fly fishing for panfish

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,
Noah
 

4 Tips for Catching Crappies on the Fly

Fly fishing tips for crappies(Editor’s note: Here’s a post from Noah, the youngest member of the crew and resident panfish guru, on a few tips to help you catch more crappies on the fly.)

Thoughts on flies, location, presentation, and gear that’ll help you start catching more crappies on the fly rod.

As lightning flashed in the distance I stood on a dock casting aggressively. “Just one more fish,” I said frantically to myself. Despite Conner’s warning I stayed on the dock and kept fishing. Stripping in my line, I felt a tug and set the hook. After a short but spirited fight I landed the fish – a crappie, my very first on the fly.

Crappies, a feisty panfish with a big mouth and a bigger appetite, eat flies voraciously and put a good bend in a light fly rod, making them a blast to target with fly gear. To catch fish consistently you’ll need a stocked box, a calculated location, a well thought-out presentation, and the right gear. Here are a few general tips and thoughts that’ll help you start catching crappies more consistently.

 #1. Your Box

When tying or choosing a fly for crappies, there are a few things you should consider: color, size, and sink rate. Bright colors are ideal for an aggressive bite, and natural colors are ideal for more timid fish. Size is another important factor. Sizes 14 through 6 are a good start for crappies, with bigger flies producing fewer but larger fish. Deeper water demands a bead or cone head, but an unweighted fly will suffice in water less than six feet. Also, match the weight of the fly to the water column were you will be fishing.

pink punch crappie streamer

The pink punch is one of my favorite flies for crappie.

 

Crappie fishing presents the angler with varying depths and water conditions, making a box that can change with the conditions a necessity. Flashy flies that can push water and get down fast are good for deep, murky, or low light conditions. Lightly-weighted flies in natural colors with some flash are more productive in shallow or clear water. Poppers are the obvious choice for top water situations.

 

In lakes and rivers crappies forage on a wide variety of food. Although crappies will feed on bugs, they strongly prefer minnows, making them an easy first choice for anglers. Bugs can produce just as well, particularly near weedlines. Always look in the water and match fly profiles to possible food sources.

 

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 and the ability to push water make the Pink Punch productive for murky, low light, or deep water.

 noah's minnow with soft hackle

#8 Noah’s minnow with soft hackle (finesse)

 

#2. Location

Crappie location varies widely throughout the year, with fish frequenting habitats ranging from shallow, mud bays to offshore basins in response to seasonal conditions. When choosing a spot always keep in mind the four “C’s” for crappies: cover (brush, weeds, and rocks often attract fish),  contour (drop offs, depth, humps, holes, etc.), chow (the fish are where the food is), and comfort (comfortable water temp and current speed, with slower and slack water producing more fish).

 

Though crappies usually relate to log jams, rock piles,weed lines, and submerged brush, they’ll often abandon cover and suspend in open water, especially in the late summer months. One of the best opportunities to catch crappie on a fly comes in the spring when crappies move to the muddy shallows to spawn and feed. Crappies will often roam weed lines or drop offs in search for food. Bait skipping the surface is a tell tale sign of where they might be. Always analyze the situation and conditions before you randomly pick a spot.

 

#3. Presentation 

To catch fish consistently not only do you need a good fly but you also need to get down to fish and perform a convincing retrieve. Try to mimic one of the crappie’s three primary prey types: a bug, a bait fish, or top water. Mach the retrieve to what they’re feeding on and experiment to find what works, as what produces today won’t always produce tomorrow. The cast location is another important factor. Cast toward cover, drop-offs, weed lines, or bait skipping the surface. If you see a possible food source in the water match the size, color and swim pattern. Think about where you’re putting the cast as it will determine where your fly will swim.

 

Crappie from the north fork of the crow river.

Crappie from the north fork of the crow river.

#4. The Gear

 

The best setup for crappies depends on the presentation it will accomplish. A two to six weight rod and reel are excellent tools for the job (a glass rod is always a blast). The length of the rod depends on how far you’re casting, with longer rods preforming better for longer distances, but a seven and a half to nine footer are adequate options. Sink tips are ideal for deep water when you want a rapid sink rate, but floating lines will suffice the rest of the time. Where you are fishing will determine leader length. A shorter length is better in brush and situations requiring tight casting, but a longer leader is better in shallow water where fly line will spook fish. My favorite tippet size is 6-8lb test. Other necessities include: pliers, scissors, extra tippet, split shot, and a well-stocked fly box.

 

 

4wt rod, extra 8lb, hemostats, and a couple of mint tin fly boxes.

4wt rod, extra 8lb, hemostats, and a couple of mint tin fly boxes.

 

Crappie are definitely one of my favorite to catch. No matter where you target them, chasing crappies with a fly rod is a downright fun way to spend a day. Next time your on the water, keep these tips in mind to catch a few more crappies on the long rod. And remember to just have fun!

 

My first one.

My first one, small but a start.

Tight Lines,

Noah

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