green sunfish

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,




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,


Morning at the Quarry

On a Friday morning we packed the van and headed to the Quarry. There is something magnificent about the Quarry. All those abandoned granite pits filled with water, just waiting to be fished. Over a half dozen quarries for fishing are home to numerous bass, large and small, with high cliffs, rock piles, and deep water.

High cliffs, rock piles, and deep water

We first go to quarry 11 for bass. I tied on a Braden’s Crayfish and started fishing. Then I heard Braden yell “Fish on!” so I run over there and Braden has a nice 12″ bass.

Braden and I move to fish off some cliffs. Braden catches another bass, a 8″ this time. I move down some more, cast, and then I have one on. A nice 8″ largemouth.I cast some more and hook into strong 12″ largemouth.

 Then we pack up and move to quarry 13 and fish for a short time with no luck, so Braden and I hit the trail and walk to 18. Braden and I got there and wet our lines and caught plenty of sunnies. I saw a crappie so I cast to it and he bit it, but I set the hook to soon. So I cast again and he bit it again, but I waited to long to set the hook. I cast one last time, and he was on. He fought for about 30 seconds and then he spit the hook. Conner and Grandpa also caught lots of sunfish. We all got some at 18.

Tight Lines,


Potato Chips

I have always liked to fish for green sunfish in our backyard, even though they are tiny. Each spring a new school of them swim up from a small swamp behind our yard. For some people, fishing for small fish is boring, but to me fishing for ridiculously tiny fish is fun. It’s not like hooking a trout in a spring creek, but it’s still tons of fun. The colors on these native sunfish are incredible. They truly show the wonderful work of our Creator. The six fish that I caught took a #20 Brassie.

Potato chip sized sunfish

The "biggest" fish of the day. :)


Tight Lines,


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.




8-5-11…Green Sunfish

I went out to the stream today and caught some beautiful green sunfish on a brassie. They were a little finicky today (if sunfish are ever truly finicky), but I managed to catch two in the half hour I fished. All the fish in this stream are small (under 6″), but they are very fun to catch. Wild, native fish in crystal clear water.I’ve been tying lots of crayfish flies for an upcoming trip to Door County, Wisconsin, one of the premier midwest smallmouth destinations.We will be hunting smallies, carp, whatever else will bite in the shallows, and salmon on a charter boat. I’m getting really excited.

Tight Lines,


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