crappie

Bluegills, Bucketmouths, and Bowfin on the Fly

We hit the lake last weekend for a couple days of chasing some bass and panfish. The fish have moved into their summer patterns but there were still a few bass to be had in the shallows.

fighting a largemouth bass on the flyI caught this bowfin on a variation of Rich Strolis’ Hog Snare just before dark in the canoe. He put up a great fight on the fly rod.

One mean-looking fish

One mean-looking fish

I caught a good sunrise–but not much else– early the next morning. The mist and the super calm lake made a very picturesque morning.101_5099

101_5104 Braden and I got out in the rowboat and fished docks for bass with spin rods later in the morning. He thought he snagged a log on his Rattle Trap, but then it started moving….he managed to land this beast of a 20″ bass after a good battle in the weeds.

20" bucketmouth right up in the shallows

20″ bucketmouth right up in the shallows

We paddled up the creek a few times to the outlet of another small lake searching for some bluegills and bass. Moving water always seems to attract fish, and despite the crazy pressure from the local bait fisherman, the little hole below the culvert produced lots of ‘gills on the fly and a few bass. The bluegills were thick and ravenous. Braden rigged up a homemade tenkara rod with a stick and hammered the fish. He got some curious looks from the locals :)

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

101_5133

Nailed this 17″ largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

fly-caught largemouth

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

27 incher

27 incher

The Bite:

Largemouths have started to move to deeper summertime haunts, but there were still plenty of fish in the shallows on the docks and shorelines, especially in low light. Fish jigs slowly crawled along the bottom in clear water or crankbaits in the murky water

Crappies were in the weeds in 3-8 feet of water

Water Surface Temp was 74

 

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Favorite Panfish Flies: Part One: Streamers

Part one of Noah’s three-part series on panfish flies.

Small panfish will take almost every thing that moves and is colorful, but if you want to catch slabs consistently you have to fish flies that are designed for panfish. Big panfish eat meat, and streamers are a great way to catch slabs consistently. These five patterns are all fantastic streamers for panfish, producing in every environment. They are also pretty quick and easy to tie. They are overall great flies. Enjoy!

Pink Punch

If I had to pick one fly for my panfish box this would definitely be the one. I created this great warmwater fly in August of 2012 and have fished it in small streams,  lakes, and quarries.  Fishing for greenies, sunnies, ‘gills, crappie, and perch, I’ve never found a spot where it would not produce. Here’s the recipe:

Thread: Pink or Black 6/o
Hook: # 12
Bead: Silver Conehead
Tail: Pink Marabou or pseudo marabou
Body: Fluorescent Hot Pink UV Ice Dub
Collar/veil: Fluorescent Hot Pink UV Ice Dub (touch dub it to get a nice scruffy collar)
noah's favorite streamer for big panfish

Pink Punch

Nice crappie that slammed the Punch

This is a great fly and my absolute favorite to fish.

 

Noah’s Minnow

The Noah’s Minnow is a great fly for panfish, bass, and even trout, and definitely one of my favorites. It is especially good for wary fish in clear water.

Thread: Any color of 6/o
Hook: # 12
Eyes: Black or silver bead chain
Tail: Marabou, crystal flash (opt.)
Body: Wrapped marabou same color as tail

Olive with some Krystal Flash in the tail. This is also a great little streamer for trout (Conner caught his biggest brookie on one of these, a fourteen incher in northern MN).

 
 

Flash Bugger

The flash bugger is a good fly for aggressive panfish, and in stained water conditions. You can tie them in many different colors to match your fishing conditions.

Hook: #12
Thread: 6/0 any color
Bead: 1/8″ copper
Tail: 1 generous plume of marabou (any color)
Body: Eztaz (any color)
 

My favorite Flash Buggers

 DNA Mini Clouser

The DNA Mini Clouser is a great fly for big bull bluegills, and especially crappies. Big panfish eat meat, and the profile and shine of the DNA Frosty Fish Fiber looks almost exactly like a small minnow. They’ve got cool transparency and 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
 
 

These are all great flies for panfish, and quick and easy to tie.

