Top Flies for Panfish

Big panfish eat few flies consistently, while smaller fish swallow everything that moves. In order to catch big panfish you’ll need a box that can adapt to water conditions and fish location. Here are the flies that help me catch more big fish in a variety of conditions:

  Pink Punch

The scruffy collar pushes water and the cone head gets it down, making this fly a good option for murky water or aggressive fish. The pink color makes it irresistible to crappies, and the ice dub gives it a translucent minnow effect.

Thread: Pink or Black 8/o UNI
Hook: # 12-8
Bead: x-sm Silver Conehead 
Tail: Pink Marabou or pseudo marabou
Body: Pink Ice Dub in a dubbing loop

pink punch crappie streamer


the flashy veil and weight of the cone head make it perfect for murky or deep water

the flashy veil and weight of the cone head make it perfect for murky or deep water

   Noah’s Minnow

The Noah’s Minnow is a great fly for picky panfish. The marabou tail twitches in the water driving the most skittish fish to bite. The natural colors and bead chain eyes make it a natural option to throw. I created this one in 2010 and have put it through many renovations, but this is the “finished” product (for now).

Thread: Black 8/o
Hook: # 8 to #12
Eyes: Black or silver bead chain
Tail: Marabou, crystal flash (opt.)
Body: Wrapped marabou, same plume as tail
Extra Weight: 3-4 wraps of .025 round lead free wirethe final fly
 fly fishing for big bluegills

  Flash Bugger

The minnow-like characteristics of flashy estaz followed by the flowing marabou make the flash bugger a killer fly for panfish. It is really easy to tie and extremely productive in murky water or for aggressive fish. My favorite color combos would be pink\blue, pink\chartreuse, gray\blue, chartreuse, olive, and brown (tail\body).

Hook: #8-12
Thread: 6/0 UNI
Bead: 1/8″ copper
Tail: Marabou (any color)
Body: Eztaz (any color)Flash bugger
A nice perch on the flash bugger

A nice perch on the flash bugger

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

 DNA Mini Clouser

The DNA Mini Clouser is a great for big bluegills and crappies. The profile and shine of the DNA Frosty Fish Fiber looks almost exactly like a small minnow. They’ve got cool transparency that makes them look really nice in the water.

Thread: Black 6/o UNI
Hook: #8-12 wet fly
Eyes: Black or silver bead chain
Over wing: Chartreuse DNA Frosty Fish Fiber, tied on bottom of shank
Under wing: White DNA Frosty Fish Fiber, tied on top of shank




  Panfish Gurgler

This fly is bullet proof, doesn’t sink, and pushes a big wake – a great combination for big bluegills. Both fish and fisherman can track this fly in low light conditions. It will produce any time in shallow water, but the hottest bite is sunset.

Hook: # 12
Thread: 6/o UNI
Tail: Any color of marabou
Body: Palmered hackle
Back: Any color of thin foam
Legs: Centipede legs
Marker: black permanent
the Panfish gurgler a great fly for topwater crappies.

The Panfish gurgler, a great fly for topwater  panfish.


  Soft Hackle Telico

When the fish are less aggressive, you’ll need a subtle fly. The soft hackle will entice the picky fish, making it a must-have for a versatile panfish box. Also add a bead to get it down to deeper fish. This fly has saved several of my trips from being skunked.

Hook: #14 wet
Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
Bead: 3/32 gold copper bead
Tail: Lemon wood duck flank
Body: Yellow GSP or floss
Rib: Copper wire
Shellback: Pheasant tail fibers, folded over body and rib
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Rust brown/white hen hackle

Tellico Soft Hackle

Tellico Soft Hackle


Tellico Nymph

Bead Head Tellico Nymph

 slab bluegill on the fly mn
bluegill dinner fly fishing

All the flies combined

Tight Lines,
Need some panfish bugs? Check out our shop

The Deer Woods

I love this time of year in the woods. A lot of the leaves have dropped, and there is a nice chill in the air. Hunting season is here, and deer opener is right around the corner. The fishing is pretty good too. This weekend we headed up north to check on deer stands for a possible deer hunt. We walked miles of old logging trails through deep woods searching for grouse and squirrels. The grouse are on the low end of their cycle, so by this time of the season the few birds around are pretty smart and wary. I shot one red squirrel, and we flushed two grouse way out of range in front of us. I also got a chance to do some fishing. I caught a few small bluegills while fishing for bass. Even though we didn’t get much action, it was great to be in the woods. The scenery is great this time of year. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…..

