I'm betting the reason you were getting so many short strikes is because the fish hitting the fly were small sunfish that had trouble getting the fly in their mouths. Next time try a small Coachman pattern wet fly when that happens and I bet you'll start catching a lot of small sunfish. The size of the splash doesn't always indicate the size of the fish. Many times the smaller splash (or just a sip) will yield a bigger fish. Lots of people talk about using poppers for sunfish, but I don't bother. A small nymph or anything bright will pull them in all day, and your hookup ratio will be much better. I also tend to get bigger fish.
When it comes to bass, you need to put on a bigger fly. I fish huge poppers or if I'm going with streamers or drivers, they're at least 3" long, and sometimes larger. And you can bet that if a big bass is close by, sunfish won't hit the fly, so pick up your cast and move it elsewhere if you get into a lot of sunfish. You'll often see your big fly get pulled down a little when sunfish nibble at it.
My passion for catching fish is eclipsed only by the fish's passion not to be caught.