Slab Spike

The Basics of Using Ice Flies for Panfish

Ever come across a tricky panfish bite under the ice? When fish get picky, ice flies are often the best solution for those nasty bites below the ice. This article gives a basic introduction to picking ice flies.

Stuck this bull 'gill on a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike

Stuck this bull ‘gill on a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike

When picking an ice fly, there are three things that I consider. First, I think about what the fish is primarily feeding on, and how big that food source is. Panfish are opportunistic feeders, especially in the winter. They will feed on many things during the cold season. However, many of those food sources can be generalized into three categories: Nymphs and Larvae, Freshwater Shrimp, and Worms. As long as I have a couple from each category, I can match almost every bite.

Size is another key factor. Colder weather makes the fish have much smaller appetites. On those nasty days when your holes freeze over before you finish drilling them, a smaller fly is often the only way to entice a bite.

Finally, I consider triggers; does it have any? What are they? In the winter panfish have a much slower metabolism, so adding little triggers can help to entice the bite. During the cold months, panfish are not eager to chase an aggressive presentation. Triggers add little twitches of movement to a fly that is activated by minimal jigging, making triggers a crucial part of a fly. I love incorporating rubber legs and marabou into my flies. Rubber legs add beautiful movement even with the slightest twitch, and the marabou breathes under water. I also add a little flash to my flies. However, due to panfish’s lethargic nature during winter, adding too much flash will end up scaring the fish. Sometimes one extra trigger could mean the difference between being skunked and having a good day on the water.

The 'Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a fresh water shrimp.

The ‘Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a freshwater shrimp.

A Slab Spike is a perfect example of a nymph pattern.

A Slab Spike is a perfect example of a nymph pattern.

Now that you have picked your fly its time to fish it. I prefer that my flies get down fast, so I rig my flies as a dropper to either a tungsten ice fly or a tungsten jig. If fishing with two hooks is not an option, I will fall back to a good ol’ drop shot rig or a single tungsten fly. Panfish under the ice have a much slower metabolism than in the summer, so I lean towards a gentle pattern of micro twitches. If the fish are too slow for a gentle jigging pattern, I’ll switch to barely moving the fly every few seconds. Any triggers will come into play here as the slightest twitch will make the flies move and look even more buggy. I always consider how the fish are reacting to my flies and jigging pattern, and I adjust accordingly.

A beautiful end to a good day on the ice.

A beautiful end to a good day on the ice.

Remember fish are lethargic in the winter so their appetite won’t be as large and they will be less aggressive. So, a smaller, more mellow fly is sometimes key. Ice flies are my favorite way to fish in the winter, and the perfect way to fish any bite.

Tight Lines,

Noah

 

Want some hand-tied ice flies? Check out our shop!

 

 

 

Black Friday Sale – Grab a few hand-tied flies

tricoblackfridaysale   Check out our Black Friday sale on Fishinggear.com and grab a few hand-tied flies and bugs.

From the shop…

3 Brothers Flies offers quality hand-tied flies, ice flies, and jigs that catch fish, not just fishermen.  Many of the flies featured are signature patterns that we have designed to fish waters both local and abroad. Fly fishing is one of our huge passions, and we know the awesome moment and excitement of watching a trout delicately rise and sip our dry fly. We love casting hair jigs for bass way back in the lily pads, or chasing slab crappies on a Minnesota lake. In these moments, we need a fly or jig that’s effectiveness is equal to our passion for fishing. Tied right here in Minnesota, all our flies are tied to be very durable and withstand lots of fish. If you don’t see a fly you need, or want a custom fly or jig, just hit the contact button and we will work with you to figure out the perfect fly or jig for your situation.

Ice Flies Tight lining has taken the panfish ice fishing scene by storm in the past few years, and for good reason. This highly productive technique utilizes ultra-quick sinking tungsten jigs in combination with realistic, imitative ice flies on the same line (commonly known as a “Michigan rig”). You just can’t beat the tantilizing movement and realism of an ice fly for slab bluegills or crappies through the ice. These flies often turn negative fish that reject the baited jig into biters, a situation common with finicky cold front panfish.  If your local state regulations do not allow two hooks on one line, a drop shot rig is equally effective. Anglers fishing with ice flies and the tight line technique will often out fish the guy using standard methods with just bait.