Redear(?) that slammed a #4 Meat Whistle tied on a saltwater hook! Slab panfish want meat, and streamers are a great way to consistently hook the big ones.

Tight Lines,

Noah

 

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

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!

Bronzebacks

Bronzebacks have become one of our favorite fish on a fly (at least mine and Braden’s), passed only by trout. Trips have been focused on these scrappy fighters to the neglect of other species. This was what happened this weekend up at the lake with Grandpa. Started off by day tripping on Thursday over to north western Wisconsin to check out some lakes. The water is crystal clear on these pristine northern lakes. We only fished for about half an hour, but managed to pull in a bunch of bluegills. The most excitement came when a huge bass came charging out from under the dock and tried to eat a little bluegill Braden had on. We got him to look at a few flies, but he wouldn’t eat under the bright sun.

On Friday, Braden and I fished the same section of the North Fork Crow River that we fished a couple of weeks ago. This spot is up in the headwaters a few miles before it empties into a couple of lakes, and is only ten to fifteen feet wide. The creek was starting to get pretty skinny and really needed some rain. The fish were stacked up in the deep holes, and they were hungry. I messed around with a few small nymphs for a while before I switched to a #6 black  Murray’s Strymph. A beast of a rock bass came up and  hammered it next to a log only a few casts in.

First rock bass on the fly

The smallies weren’t too hard to fool. Almost anything that looked alive got eaten by an aggressive bronzeback as long as it was around the right size. Just stick it in the hole, let it sink, a few twitches, and bang, a fish would usually hit it. A few casts after I released the rock bass, I tied into a decent smallmouth. As usual, he tried his best to break my 4X tippet and get me wrapped up in the logs. Finally, he got tired (if smallmouth can get tired) and I landed him. A great fish for this little creek, around twelve inches.

It needs some water, really bad.

I headed upstream and caught up with Braden, who was having similar luck. His little #12 “snack size” Braden’s Crayfish was getting attacked by the smallies, and he landed another good smallie around the same size along with a few smaller ones. By a lot of people’s standards, this isn’t a big smallmouth, but for the size of this little creek, its a good fish.

Braden's smallie

Braden fighting a pike

We hiked downstream into some more new water. I quickly hooked another twelve incher, but after a few jumps the fly popped out. Braden’s crayfish got sawed off by a little pike, and each of us caught a few more fish before the end of the afternoon.

Later that night we checked out another spot on the NFC a few miles below the lakes. The river was wider here, and had a lot of rocks and riffles and some deeper holding water. The water was crystal clear and it looked great for smallies. I tied on a black conehead bugger and was surprised by a nice crappie. The river was full of them. We found a honey hole next to a log jam and pulled them out on almost every cast, including some slabs. Noah rigged up his glass CGR 4 weight and caught a bunch on a new little fly he calls the “Pink Punch”. It was awesome. Surprisingly, there weren’t many smallmouth around at all. I only saw one little eight incher that gave a half hearted look at my fly. The river had a bunch of pike, too. My black bugger got chomped off, and I had a decent one on for maybe fifteen seconds.

The next morning we went back to the same spot. I started by catching a little hammer-handle pike on a chartreuse Meat Whistle. He flopped out of my hands before I could get a picture. The crappie action wasn’t as fast this morning, but we still managed to catch quite a few. The pink punch and snack size craw worked well again. I even hooked a little smallie, but he spit the hook pretty quickly. Grandpa tried fishing Rapala’s hoping for some pike. He had one on right up to the net, but it popped off. That’s fishing for you. Noah caught quite the variety of fish, including bluegills, crappie, a tiny smallmouth, and two suckers on the fly that put a big bend in his 4 weight, even though they were ten inchers.

Grandpa fishing. He caught a couple of nice sunfish.

Tight Lines,

Conner

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

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