Fly Fishing for January Reservoir Spotted Bass

By Jacob Milholland

When it comes to our North Georgia reservoirs, January can be cold and miserable. That doesn’t mean it has to be unproductive! A sure-fire way to catch spotted bass on a fly rod this month is with a float-n-fly rig. Float-n-fly fishing is essentially using a jigged streamer pattern under a strike indicator. We are targeting suspended, lethargic bass. By dropping the fly below a strike indicator, we are allowing the fly to sit at a fixed depth over a longer period of time than a sinking fly line would allow, giving the fish more time to come up to the fly.

A 9 ½-foot 6 wt. fly rod excels for this kind of fishing, but a 9-foot 5 wt. rod/reel with a weight forward floating fly line is sufficient. As far as leader/tippet, choose length based on your targeted depth. A good start would be a 9-foot 3X leader, then add about 18-24 inches of 3x Fluorocarbon tippet. For my strike indicator, a ¾ or 1 inch Airlock is a good start, but a two-tone Thingamabobber is my preference. Make sure to tie a loop knot to the fly so that the fly hangs naturally.

Electronics are an excellent tool to locate fish and bait, but before I had a graph, I learned from my fly fishing mentors, Conner Jones and Garner Reid, to search for visual clues like rock walls, docks, or shoal and point markers for success. Cast to the wall, bank, or dock and allow the fly to sink to maximum depth. With the rod tip at the 10 o’clock position, creep the fly back by “skittering” the strike indicator to the boat with slight shakes of the rod. The goal for the retrieve is to dangle the fly on the same plane throughout, as if it were slowly hovering back to the boat. I will also give the fly long pauses, as fish may react slowly in cold water temperatures.

While I still tie baitfish patterns, I prefer to tie them on a 90-degree jig head rather than tying a Clouser-style fly. We carry Wapsi “Super Jig” hooks – 1/32 or 1/16-ounce lead heads on a black nickel Mustad hook, and those are excellent. If you think you’re around striper or magnum spotted bass, you could straighten out too light wire of a hook. Color-wise, it’s hard to beat chartreuse/white, olive/white, or gray/white. I like a good bit of silver or pearl flash in my flies, but there are circumstances that a fly without flash is better. I tie flies around 3 inches long, but with synthetic materials like Just Add H20 Slinky Fibre or EP Gamechanger Fiber. These materials can be trimmed in situations that call for a smaller profile. Another tip comes from guide Henry Cowen: Hot Pink Fluoro Fibre on the “throat” of the fly. I’m tying a small selection of these flies for the store this month if you need an example or are headed to the water!

Cohutta Fishing Company is located in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia. We carry a large assortment of guide-tested fly fishing equipment and proven fly patterns, as well as having a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Come by and see us at 490 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA 30513. (706) 946-3044.

Jacob Milholland is the Store Manager at Cohutta Fishing Company. You can find their website at