American Fly Fishing

Best in the West
By Greg Vinci

Clear Lake, CA

Bass congregate along the shoreline margins of Clear Lake, particularly along steep drop-offs. Prey such as juvenile sunfish and crawfish abound in these areas, providing plenty of forage. ALL PHOTOS BY GREG VINCI

I’ve always been a trout guy, so I was late getting into fly fishing for bass. For many years I never gave bass a passing thought, but when I found myself employed in a fly shop alongside Al Bunch, all that changed. He was happy to inform anyone within earshot that he had discovered his true calling: for Bunch, trout fishing was a thing of the past and bass were the only game in town.

Articulate and talkative, Bunch regaled me with stories about fishing on California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and down in Mexico, where it seemed that any day when he caught fewer than a hundred bass wasn’t a day worth living. All of us in the fly-fishing retail business spend every day hearing what seem to be boastful stories, particularly from customers who hang out in the shop, but while Bunch talked about seemingly unlikely 100-fish days, he was also the first to admit to a day on which he got skunked. When I finally had the opportunity to fish with him I was able confirm that all of his bravado was for real, and it became apparent that if Bunch said he had caught a hundred fish, then he probably actually caught a hundred fish.