Month – January 2013

Tying Ice Flies for Winter Panfish

Tight lining has taken the panfish ice fishing scene by storm in the past few years, and for good reason. This highly productive technique utilizes ultra-quick sinking tungsten jigs in combination with realistic, imitative ice flies on the same line. I’ve been tying, testing, and tweaking the design of a few ice flies over the past two seasons with great results on the ice. Here are two of my most productive patterns for hardwater panfish.

Slab Spike

Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead:5/32″ brass bead
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Natural gray chickabou with one to two strands of gold flashabou on either side
Body: Brown micro tubing
Legs: Brown x-small or micro barred rubber legs
Thorax: Dubbing blend of your natural dubbing (hare’s ear, squirrel, etc.) and gray or olive UV Ice Dub
Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes on Fishing Gear 
The 'Gill Shrimp is a freshwater shrimp/scud imitation for ice fishing tight lining methods

Panfish Scud

 
Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead/Eyes: 5/32″ brass bead or x-small black bead chain eyes
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Gray marabou with two or three strands of root beer Krystal flash
Body: Hare’s ear, gray UV Ice Dub, and gray/cream antron mix dubbing, picked out
Rib: Fine copper gold wire
Legs: Medium rubber

 

Spikes (mayfly nymphs) and scuds are a favorite food source for winter panfish. The Slab Spike, with its segmented body, rubber legs, and seductive chickabou tail, closely imitates a small mayfly nymph. The ‘Gill Shrimp is a good match for freshwater shrimp that live among the weed beds.

For me, the key trigger in ice flies is movement. Marabou, fur, dubbing, and feathers are all great ways to add movement to your flies, but my favorite materials are chickabou and small rubber legs. Chickabou is almost like a marabou feather, but it comes off the back of a chicken and has finer fibers that breathe, twitch, and quiver convincingly with the slightest lift of the rod tip. Another important factor to think about when tying ice flies is durability. Removing deeply inhaled bugs with pliers is the death of many small ice flies, so while a body material like pheasant tail might catch fish just fine, it won’t hold up as well as micro tubing and dubbing.

Pile of bluegills to 8″ on Gull Lake that fell for a #14 Slab Spike in an afternoon of fishing.

Winter panfish have a much slower metabolism than summer fish do, so that means they will be less aggressive and not as willing to attack a large, gaudy fly. Small sizes from #12 at the very largest down to a #16 is in order, and a sparsely tied fly with a skinny body will help with profile and sink rates. Again, micro tubing, dubbing, and thread bodies are my favorites for bodies. Flash is an essential ingredient to a good pattern, but use it sparingly. Too much flash or a large, overdressed fly can quickly put off big panfish. I usually tie my flies with a gold bead and one or two strands of flashabou on each side of the tail.

Ice flies are great for turning negative, cold front slabs into biters. I’ve watched many fish on my underwater camera shy away from the big, juicy waxie-tipped jig, then slowly tilt up and inhale the ice fly. Slab bluegills and crappies can get pretty finicky under the ice, and ice flies are sometimes the only way to hook mid-winter panfish.

Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes at Fishing Gear 

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

http://www.fishinggear.com/product/slab-spike-ice-fly-6#.UoLmI_nrw8Y

Baby Trout

To some people, fishing for 3-6″ trout is pointless and a waste of time. But for me, just getting the chance to fish and enjoy the beauty of Creation is a blessing. I love fly fishing for trout even if they’re small.

A while back we fished a small stream near our cabin. We caught little baby brown trout, ranging from 3-4 inches.

Dirty hands, beautiful trout!

The stream was beautiful too.

The streams that these trout live in are almost always stunning. Fishing Lake Taneycomo has its place for the big trout; but these small creeks are just as beautiful as the wild trout that live in them.

In November, we took a week to explore the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Just casting my rig up into the current seam and having a tiny trout come up and engulf my fly is really amazing. It’s hard to put into words.

This guy took a #12 Adams

The Smokies have really great waterfalls.

The colors on these fish are incredible!

Baby trout are fun and challenging. I’m looking forward to catching some more in 2013.

Tight Lines,

Braden

 

2012 Year In Review

2012 was probably the best year we’ve had as fly fishermen. It was our first full season fly fishing southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Area. We fished a ton, camped, and caught some great trout. Here are a few pics and highlights from the season.

Driftless Trout

80 degrees and wet wading in mid-March!

 

Noah with a nice brown trout

 

We found a great new brookie hole...

