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In the winter, fish have a much slower metabolism than in open water, so panfish and trout can get pretty finicky under the ice. Although they may shy away from a big bait, I’ve seen many fish swim up and inhale the fly.

Tight lining has taken the ice fishing scene by storm in the past few years, and for good reason. This highly productive technique utilizes quick-sinking tungsten in combination with realistic ice flies that turn timid, cold-front fish into biters. Hand-tied in Minnesota, our flies are made to withstand fish after fish.

Spikes (mayfly nymphs) and scuds are a favorite food source for winter panfish. The Slab Spike, with its segmented body, rubber legs, and chickabou tail, it closely imitates a small mayfly nymph. The ‘Gill Shrimp is the realistic match of scuds that inhabit lakes. The movement of the chickabou and ice-dub body entices even the pickiest of fish.

Pile of bluegills on Gull Lake that fell for a #14 Slab Spike in an afternoon of fishing, and this is the middle class.

Pile of bluegills and crappies that fell for ice flies on an afternoon of fishing.


Get some hand-tied ice flies in our store.

Tight lines on the ice,

3 Brothers Flies


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,
Need some panfish bugs? Check out our shop

Last Chance -Day 4

Around 10:30 a.m. all three of us paddled out in the canoe. The fish were really biting, and we all caught some small bass and some nice-size perch. I cast out a Noah’s minnow, and let it sink. I stripped it a few times, felt a tug, and set the hook. The fish took the loose line right out of my hand, and I pulled in a feisty 1lb. 10″ bass!


My 10" bass

We ended the trip with some nice bluegill.

Later in the day Braden and I took the canoe out. We caught some small bass, decent bluegills, and more perch. 16 for Braden and 15 for me! A total of 31 fish!

Tight Lines,



Quarry Park Bassin’- 7-29-11…Day 2

The bass fishing was alive at Quarry Park on Friday morning. To make things even better, we got it all to ourselves.


After paying a small park fee we hit the trail. With a few bug bites, we arrived at the first quarry. Before the rest of us could even set our stuff down, Noah was already pulling in a 1 lb. bass, his first on a fly rod. This is the first fish Noah has caught on a fly he tied. It ate a bunny bugger, basically a rabbit strip tail and palmered rabbit strip body with bead chain eyes. I bushwacked to the other side of the quarry and pulled in a nice bass. It wasn’t huge, but it put up a great fight.Braden stayed in pretty much the same spot catching as many little bass as he wanted and taking tons of pictures……


After about two hours of fishing and a picnic lunch, we headed to the quarry we fished on our last trip. The hike was about a quarter mile, and we soon arrived. Noah picked up some small bass on a “Noah minnow”, and I got some on a brown flash bugger. Braden caught a few, too. It is lots of fun to sight fish to these bass, and occasionally you will see some rush from the other side of the quarry to devour your fly. After a few fish I decided to walk to the other side and try to catch that big bass I had seen last time I was here. The same scenario played out. I hooked a smaller one while fishing from a ten foot dike, and just as I pulled him out of the water, he popped off. A splash the size of a bowling ball erupted as this huge bass engulfed the little one. He was there, and he was hungry. I hollered to Braden to grab the 8 weight I had hauled along to chase this pig. I rigged with a 4″ Bunny Bug (Barry Reynolds) and 25 lb. shock tippet. I was ready. I crawled down the steep, boulder strewn bank, and waited. The bass was making circles around the edges of a deep hole with some timber and rock piles. I threw the fly to a spot where the bass had passed a few minutes before and let it sink. Sure enough, two minutes later he came to the spot I was at. My heart started pounding. When he was about three feet from the fly I picked it up and gave it two deliberate strips, and paused. He finned over, and stuck his nose to it for what seemed like eternity, and BANG, he sucked it in. It is amazing how quickly a 4″ fly can disappear in a large fish’s mouth. I was not in a great position to set the hook, but managed to get a firm hook up. I was stoked! The fish turned as soon as he felt the hook, and dove along a rock, making the reel scream like crazy. There was no stopping him, but he stopped me…. He pulled out line, dove quickly under a rock, and cut the line! I screamed in dismay. I was heartbroken. Man, that was a nice fish. He put up a great fight for the short time he was on. There was not going to be a second chance today, so I grabbed my other rod and made my way back to the others.


A five pounder lives in the back left corner

A nice park worker directed us to another quarry where he had seen some sunfish on his break, so we decided to pack up and head over there for the two hours we had left. This quarry was a little smaller than the other too, and had a steep rock slope on one side. A cable from a derrick that had once hauled granite stretched across the quarry. Noah immediately caught a decent sunfish, and so did Braden. Then Noah pulled in a bass just as Braden caught a nice sunfish for a double!


Grandpa also nailed a few fish…

Grandpa gets a nice one!

All of us caught a few more, mostly sunnies and small bass. Around four we packed up and made the short hike back to our car. An amazing day of fishing!

Up at the lake- Day 1

The fishing was awesome this weekend at our cabin in central Minnesota. We got there on Thursday afternoon and Conner wet his line immediately. He pulled in a few small perch and bass. Although the lake is green, weedy, and not good looking, it holds a nice number of decent sized fish. Small bass, perch, and gills scatter around the weed lines, with a few pike and walleye here and there.

The Chili Lime

Chili Lime

Top view

This fly has been my go to fly for panfish. I created it after taking a sample of the bugs in the lake I do most of my fishing in. When I started experimenting, I wanted a fly that was somewhat realistic, easy to tie, and had lots of movement in the water. This is what I came up with, and it has been killer on bluegills, perch, and crappie. It is accountable for one of my biggest bluegills this season. It even catches some bass. A good little damsel fly nymph for low, clear water and picky fish.

Hook: Wet #12

Thread: Black or tan6/0

Tail: Olive marabou, one and a quarter the length of the hook shank

Abdomen: Chartreuse Ultra Wire

Wingcase: Olive marabou

Thorax: Olive marabou

Legs: Olive marabou from legs

Here is how to tie it:

1. Start your thread a third of the way from the eye and work it back to the bend. This will be your reference point for the thorax.

2. Tie in an olive marabou feather at the reference point. Wrap the thread over the marabou back to the bend, and make the tail a little over the length of the hook shank. Clip the excess and save the rest of the feather for the thorax.

3. Tie in the wire at the reference point. Again, wrap back over it to the bend. This gives the fly a nice, even body with no lumps at the back. Wrap the wire to the reference piont.

4. Strip half the fibers off the marabou feather and tie them in for the wingcase.

5. Tie in the other half of the marabou and wrap it for the thorax.

6.Pull the wingcase forward and tie off.

7. Split the remaining wingcase fibers and double them back to form the legs. Trim them so they extend slightly past the thorax.

The finished fly is around an inch and a half, the perfect size for big gills and crappies. I like to fish it with three short strips and a pause. The bluegills like it too.

Also, check out the “Fly Box”, where you will find lots of patterns that we tie and fish.

Tight Lines,                                                                                                                                      Conner


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