Smallmouth Bass Guru Touts Sugar Creek as Top Fishing Destination

If you don’t recognize the name Tim Holschlag, he is a professional smallmouth bass fisherman. I know that may sound like an oxymoron, “professional smallmouth bass fisherman,” but he makes his living fishing for and communicating about smallmouth bass. After fishing one of my favorite waters, Sugar Creek, with Holschlag, it was easy to see why he is considered one of the best in the business.

Holschlag is the author of the books “River Smallmouth Fishing” and “Smallmouth Fly Fishing.” He’s published hundreds of magazines articles on the subject, has produced a DVD titled “Stream Smallmouth Fishing,” commercially ties smallmouth flies, hosts on-stream smallmouth fishing schools and guides smallmouth fishing trips. If that doesn’t qualify someone as a professional smallmouth fisherman, I don’t know what could.

Upon my invitation, I learned Holschlag had fished Sugar Creek before, many years ago. I was pleased when he said looked forward to returning, further stating the combination of the creek’s scenery and fishing left an indelible mark on his memory.“Sugar Creek, especially in the state parks, is one of the most scenic streams I know of, and the smallmouth fishing is right up there with the best I’ve encountered in the lower Midwest,” Holschlag said. “It can be fished year round.”

- Advertisement -

Sugar Creek is home to smallmouth bass Holschlag considers of “impressive size.” In 2007, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources implemented a law limiting kept smallmouth bass to one fish per day, and it must exceed 20 inches. Under such strict regulations, Sugar Creek has unofficially become a catch-and-release smallmouth water. Very few fish eaters are willing to spend their time trying to catch one trophy-sized bass for the frying pan. The only bass being kept these days are the occasional trophy for the wall, and the unfortunate monster that falls victim to a cat fisherman.

Jeff Conrad, a fly fishing guide on Sugar Creek, said, “Sugar is the best protected smallmouth river in Indiana, partly due to the “over 20″ regulation and partly due to the relentless patrolling of the river by conservation officers who patrol the river by kayak and responds quickly to any notification of poaching.”

Fishing with an authority on any species is an incredible opportunity. Tactics you thought were correct can be improved and new lessons are sure to be learned.

“Go ahead and take that off,” Holschlag said, pointing at my Clouser Minnow. “Slow, slow, slow. That’s how we have to fish them today. If we’re going to catch fish today, we have to be on the bottom of the deepest holes to float a fly right in front of their faces.”

- Advertisement -

With that, I was introduced to the Holschlag “Float-and-Fly” method. In his book, “Smallmouth Fly Fishing,” Tim describes the technique, “Its essence is simply suspending a fly below a strike indicator buoyant enough to support the fly, and moving the fly extremely slow.”

He rigged me up and we got to it. I laid a cast out next to a large boulder at the head of a long eddy and started to strip it back in.

“No, no, no,” Tim said. “Just let it float. If you do anymore than occasionally twitch the fly, you’re going to pull it off the bottom, out of the strike the zone.”

Again from his book, “Precise depth control and the ability to work the fly extremely slowly are the key components of the float-and-fly concept. When the fish are suspended at specific depths, when they are sluggish and holding tight to the bottom or even when you want to fish subsurface in very shallow water, being able to keep your fly at an exact depth comes in mighty handy. This is possible with a fly suspended directly below a large indicator.”

- Advertisement -

I’ll admit the float-and-fly method wasn’t too exciting. It reminded me of jigging for walleyes with my grandpa in Minnesota years ago. As a kid, the torture of sitting in the boat raising and lowering my rod tip for hours made me want to crawl out of my skin. I prefer action, ripping streamers and hopping poppers, but you can’t argue with positive results. Tim caught fish during a time when most might not.

During our outing Tim pointed out spots along the creek that would be prime to target at different times of the year. He pointed out seams, boulders, back channels and bluffs like a kid pointing out a wish list in a toy aisle; left side, right side, down a ways, behind us. In spending only a few hours with Tim Holschlag, it’s obviously apparent that he not only understands smallmouth bass, he truly loves them and the waters they swim.

- Advertisement -
Brandon Butler
Long-time outdoor writer and native Hoosier Brandon Butler lives in Missouri and serves as the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Previously, he worked with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as Governor Mitch Daniels’ liaison to the department, Director of Sales and Marketing for Dominator365 and as the Marketing Manager Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.


  1. Enjoyed your article on fishing Sugar with Tim Holschlag, who is a true smallmouth expert. It must have been a treat to fish with him and pick his brain, as well as returning to your home State waters. Wondering if you’ve had a chance to fish Driftwood, as I’ve heard it can be a pretty special River for smallies. My brother lives in Zionsville and manufactures gun safes (Johnson Safes). We get together whenever possible to fish the rivers, streams and ponds around Indiana.

    Again, great article and hope you are able to get out and fish.

    Best Regards,

    Greg Johnson


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

The Latest

Related Articles

More From Author