks to imitate small shad. These tropical flats wonders make for a great sand bass fly!
FLY RODS FOR SAND BASS FISHING
Almost any size rod will work for white bass. While most anglers stick to a 5 or 6 weight, these fish can fight like a street brawler on a 2 or 3 weight. Lines can be debated, but most veteran sandy fishermen lean towards a sinking line. Use either a clear intermediate or a sink tip to get your flies down to the fish. The sand bass like to hug the bottom of creeks and rivers, so your typical floating line lacks the ability to get in the strike zone. Bonus tip: Rio Versileaders are an easy way to make a floating line a sink tip!
LEADERS FOR SAND BASS
Leaders are pretty straightforward. If you prefer to describe leaders like a trout angler, 3x will get the job done. If you’re a bass or salt junkie, leaders in the 8 to 12 pound range work well. Since we’re using sinking flies and lines, it’s a good idea to buy a spool of fluorocarbon tippet. The fluorocarbon gives a little more stealth and is super easy to tie a good knot with.
When it comes time to go fishing, look for places where the water has warmed up and recent rains have created some current. The fish will migrate to these areas and congregate in the slow moving eddys and side channels. Start off by looking for deeper pools. You will often see the flash of a moving fish as they give away their location. Start off by casting across the stream or slightly upstream. Let your fly settle and then start making short, erratic strips. The fish will often imitate their larger cousin, the striped bass, and chase the fly down. If recent rains or a drop in air temps cool down the water, slow your retrieve and expect a much more subtle bite. Nearly every big lake near Dallas will have a sand bass run. Ray Hubbard, Lewisville, and Ray Roberts are just a few of the lakes that have great sand bass runs. The Nolan, Brazos, Trinity, and Neches rivers will also see big schools of fish pushing their way upriver to spawn.
RECOMMENDED TACKLE FOR SAND BASS
LEADERS AND TIPPET
FLY FISHING FOR SAND BASS
When you locate one fish, keep fishing the same area. The sand bass are usually schooled up and there is a good chance you’ll keep catching fish. Once the bite slows, it’s probably time to relocate and look for another school. This might be after five bites or as many as fifty. Sometimes a change in fly might work also. You’ll often hear people talk about catching fish on one color until the bite slows. They’ll make a quick change and they’re back to catching fish.
The white bass season can start as early as January and can sometimes run till May. The runs generally start sooner in the southern waters as they tend to warm faster. The Sabine River above Toledo Bend Reservoir is known as one of the best runs in the nation. The river often sees the first fish pushing through in January and the run can last until April. Closer to Dallas, our runs typically begin in late February or early March and are in full swing by April.
Once the runs end and the fish return to the lakes, they can still be a great target for fly anglers. Often in the heat of August, sandies school up and push shad to the surface. While they gorge themselves on bait, anglers can spend hours chasing the schools on the surface. The sign of diving birds and acres of bait splashing will give way to the sight of anglers hooked into fish.
Now that you’ve been versed in the tools and techniques, it’s time to grab a rod and flies and head for the creeks! If you need some help with gear or where to go, please reach out to us. We would love to lend a hand with your sandy adventure!