Friday, September 7, 2012

Flyfishing for Buffalo?

Earlier this Summer I had posted a report on this blog of catching a couple Smallmouth Buffalo out of the river on flies.  I LOVE catching new species on fly gear!

I had spotted a few Bigmouth Buffalo in a local public pond this Spring.  I hadn't visited the pond for most of the Summer.  I went there yesterday during lunch.  It had rained the previous evening, and there was some current and clearer water flowing into the pond through a culvert.

I was absolutely astonished by the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of Bigmouth Buffalo in this pond!  Many were near the surface, lined up near the clear water current line.  Many were in smaller pods of fish, moving around.  They'd mouth near the surface, then turn and dive head-down for the bottom...and eventually come up again.  Strange behavior.

I tried to take a picture of these fish.  Hard to see in the picture, but very obvious in person.

Bigmouth Buffalo are filter-feeders.  They gulp water and strain out the plankton with their gill rakers.  I've caught them on bait and on lures in the past.  I've not caught any on flies yet, obviously.

I tried egg patterns, I tried small Woolly Buggers, I tried midge patterns...I may have gotten one strike, but it was subtle.  Another time I suspected a strike, set the hook, and caught one!  Turns out it was hooked in the forehead...but it was a good fight all the same. counts as a fish since snagging these IS legal...but it doesn't count on my "Species caught on Fly" list.  Took some pics anyway.  I'd estimate it was about 24" long.

There was so MANY...I figure if I can discover a pattern / presentation they will hit, I could really have a great time Flyfishing for Buffalo on this pond!

Anybody have any tips or suggestions?


  1. I bet that you have to GET them to react, as some do for grass carp, (that's another story!) but however the journey sounds fun!


  2. That's the best suggestion I've heard so far, Gregg, going for a reaction strike. Its worth a shot, definitely. I'm somewhat skeptical that a plankton-feeder even HAS a reaction-strike reflex? Hopefully I can test it out...and hopefully this or some other plan WILL work. That's the goal...find SOMETHING that works. :)

  3. Smallmouth & Bigmouth Buffalo can be caught on artificial baits. When fishing artificals they really seem to prefer Twistertail Jigs, Inline Spinner Baits(Roostertails, Mepps, Bluefox....), & small flashy spoons. Alabama Rigs & Sabiki or flasher rigs are good too! They add an abundance of flash and the illusion of a ball of baitfish. This often triggers a quick and immediate prey response from Buffalo. In case your not familiar with Sabiki Rigs. Sabiki's consist of any number(usually between 6 and 10) of small hooks, each one on individual dropper lines which are a few inches long. The individual dropper lines are then tied to a longer leader in series, about 3-6 inches apart; a very small weight is tied to the end of the leader. The individual hooks are decorated as lures or tied like flies similar to those used in fly fishing. Often they have a simple piece of luminescent infused material or iridescent film attached to them. Most of the time on any individual rig all of the lures will be either identical or in an alternating sequence of colors. At times Sabiki's can be lethal on Bigmouth "GourdHeads",Smallmouth "Razorbacks",and Black Buffalo"Blue Rooters". A lot people think you can't catch the Bigmouth's because they're primary plankton feeders. That's mostly true for the younger fish under 3-4Lbs, but as they mature they begin feeding on small shad, minnows, insects, insect larvae, as well as plankton. IMHO they are easier to catch from moving water. In still water you need them to suck the bait into their mouth. Usually, Bigmouth's won't move very far to take a bait, they'll mainly just open their gills and vaccuum inhale the bait right into their mouth. An important key to catching Bigmouths consistently on rod & reel is finding fish that are actively feeding, or by getting them actively feeding and competing with one another with chum particle baits. Hopefully this info. will help you put a few more Buffalo on the bank, and in the boat. One more thing most people don't know about Bigmouth and Smallmouth Buff's is they were raised extensively as a food fish on large scale Fish Farms in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana back in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. What's really interesting about that, is they were conditioned or feed trained to eat commercial Catfish pellets. This should give you some idea's on how to tweak your Buffalo Techniques? Tight Lines and Bending Rods!

    1. Great tips and advice! Yes, I've caught them on lures in moving waters, especially. But getting them on flies is definitely more of a challenge, and that's how I do most of my fishing these days.

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  5. Buffalo are in the creek below the dam outlet of our community lake. The kids discovered that they would eat the "moss" they scraped off downed trees around the creek and used as bait. The buffalo bent a lot of spin-cast rods and gave some kids awfully big thrills. I had -some-luck fishing grass carp algae flies (green marabou), but as much luck using small weighted nymphs. Very exciting to fish for "tailing buffalo" - their dark tails can be seen as they tip up and forage along the bottom of the creek.