fly tying

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,
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Lemon Wood Duck, and a Few Flies

Lemon wood duck feathers are one of the most revered natural materials among fly tiers. These lemon flank feathers have long been my absolute favorite natural material to tie with. My first exposure to duck flank came early in my fly tying career in a Fly Tyer magazine, and I was immediately intrigued by the almost surreal nature of the striking lemon color and vivid barrings. I’ve since run into them many times browsing through fly patterns online, most often beautifully tied salmon flies and Catskill dries, which only fueled my interest even more. They took on a prestigious ranking in my mind, and I longed to get my hands on a few, not to mention putting a drake woodie in the duck bag. When my 12 gauge Remington connected on a drake wood duck a few duck seasons ago, I was excited to say the least.lemon wood duck feather

The trout seem to find lemon flank feathers almost as attractive as fly tiers do. The dark barring gives it the appearance of the delicate mottling found on a natural insect, a characteristic that’s hard to replicate with synthetic materials, producing a beautiful and realistic fly. The striking lemon color, the vivid barrings, and beauty of the feather have captured my interest and sparked my fly-tying imagination. Not coincidentally, wood ducks are also my favorite bird to hunt, which may or may not be directly related with the prestige of the feathers on the fly tying bench :). Over the past few winters I’ve tried to add it to almost any pattern imaginable. Here are a few bugs I’ve tied with these awesome feathers…

Some lemon wood duck from a beautiful drake woody I harvested in MN's duck season.

lemon wood duck fly tying

A great drake wood duck, fully reflecting the glory of the Creator.

A great drake wood duck, fully reflecting the glory of the Creator.

Tellico Soft Hackle

Tellico Soft Hackle

A trip out to the Smokies inspired this little Tellico nymph variation. Yellow is huge on trout flies out there, so the lemon flank feathers fit nicely.

  • Hook: #14 wet
  • Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
  • 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

Minnesota Soft Hackle

This bug is unique because the materials all originate in Minnesota. Besides the hook and thread, we harvested all the materials ourselves. A red squirrel that we bagged up north provided the dubbing, and we grabbed some hen hackle from the chicken coop out back for the soft hackle. Hopefully it will entice some Minnesota trout.

  • Hook: #14 wet
  • Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
  • Tail: Lemon wood duck flank
  • Body: Red squirrel dubbing
  • Rib: Brown 210 denier Ultra Thread
  • Wing: Lemon wood duck flank, rolled
  • Hackle: Brown hen
CDC Wood Duck Emerger

CDC Wood Duck Emerger

Here’s another fly that has great ties to Minnesota, with all the materials harvested in the state. CDC is another one of my favorites, so I paired it with lemon flank feathers and deer hair to create this nice little emerger. I absolutely love emerger style flies like this, and I’m excited to get it out on the stream and see if the trout approve.

  • Hook: # 14 dry
  • Thread: 8/0 Black UNI
  • Tail: Cream antron, clipped to half the length of the hook shank, and lemon wood duck fibers
  • Body: Red squirrel dubbing
  • Rib: Brown 210 denier Ultra Thread
  • Hackle/underwing: Natural gray CDC, palmered
  • Overwing: Deer hair
  • Head: Red squirrel dubbing

Minnesota winter trout season is right around the corner, and hopefully we’ll make it down for some fishing, but until then we’ll be tying flies and hitting the ice for some hardwater panfish. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Facebook page and give us a “like” while you’re there to stay connected with all our fishing, hunting, and fly tying pursuits!

Tight lines,


Wood Duck Soft Hackle

The duck feathers from early season hunting have been begging me to tie a few flies, so when they came out of the freezer a few nights ago I had to sit down and stock the boxes. Wood duck feathers are some of my absolute favorites to tie with. The chocolate brown feathers on a hen wood duck are awesome for Baetis-style flies, and since Baetis are hatching right now on the streams, I decided to go with a BWO theme. I’ve been wanting to tie a soft hackle with the tiny feathers on the shoulder of a duck’s wing, so I tied up this little soft hackle emerger that ended up faintly resembling a BWO…

Wood Duck Soft Hackle

Wood Duck Soft Hackle

  •  Hook: Nymph or wet fly hook of your preference
  • Bead: Gold brass
  • Thread: Brown 8/0 UNI (I used black on this one)
  • Tail: Chocolate brown hen wood duck breast/neck feather fibers
  • Body: Brown thread
  • Rib: Fine gold copper wire
  • Thorax: Natural red squirrel
  • Hackle: Dark brown duck soft hackle feather (not sure what it’s called but I used the small feather on the top side of the wing close to the body)



Gilbert Special Streamer and Llama Fur

Gilbert Special

The Gilbert Special

I tied this streamer for a friend who kindly gave us some fur from his pet llama, Gilbert, earlier this spring. He doesn’t fish, so I decided to tie up a hair wing with a little squirrel tail and lemon wood duck, both of which I hunted last fall. I used the llama as dubbing on the body and a nice underwing and throat on the streamer. As you might have seen from earlier blogs, I’ve been using this stuff quite a bit and absolutely love it. It has some wicked action in the water, almost like bucktail, but much more supple and flowing. The fur has enough bulk to still push plenty of water, yet still quivers enticingly because of it’s finer nature. It has been awesome in my bass streamers this season. I’ve used it on my Meat Whistle collars and in place of bucktail for a deadly clouser minnow. I’m really excited to keep tying and experimenting with it in different flies this winter.

We just got back from a weekend of tossing flies at wild Driftless browns, so expect a full report sometime in the near future. Duck and archery season is only a few weeks away, and I’m getting really pumped to chase some early season woodies and bucks!

Flies For Smallmouth – Murray’s Strymph

After a long, wet spring full of high water here in Minnesota, summer’s low, clear water and hot bronzeback fishing has finally set in. Here is one of my top flies for summer smallmouth bassin’ – Murray’s Strymph. As the name implies, it is a crossover of a streamer and a nymph. It is deadly both dead drifted like a nymph or stripped like a minnow through a fishy hole.

The Strymph was created by Virginia smallmouth expert Harry Murray. It’s a great pattern for wary summer smallmouth in low, clear water. Small stream bronzebacks like them tied in #8 to #12; their big water cousins like them a little larger. I’ve had a lot of success this past season fishing a black strymph tied on a small streamer hook. The smallmouth love them!

Murray’s Strymph

Hook: #4-12 streamer
Thread: Black 6/0 UNI
Tail: Ostrich herl (I like mine with a few strands of root beer Krystal flash)
Body: Black, olive, or cream rabbit fur in a dubbing loop, tapered to a fat head
Hackle: Brown or black hen soft hackle

Tie up a few and next time you find low, clear water this summer tie one on – you won’t be disappointed.

Tight Lines,


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,


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