warmwater

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
 

Bass Opener 2014

I don’t think there’s a more highly anticipated day in our fishing season than the bass Opener, though this year it nearly didn’t happen. The plan was to hit the North Shore in hopes of catching the early stages of the steelhead run, but, like any event in nature, it’s a fickle phenomena that depends on a dizzying number of variables that even the best of anglers still don’t quite understand. The fish hadn’t yet entered the rivers, so we ended up calling off the trip with no small amount of anguish. It was a bittersweet decision, but it meant that we got to hit the lake for bass Opener, which isn’t exactly a horrible consequence if you ask me.

I learned long ago to not form any serious expectations around fishing trips. Having a well-formed plan and high expectations (not to be confused with optimism, which is an entirely different and necessary animal) is as good a recipe for disappointment as I know, and the only way around it is to expect the unexpected, or just not care what happens, which in the the end is nearly the same thing anyways. Happiness is relative, and in some form or another, most people have the ability to at least partly enjoy themselves on a fishing trip.

Last spring was the best bass fishing we’ve ever experienced, and I honestly didn’t expect this year’s Opener to come anywhere close, though I was still quite optimistic. Bass Opener can be a lot like the first day of duck season – you fish it because it’s “Opening Day,” and not much else. Sometimes you might strike it lucky and a cold front will push some ducks down or the bass will still be prespawn and hungry, but most of the the time the action is only fair, although something usually happens.

There was still plenty of time left to chase some panfish when we rolled in to the cabin on Friday night. The crappies, still fat with eggs and still quite hungry before their spawning rituals began, were holding at the mouth of the river and feeding on tiny minnows. I coaxed a few to grab a small woolly bugger before switching to a #12 Pink Punch. That was a bit more to their liking, and I landed about a dozen nice fish in the nine inch range before calling it a night. I think the veil created by the ice dub did a nice job imitating the transparency of the little minnows the crappies were eating, though crappies just seem to have a hard time resisting anything pink.

I strung up a few rods – both fly rods armed with the trusty Meat Whistle and a Murdich Minnow and spin rods rigged with a crankbait and llama fur jig – in the dim light of the lamp with a good dose of excitement for the morning. Insomnia is a very real concern on the nights before big fishing trips, but fortunately I dozed off in time to get a solid five hours of sleep before my 5:00 alarm hit.opening day sunrise

The sun hadn’t yet reached the tips of the giant old oak trees on the opposite shore when I started casting my Meat Whistle. There was a touch of crimson in the sky, and every so often the eerie cry of a loon would echo over the lake. The only trouble was that the fish weren’t biting, though it was a gorgeous, picturesque scene, and it almost seemed greedy to expect to catch a fish in addition to the grace I’d already been given. I probed the mouth of the murky river for a few minutes before I tail-hooked a big carp (unintentionally, of course). I first thought I’d hooked a big bass, but after a minute or two of surging runs and hard bulldogging on the bottom it was evident that I’d gotten myself into a much tougher fight. He put a good bend in the six weight, and the hook popped free just after I realized he was pinned in the tail.morning on the bass lake

Prime predawn fishing time doesn’t last long, and the sun was just starting to peek over the trees, so I grabbed the spincasting rod rigged with the same crankbait that got my first largemouth on last year’s Opener (tradition, I guess). I’m no “fly or die” purist when it comes to bass fishing (I actually really enjoy gear fishing), and I guess I just like to catch fish, making a gear rod a fun and beautiful tool for efficiently covering water and finding the bass. But, like most anglers I know, I’ll almost always take them on a fly whenever I can get them.

I figured the crank would perform nicely in the murky water, and I was right. I stuck a feisty largemouth around one pound for the first bass of the season – not a monster, but a good start.

The obligatory picture of the first largemouth of the season.

The obligatory “first fish of the season” pic

I got one more bass before taking a hint from the bold, aggressive action of the crankbait and switching to a bigger articulated streamer that created a bit more commotion than the Meat Whistle. The bolder presentation and meatier profile turned out to be key in the dirty water, and I soon landed my first fly-rod bucketmouth of the season.

Bucketmouth on the fly rod

Bucketmouth on the fly rod

 

I stopped for a coffee break and Grandpa came out and got his first largemouth of the year on the crankbait. Noah and I fished for a few more hours and picked up a small bass here and there, but the morning bite never really materialized. I’m not sure if it was the weather or unstable water conditions, but something just wasn’t quite right.

Grandpa's first of the year

Grandpa’s first of the year

 

Braden was sidelined for most of the day with a baseball injury and a cast that couldn’t get wet (he managed to fracture his wrist in the outfield and ended up getting it cast – hardly a good combination for a solid day of bass fishing). It was nearly a very tragic misfortune, but after much searching he found a giant green rubber glove that protected his arm from the water. And it’s a good thing he did, because within his first few (fly) casts of the evening he hooked a monster largemouth…

8wt and an olive/brown rabbit conehead

8wt and an olive/brown rabbit conehead

It was a gorgeous fish, real fat and nearly over 20″, and it turned out to be Braden’s personal best largemouth on a fly rod. Not a bad start to his bass season (quite awesome, actually), though it makes you wonder how he caught it on his third cast when you’ve dutifully put in your time and tossed flies for hours on end. Fishing has an odd way of keeping score.

The rest of the evening slipped by quite uneventfully, though Grandpa hit a good crankbait bite and put half a dozen fish in the net in very short order. Noah and I got a few more small bass, but nothing worth mentioning. I felt a hint of disappointment as the sun slipped behind the trees and another bass Opener came to a close.

I spent quite a while thinking about the Opener and wondering what was different. Yes, the fishing wasn’t nearly as good as last year’s Opener, but there was no real reason to be disappointed. The fly rods produced some fish, the weather was beautiful, and Braden landed a spectacular fish (if you don’t get excited for a bass like that one you clearly don’t have any business fishing) that’ll likely be one of the best of the year. We caught some great fish and had a good time on the water, and for that I’m extremely grateful. But something was still missing, though after a while I realized it wasn’t the fishing at all.

I guess I just haven’t mastered the fine art of managing expectations.

 

 

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,

Noah

 

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,

Noah

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,

Braden

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