Spring Smallmouth Bass in New England
One of the least known flyfishing opportunities is smallmouth bass fishing in spring in NH and Maine. The largemouth bass crowd have caught on, even Jimmy Houston has kissed a few of those NH bronzebacks on TV recently. Aside from the mechanized bass boats and plug flippin' approach, this fishery is ideal for flyfishing.
Right around Memorial Day, give or take 10 days, all adult smallmouth come from the deep dropoffs to gather for the spawn. We have found them cruising the shoreline in pre-spawn; gathered in great schools in pre-spawn antics, or on the redds. My preference is to find them in pre-spawn, but having fished them off the redds I am convinced it does no harm to the fish. There are no hordes of panfish waiting to cannibalize the eggs if the adult is hooked, and the fish can be seen to swim directly back to the nest when released. (This is a C&R fishery). In fact, the same fish can be seen sitting on the nest during the whole trip. We don't try to catch them twice, although I have done it as a young kid it is unsporting as an adult.
The best time is the pre-spawn, when they can be gathered in large groups at key locations like holes adjacent to gravel spawning shoals, or rocky formations on the edges of good spawn structure. At this time, you can enjoy the hot action without concern for nesting disruption, although I have witnessed that even fishing them off the redds is of minimal consequence if properly released.
This is a true world-class fishery, and I highly recommend it for those who reside in New England. Lake Winnepesaukee, Squam Lakes, Ossipee, are fabulous lakes for this kind of fishing - just to name a few. Other opportunities are plentiful around NH, Maine and parts of Vermont.
It's possible that we would have a bronzeback clave this spring.