Fat brookie that crushed Braden's hopper

Another trout on the hopper

Camped on this awesome creek during the fall C&R season

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smoky Mountains were amazing. We fished Great Smoky Mountains National Park for almost a week in late October. Endless miles of beautiful, trout-filled streams cascaded through the park. While the weather didn’t cooperate on the first few days, we still got some awesome small stream fishing. I landed a 17 ” rainbow, the biggest I’ve caught on the fly.

Lake Taneycomo

Warmwater

The warmwater fishing was great this year. We started throwing big, heavy flies for bass and it payed big. I caught my first pike on the fly, and Braden and I also caught our first smallmouth on a fly rod. Noah terrorized the local panfish population with his glass rod and some Noah’s Minnows. Highlights include a camping trip to the St. Croix River, lots of fishing at the cabin, and finding some small, quiet rivers loaded with fish.

First pike on the fly

Bucketmouth that slammed a big yellow deer hair bug way back in the weeds

Braden caught this smallmouth on his Braden's Crayfish fly

Braden's first smallmouth.

Bass-filled granite quarry

Early morning mist on the St. Croix River

Hunting

We duck hunted a few times in central MN with our cousin Andrew. It was a blast…

Ice Fishing

We brought in the new year with some hardwater fishing on Gull Lake.


Tight Lines in 2013 and thanks for reading!

Hardwater Walleyes

For those that have never experienced it, ice fishing conjures an image of a guy sitting on a bucket for hours in subzero temps in the middle of a frozen lake freezing to death and maybe pulling up a few small bluegills. For most fly fisherman, its hard to believe that enduring extreme cold while dredging live bait on a tiny jig can be fun. Fly fishing for trout is one of my absolute favorite things, but when winter rolls around and the lakes start freezing up, I get pretty excited about ice fishing. When the bluegills or walleye start hitting, action can be fast and furious, and even a bluegill can put up a great fight on an ultralight ice stick. Wrangling 18″ walleye and angry pike through a little hole in the ice adds some chaos and excitement. If you’ve ever fished big bluegills through the ice, you know they can get just as persnickety as a trout, disdaining even the most convincing offering. The challenge of consistently finding walleye through the ice will keep any fisherman on the edge of his game. And after a long day on the ice, a fresh shore lunch (or dinner) of walleye or bluegill is hard to beat. Ice fishing has its own charm and unique draw to it, kinda like catfishing. Its just awesome.

This past week found us in search of walleyes, bluegill, perch, and pike through the ice on northern Minnesota’s Gull Lake, known for producing big walleye. A huge cold front made fishing tough. Temps plummeted almost twenty degrees overnight, putting the fish in a lazy mood. However, we still managed to scrape out a few walleye and some nice bluegill.

The Sno Bear

We fished with Walleye Dan on Monday. If you are ever looking for a guide or ice house in the Brainerd/Gull Lake area, we highly recommend him. He’s a great guide, and a ton of fun to fish with. We hopped in his Sno Bear in the pre-dawn hours of the morning and made the half mile run to his fishing spot. Within seconds of dropping his minnow-tipped jigging spoon down the hole, Braden hooked a little walleye (his first ever!). The first few minutes of dawn produced the best action, with a few hookups and one more walleye landed by Braden. However, the weather was against us, and the fish just weren’t moving.

The fishing continued to be tough on a brutal New Year’s Day. 2013 brought temps hovering around zero, with windchills hitting the negative numbers. It took a lot of hiking to find the fish, but we persevered, and Braden and I caught some nice bluegills in the few hours we fished.

It warmed up a bit on Wednesday, so the bite was a little hotter. Again, the best action was right at first light. Braden started the morning by hooking a big walleye that popped off at the top of the hole, and a few minutes later landed the fish of the trip, a 16″ walleye that slammed his green Swedish Pimple. The fish were biting on and off throughout the day, and we ended the day with five walleye iced.

I hit the ice solo on the last morning of the trip. I fished a smaller bay in fifteen feet of water on the outside edge of a weedbed. Fish were moving, and the action was pretty good. I had a decent largemouth swim through and eat my ice fly, but I missed the hook set. The bluegill action was pretty consistent. I tight lined a #14 tungsten jig with an ice fly dropper. A few fish took the jig, but most came up and inhaled the ice fly. I iced five bluegills up to eight inches for dinner, and released a few more.

Inside the Bear

Tight Lines,

Conner

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