Lots of old logging trails to walk

A few small bogs in the valleys broke up the dense woods...

Bass, Brown Trout, and Summer Fishing

Fun weekend fishing and exploring at the cabin. We got up there Friday afternoon and dug out Grandpa’s old fishing row boat. This little boat was pretty awesome for fly fishing. It was nice and stable and had a deck for casting, without any extra hinges, rings, or obstacles for fly line to get caught on. So we launched it and started casting for bass around the lake.  Lately I have been using a Meat Whistle attached with a Rapala (non slip loop) knot for my bassin’. The Rapala knot gives the fly a bit more action, which I think is sometimes necessary for getting fish to strike. Fishing was pretty good in terms of size. We started at the mouth of the river and hit some submerged cattails. Noah took the oars while Braden and I fished. I caught a few little guys and then hooked a what felt like a decent fish. He swam off and came flying out of the water. Thats when we realized it was a big fish. I really thought I was going to lose it when it buried itself deep in the weeds, but I was able to get it toward the top and Braden made an awesome net scoop. Taped out to 17″, around 3-4 pounds, biggest bass on the fly I’ve caught so far A few minutes after I released it Braden tied into another good fish on a crazy new fly he tied. After that we caught a few small ones but nothing else of any size.

Braden’s bass


On Saturday we explored a small trout stream. In some spots you could jump accross. The weeds were high and the brush made for some tricky casting, so often the best approach was to get in the stream and wade up to the pools. The stream was very winding, almost doubling on itself many times. We started fishing a short meadow section, and Braden and I each got some action. The brown trout were tiny, but still fun to catch. It is ridiculous how much they can fit in their mouths. We caught all of them on #14 hare and coppers. We then hiked into a wooded section where the stream opened up a bit and had some sweet pools. For some reason we didn’t catch or see anything above five inches, although I’m sure there are some bigger fish sitting in impossible to reach snags and pools. Minimalist fly fishing and wet wading on small streams like this is a ton of fun. All you really need is a small fly box, floatant, and a pocket knife, no waders, vest, or other junk. Very clean form of fishing. Ended the morning with one trout, Braden three. Grandpa and I checked out a river on Sunday. We had been there once before, and I had caught a pike on spinning gear few years ago. A cold stream dumps into the river there, so it is a natural hot spot for fishing. I hooked a beast of a smallmouth, but he jumped and spit the hook. Grandpa had a pike follow his Rapala right to his feet, but that was it. The bass fishing really slowed down at the lake. They have moved into their summer patterns, cruising the deep weed lines. Grandpa hooked up the trolling motor to the row boat, so that made it a lot of fun driving around the lake. Much easier than paddling.

Pig sunfish that ate a #4 saltwater Meat Whistle. Hungry little guy.

We should be doing some serious trout fishing in the next week or two, so stay tuned. Hopefully the hopper fishing will be starting up. Nothing like trout hammering the big bugs.

Tight Lines,


6-9…Family Fishing

Today we drove up to a family cabin to celebrate a cousin’s birthday (and do some fishing, of course). I don’t get much time to fish with my oldest cousin, so it was fun to get some time in the boat. Anchored the boat in three feet of water and caught a few nice bluegills and perch, along with a little bass. I had a decent topwater bite, and he bobber fished with worms.

Braden and I hit some good sized bluegills and perch off the dock

Big Bucketmouths in Skinny Water

I’ve never had much luck fishing in the river above the cabin. Its usually too shallow, too weed choked, too warm, too something. Dad once caught a nice bass out of a sunken tree on a big bass bait, but that was it for all the years we’ve been going up there. Then again, I’ve never really explored it. Until today.


The early morning had gone by rather uneventfully. I managed a few small bass at the mouth of the river, but even they weren’t really biting. On a whim, I decided to take a paddle up the river to check things out. The high water had flooded some grass and cattails, creating a big pocket of water that was previously unwelcoming to fish. Then I saw him. A three pounder lazily swam away at the flash of my paddle. That was the one I wanted.

