Ice Fishing

2013 Year In Review

2013 was an awesome year for us, and looking back I think we can say it has been our best year of fishing yet. The bass fishing was on fire this spring up at the cabin, and each of us added personal bests for multiple species. We fished quite a bit with both fly and spin gear, and were truly blessed to have the opportunity to catch some great fish in awesome places. A huge thanks to everyone who reads our adventures and tight lines in 2014! Here are a few of the highlights, in no specific order…

Driftless Trout

We didn’t make it down to the Driftless many times this year, but we did bushwack into an awesome creek deep in the remote “backcountry”.

Rugged country in the Driftless "backcountry"

Rugged country in the Driftless “backcountry”

Driftless brown trout on a frenchie ptn

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

September found us on the South Branch of the Root river for our annual Driftless fall camping trip. This trip is one of our favorites, and this year we hit a good trico hatch and caught plenty of wild browns.

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

Another wild brown Braden got on the MTMN

Another wild brown Braden got on the Trout Snatcher

Braden got this Driftless brown on a micro tubing mayfly nymph

Colorado

I caught my first few trout on a fly in Colorado, so I was excited to go back in 2013. High, cold water and snow made things a little tough, but we managed to scrape out a few fish, including some fat rainbows, a cutthroat, and a grayling

mountain lake in coloradobraden's colorado rainbow troutcutthroatSAMSUNG

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

Florida

In January I added a few new species to my list and reached a big goal in my fly fishing ventures, catching a fish in saltwater on a fly rod! I caught a few little seatrout on Sanibel Island on a Schminnow while wading a grassy flat. They weren’t monsters, but they were fish! Braden also hooked a few, but they unfortunately popped off before he could land them.

Small spotted seatrout that ate Norm's Crystal Schminnow

First fish in the salt!!

Sanibel Island spotted seatrout on the fly

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

sunset on the GulfOne of the more memorable (and crazy) catches of the year also came in Florida on a small citrus grove pond, where we got chased out by a gator!

Don't harass the gatorsgator staring us down in FLIMG_3765

Bass Opener

2013 was easily the best year of bass fishing we’ve ever had. With the late spring and colder, cloudy weather, Opening Weekend here in Minnesota was just awesome. The fish were in the shallows and hungry, still fat with eggs. Noah put three fish over 4.5 lbs on the board in the first afternoon of fishing, beating his personal best on almost three consecutive fish! The fishing was amazing, and we caught lots of fish on both fly and spin tackle.

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a "Stupid Tube" rig

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a “Stupid Tube” rig

Five pounder

Five pounder

Another pig!

Another pig!

Hungry little guy

Hungry little guy

3 pounds 11 ounce bass on a fly rod in Minnesota on meat whistleBraden's bass up at the lakesunrise on the bass lake 3

 

The walleyes were also in the shallows searching for a meal around low light. I landed my first walleye on a fly rod and my personal best, a 23 incher that hit a Meat Whistle right after dark….

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 " fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 ” fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

We also did some trolling in deeper water and Noah launched floating Rapalas on a shallow flat after dark. Both methods produced some gold...

Grandpa's walleye

walleye after dark on a Minnesota lake tossing floating rapalas100_4779

Toothy critter

Toothy critter

Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the MN/Canada border is one of the best fisheries in the Midwest. We trekked up there at the end of July for a week of canoeing, camping, and fishing in the rugged wilderness. To put it lightly, the weather was less than ideal, with record low temps approaching freezing, heavy wind up to 20 mph, and a constant cold drizzle all week. Whitecaps hammered the lake we were on, leaving us shorebound for most of the trip. We toughed it out, however, and caught some awesome fish. Noah landed a MONSTER of a 36 inch pike that will probably go down as the best fish of 2013….Noah's monster Boundary Waters pikeNoah's 36 inch pike on Basswood LakePike!

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Lake Fishin’

We fished up at the cabin a few times this summer…

27 incher

27 incher

 

Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

 

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

Braden stuck this huge 20" largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth.

Braden stuck this huge 20″ largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth!

 

Lake Pepin

In the spring we made the trip down to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River to chase some walleyes. It was a great day of fishing, and we boated lots of fish, including some white bass, plenty of walleye and sauger, and a few smallmouth…

100_4913100_4906100_4918

Hunting

We did quite a bit of duck hunting this year. Braden and I also got into bowhunting and hunted a few times this fall….morning in the duck blindoctober goose mn

Ice Fishing

We ended the year with some hardwater fishing on the “crappie hole”, a small local lake that has produced some slabs for us in the past…

bluegill and crappie dinner icefishing sunset on the ice bass through the ice

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

bradens crappie in the dark

On the fly tying side of things, our flies are now available on Fishinggear.com. We’re offering hand-tied flies and ice flies including some signature patterns that we tie and fish.