Slab Spike

Slab Spike

Grab a few hand-tied Slab Spikes on Fishing Gear.

Tight Lines and thanks for the support!

3 Brothers Flies

Ice Flies, Early Duck Season, and TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes

Here is a recent order of ice flies that just came off the vise. While it’s hard to think about winter right now, ice fishing will be here before we know it and I’m really excited to chase a few panfish and walleye through the ice this season! Some TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes are in the works and will be available later this fall…

Slab Spikes

Slab Spikes

The first week of duck season here in Minnesota was pretty good. We hunted opener with our cousin and had some great action with lots of woodies and a few mallards hanging around the small rice-filled lake we hunted. We also got out a few times during the week and found some wood ducks on the swamp. Definitely need to shoot some clays, though :)

Morning in the duck blind

Morning in the duck blind

 

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,

Conner

Tying Ice Flies for Winter Panfish

Tight lining has taken the panfish ice fishing scene by storm in the past few years, and for good reason. This highly productive technique utilizes ultra-quick sinking tungsten jigs in combination with realistic, imitative ice flies on the same line. I’ve been tying, testing, and tweaking the design of a few ice flies over the past two seasons with great results on the ice. Here are two of my most productive patterns for hardwater panfish.

Slab Spike

Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead:5/32″ brass bead
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Natural gray chickabou with one to two strands of gold flashabou on either side
Body: Brown micro tubing
Legs: Brown x-small or micro barred rubber legs
Thorax: Dubbing blend of your natural dubbing (hare’s ear, squirrel, etc.) and gray or olive UV Ice Dub
Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes in our shop!
The 'Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a fresh water shrimp.

The ‘Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a fresh water shrimp.

Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead/Eyes: 5/32″ brass bead or x-small black bead chain eyes
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Gray marabou with two or three strands of root beer Krystal flash
Body: Hare’s ear, gray UV Ice Dub, and gray/cream antron mix dubbing, picked out
Rib: Fine copper gold wire
Legs: Medium rubber

 

Spikes (mayfly nymphs) and scuds are a favorite food source for winter panfish. The Slab Spike, with its segmented body, rubber legs, and seductive chickabou tail, closely imitates a small mayfly nymph. The ‘Gill Shrimp is a good match for freshwater shrimp that live among the weed beds.

For me, the key trigger in ice flies is movement. Marabou, fur, dubbing, and feathers are all great ways to add movement to your flies, but my favorite materials are chickabou and small rubber legs. Chickabou is almost like a marabou feather, but it comes off the back of a chicken and has finer fibers that breathe, twitch, and quiver convincingly with the slightest lift of the rod tip. Another important factor to think about when tying ice flies is durability. Removing deeply inhaled bugs with pliers is the death of many small ice flies, so while a body material like pheasant tail might catch fish just fine, it won’t hold up as well as micro tubing and dubbing.

Pile of bluegills to 8″ on Gull Lake that fell for a #14 Slab Spike in an afternoon of fishing.

Winter panfish have a much slower metabolism than summer fish do, so that means they will be less aggressive and not as willing to attack a large, gaudy fly. Small sizes from #12 at the very largest down to a #16 is in order, and a sparsely tied fly with a skinny body will help with profile and sink rates. Again, micro tubing, dubbing, and thread bodies are my favorites for bodies. Flash is an essential ingredient to a good pattern, but use it sparingly. Too much flash or a large, overdressed fly can quickly put off big panfish. I usually tie my flies with a gold bead and one or two strands of flashabou on each side of the tail.

Ice flies are great for turning negative, cold front slabs into biters. I’ve watched many fish on my underwater camera shy away from the big, juicy waxie-tipped jig, then slowly tilt up and inhale the ice fly. Slab bluegills and crappies can get pretty finicky under the ice, and ice flies are sometimes the only way to hook mid-winter panfish.

Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes in our store.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

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