Bass heaven

Grandpa’s old Wenonah glided through the cattails. This was perfect. Submerged cattails in two feet of water with plenty of cover. Small bluegills and minnows darted around in the weeds, giving the bass plenty to munch on. I wedged the canoe in a clump of weeds and tied on a big yellow popper. It only took two casts. Two bloops and a pause. No explosion of water, just a subtle slurp, more like a cruising trout than a bass. The fight only lasted a few seconds before he broke me off. He demolished my leader, leaving me with only a sad looking stub of 30 pound mono and a sinking heart.

I recovered and paddled over to a new spot. The lake was almost perfectly calm. I dropped the anchor on the outside of the cattails. Another big yellow popper went sailing into the cover. This time it got nailed. I set the hook and held on for dear life. This was hand to hand combat. I was way back in the thick of it, and if I let him go he would just get hopelessly wrapped in the weeds, get that split second of slack, and spit the barbless hook right back in my face. I had no choice but to hang on and hope my 0X tippet would hold as he thrashed wildly. Luckily, it did. It felt like forever, but honestly the fight didn’t last more than two minutes. I wrassled him into the boat and got this self portrait by balancing the camera on a canoe paddle.

Later in the morning Noah and I paddled out to the same spot and did a little bluegill fishing for dinner. The bluegills were thick in there. A fly didn’t survive long. Noah caught eight fat keepers on his glass rod and twice as many smaller ones in an hour. Fried in a little lot of butter, they sure tasted good. I also got a chance to test out some jigs on a spin rod. I felt really guilty, but it was actually kinda fun. I cranked in a few nice perch and Noah caught a big crappie. No more bass tonight, but we hit  the bluegills hard. Its a great way to relax after throwing big flies on a six weight all day.

A Broken Rod, Bass, and Granite

Friday morning started out with a bang. Noah and I were fishing (and catching a few) bluegills from the canoe, and Braden was picking up a few small bass from the shore. I put Noah into position to cast to the end of a dock, and I turned to see Braden’s little five weight doubled over.

“Big bass!” he hollered.


I hopped out of the canoe, and ran over as Braden landed this dandy. Snapped a few pictures and Braden removed the big black leech pattern from his grizzled jaw. By northern standards, this is a nice fish, especially in this lake. The impaired water quality, short growing season, and lots of meat fishers takes its toll on the big ones. The majority are under ten inches. So when you find a bigger one, enjoy it.

The next part of the day brought us to a favorite spot, a large nature preserve full of abandoned water filled quarries. The biggest one is barely an acre, and over a hundred feet deep. Half a dozen of these ponds are stocked with trout, but the draw is the big bass. Huge bass up to five pounds that thrive in the shallows. I honestly wonder how many stocker rainbows survive their first year. The quarry hasn’t changed much since it was active. Huge grout (big blocks of rejected granite) piles still adorn the shore, and a derrick, complete with fly catching cables, towers over the ponds. Despite all this, the area is still has a somewhat pristine air to it. Aspens and oaks are thick between the quarries, and the water is crystal clear.


The first quarry we stopped at is filled with an over eager population of big green sunfish. Grandpa, Braden, and Noah each caught around twenty in a short time while I tried to coax a large bass to eat my fly. Not hungry. The visibility was amazing, down to around twenty feet. I could almost count the spots on a small rainbow that swam by. The next pond was a bit larger and shallower, and where we’ve had our most consistent bass fishing. There is a cliff on one side where you can cast easily and sight fish to bass all day. I caught a respectable twelve incher and a smaller one on a big articulated streamer. Then tragedy struck. The fly became snagged deep on a rock, and I pulled a little too hard trying to free it. Snap! My eight weight cracked in half. Huge bummer. It wasn’t amazing quality, but it worked to throw the bigger flies.

We stopped by two more quarries without any fish worth mentioning. At the last one I tried dredging for trout with streamers. I walked out on a cliff and peered into the water. I could see the boulder strewn bottom, about twenty feet down. I let my streamers sink, a big conehead and a Noah’s minnow. I started bringing them in and a big rainbow came out of nowhere and flashed my flies, only to retreat to the depths as quickly as he appeared. I had similar experiences with three more fish, but no eats under the bright mid-day sun.

In the evening I got a chance to play with Noah’s new 4 weight Cabela’s Custom Glass Rod. I had a blast fishing with this tiny rod for big bluegills. The bluegills attacked my gurgler with fury. You can feel every pull and tug right up through the cork. The fish put a great bend in it. For its size (6′ 6″) it cast pretty well, although it can’t handle much more than a big dry or cast very long distances. The roll casting was amazing. I can see why some guys are really into glass.




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