2013 was a great year for us. We all learned lots as anglers and spent plenty of time in God’s awesome outdoors. A few personal records were broken, and we caught some great fish. Thanks for the support and tight lines in 2014!

3 Brothers Flies

Tying Ice Flies for Winter Panfish: The ‘Gill Shrimp and Triggers for Hardwater Slabs

Veteran ice fisherman have long known that scuds (or freshwater shrimp) are a favorite food for big panfish and trout under the ice. Over the past few seasons, I’ve been testing and tweaking a few patterns to match the hatch and create a good scud imitation. Crappies and bluegills under the ice have a much slower metabolism than their summer counterparts, so ice anglers need to utilize a few key triggers in their ice flies and lures to entice unaggressive, neutral fish into biting. These triggers hold true for not only ice flies, but all lures for hardwater panfish.

The ‘Gill Shrimp

The ‘Gill Shrimp (or “Bluegill Shrimp”) came about after refining a few patterns and adding materials and triggers to produce a convincing ice fly. I knew I wanted a bug that imitated the slightly curved position of a lethargic scud and had plenty of movement incorporated into the materials. I also really liked the oversized black bead chain eyes as the scud’s large eyes are a very noticable feature on the actual bug. After a few somewhat successful renditions, I finally settled on a version that utilized chickabou feathers and gray UV Ice Dub in a dubbing loop to produce a very life-like pattern with lots of inherent motion.

  • Hook: #10-14 nymph or curved scud
  • Thread: Black 6/0 UNI
  • Tail: Natural gray chickbou and silver flashabou
  • Rib: X-fine silver wire
  • Body: Natural gray chickabou and gray UV Ice Dub in a dubbing loop, wrapped to eyes
  • Legs: X-small brown centipede

A Few Thoughts on Triggers

A few key triggers came into play when designing the ‘Gill Shrimp. Profile is one major element in producing a bug that panfish will recognize. Fail to imitate the natural profile of the insect, and panfish will be far more reluctant to take your offering. Crappies and bluegills see thousands of these bugs in their natural environment through their lifetime, so imitating the general shape and proportions of the natural is key to producing a bait that panfish will recognize as a food source. An especially effective tactic is designing patterns around the life cycle when bugs are most vulnerable, such as a mayfly emergence or crayfish molt. Just like a trout will key in on crippled mayflies or a bass will readily attack a wounded baitfish, panfish will eagerly grab a bait that imitates an easy snack. Though profile is important, it isn’t the all-controlling factor in producing an effective bug. As long as the ice fly matches the broad general profile of the insect, you can utilize other triggers to entice fish into biting instead of focusing on imitating the exact profile of the natural. By grouping your ice flies into three general profiles (bloodworms and larvae, nymphs, and scuds) you can imitate a variety of specific insects with one general pattern.

Hatching A Match. Another factor to consider when designing flies and selecting baits is transparency. Scuds naturally have a translucent grayish, olive, or tan color depending on the body of water, so the flashy Ice Dub and picked-out chickabou legs are a good choice for creating a translucent appearance. Micro tubing does a nice job imitating the somewhat mottled color pattern of a mayfly nymph, as the clear hollow tubing allows some light to sneak through and produces a two-toned effect. Find the transparency of the bug you’re imitating and select your materials accordingly.

gill shrimp ice fly panfish ice fishing

The eyes provide some serious bugginess

The large black eyes were the first component that I added to the ‘Gill Shrimp. The eyes on a scud are one of the more prominent features, providing a highly recognizable target for big panfish and trout to key in on when searching for scuds in the weedbeds. These identifiable elements such as the eyes on a scud or black spot on a shad can really get fish excited and push them into attack mode, so incorporating them into your ice flies and lures is an important part of triggering fish to strike.

A slab rainbow that fell for a 'Gill Shrimp (Photo credit: Kevin Jones from Idaho Pursuit)

A solid rainbow that fell for a ‘Gill Shrimp (Photo credit: Kevin Jones from Idaho Pursuit)

Movement and Bugginess. Movement is perhaps the most important element in designing productive ice flies, so adding materials that have lots of natural movement is vital to creating an enticing pattern. Mini rubber legs have long been one of my absolute favorite materials for tying ice flies. The extra small, supple appendages add tons of natural movement and to a pattern, which is just what I want when slab panfish aren’t in the mood for an aggressive jigging cadence. Great for enticing negative cold-front panfish, they quiver and twitch with the slightest twitch of the rod tip, an essential element when finessing a large bluegill or crappie. But here’s where things get interesting. While the ‘Gill Shrimp possesses rubber legs that protrude straight out from the sides of the body at a perpendicular angle, freshwater shrimp and scuds do not actually have legs that extend outward, but instead curl in toward their stomach. Even though scuds don’t have these outward legs, the extra movement adds a trigger that I think really makes the difference between a decent pattern and a deadly one. With this in mind, matching the exact characteristics of an insect isn’t nearly as important as creating a buggy fly, which brings us back to profile. While imitating the profile and characteristics of the natural bug is important, extra triggers such as rubber legs or chickabou allow you to imitate several general bugs with one pattern. Depending on presentation and the mood and location of the fish, an ice fly might be taken for a scud, aquatic worm, or mayfly larvae, as it provides features of several bugs that fish will recognize. Panfish encounter hundreds of varieties of insects and larvae, so imitating an exact bug isn’t nearly as important as incorporating triggers into your ice flies and lures that will excite slab bluegills and crappies.

So there are a few thoughts on tying ice flies and triggers for winter panfish. The ‘Gill Shrimp and Slab Spike, which were designed with these triggers in mind, have been solid producers for me (if you don’t tie, you can grab a few hand-tied ‘Gill Shrimp and Slab Spike ice flies here). Using these natural triggers to your advantage when tying ice flies and selecting lures for hardwater panfish will lead to more fish on the ice, especially during tough cold-front situations.

Also check out our post on tying ice flies for more thoughts on designing and tying productive patterns.

Tight lines and good luck on the ice!

Conner

Black Friday Sale – Grab a few hand-tied flies

tricoblackfridaysale   Check out our Black Friday sale on Fishinggear.com and grab a few hand-tied flies and bugs.

From the shop…

3 Brothers Flies offers quality hand-tied flies, ice flies, and jigs that catch fish, not just fishermen.  Many of the flies featured are signature patterns that we have designed to fish waters both local and abroad. Fly fishing is one of our huge passions, and we know the awesome moment and excitement of watching a trout delicately rise and sip our dry fly. We love casting hair jigs for bass way back in the lily pads, or chasing slab crappies on a Minnesota lake. In these moments, we need a fly or jig that’s effectiveness is equal to our passion for fishing. Tied right here in Minnesota, all our flies are tied to be very durable and withstand lots of fish. If you don’t see a fly you need, or want a custom fly or jig, just hit the contact button and we will work with you to figure out the perfect fly or jig for your situation.

Ice Flies 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 (commonly known as a “Michigan rig”). You just can’t beat the tantilizing movement and realism of an ice fly for slab bluegills or crappies through the ice. These flies often turn negative fish that reject the baited jig into biters, a situation common with finicky cold front panfish.  If your local state regulations do not allow two hooks on one line, a drop shot rig is equally effective. Anglers fishing with ice flies and the tight line technique will often out fish the guy using standard methods with just bait.

Slab Spike

Slab Spike

Grab a few hand-tied Slab Spikes on Fishing Gear.

Tight Lines and thanks for the support!

3 Brothers Flies

Ice Flies, Early Duck Season, and TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes

Here is a recent order of ice flies that just came off the vise. While it’s hard to think about winter right now, ice fishing will be here before we know it and I’m really excited to chase a few panfish and walleye through the ice this season! Some TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes are in the works and will be available later this fall…

Slab Spikes

Slab Spikes

The first week of duck season here in Minnesota was pretty good. We hunted opener with our cousin and had some great action with lots of woodies and a few mallards hanging around the small rice-filled lake we hunted. We also got out a few times during the week and found some wood ducks on the swamp. Definitely need to shoot some clays, though :)

Morning in the duck blind

Morning in the duck blind

 

New fly tying area, and a few ice flies out the door

Our new fly tying area has been finished for a while, but I thought I would post a few pictures anyway. I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s a great little spot to tie up some flies with lots of room for storage…definitely better than my cluttered desk :)

Slab Spikes out the door to a fellow ice angler

On the ice fishing side of things, Slab Spikes are now available on the storefront (if you haven’t already, check out the store for hand-tied flies and ice flies). The Spikes have been great this year, and tight lining has become my favorite way to chase panfish through the ice. Try changing things up for finicky mid-winter panfish and tie up a few ice flies. The panfish will start to move shallow pretty quickly and the bite should really heat up!

Tight Lines,

Conner

Slabs

When the bite is on, night fishing for crappies can be some of the most fun you can have on the ice. Big schools of fish will roam the flats, eager to feed in the low light. Grandpa joined us for a night of chasing crappies on a local Minnesota lake that we never fished before. We set up on a little “bump” over 20 feet of water, and the sonar marked fish right away suspending eight feet off the bottom. The night started slow, but quickly turned into a successful trip. Grandpa landed the first fish, a solid 9″ papermouth. He definitely had the hot jig of the night, landing six slab crappies in the ten inch range in an hour, the largest pushing 11 inches. All came on a small pink horizontal tungsten jig tipped with a waxie. Oddly, the rest of us didn’t even get a bite fishing other colors and sizes at the same depth sitting only two feet away. I’ve had similar experiences in the past with crappies at night. For whatever reason, the fish will key in on small pink jigs and they will outfish any other color or size.

11 inches of slab crappie

Tight lines,

Conner

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