Freshwater: Panfish On The Fly - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Panfish On The Fly


Targeting bluegill, crappie and yellow perch on the fly rod. 

Fly anglers everywhere can target many different species of fish. You name it, and someone has caught it using fly tackle.

But there are three fish hat I love to fish for with the long wand that are readily available in most ponds, lakes and rivers – bluegill, crappie and yellow perch.  They might not be up there on the glamour list of species, but they are loads of fun! The best part is that all three can be found in just about every body of fresh water close to home, and are a blast to target from shore or a small boat with a fly rod.

And to top it off, all three make a great tasting meal!

Another plus is that one does not have to invest a lot of money to put together a set up that will work great for this type of fishing, which makes it perfect for the person who wants to get into fly fishing.  A 5 or 6 weight outfit with a floating line and a 7-foot 3x leader should handle most situations.  I use an 8-foot rod with an old Pflueger Medalist reel that works just fine for this.

As far as what you will be presenting to the fish, I would start out with an assortment of small brightly-colored cork panfish bugs that are available at many box stores and tackle shops. Then add in small streamers, wet flies, some dry flies, and a few nymphs. Sponge rubber spiders are another favorite. These three species feed on a variety of insects, fish and crustaceans, so having an assortment will give you an edge.

For bluegill, the cork popping bugs are deadly when twitched around shorelines with lily pads and overhanging brush. Letting the bug sit there motionless many times seduces them into striking, so don’t be in a hurry. If they are on the spawning beds which are visible as circular sandy depressions, they will be even more aggressive. Target shady areas when temps are high, and deeper spots prior to and after the spawn, which usually takes place when surface temperatures hit about 68 degrees.

Whether you’re new to fly fishing or just looking to hone your skills, have some fun with colorful and great tasting panfish in your local ponds, lakes and rivers.

Try to lay your casts in close to the bank; it might take some practice but when you find a concentration of big bluegills, the action can be fantastic When the fish are in deeper water and the surface presentations are not producing, try switching to a wet fly or any buggy looking nymph and work them in a stop and go retrieve.

When targeting yellow perch, wet flies and streamer patterns are the way to go. Let these sink slowly down before starting your retrieve. The perch travel in schools and when you find them it can be a lot of fun! Yellows average around 6 to 10 inches but can reach well over 15 inches.

Yellow perch tend to be in the more open water and sometimes you can see schools of them on the surface feeding as they move about. Early mornings and evenings are great times to get on these fish, as are overcast days. Look for channels and drop offs and cast your offerings along these contours.

Now for the crappie; these fun panfish are one of the first to get active in the spring.  They like the cooler water and love to hang out in fallen trees, weed beds and around docks Cast small streamers and nymphs into these areas because they’ll probably be found tight to it.  Bringing your fly close these spots will cause the crappie to attack, using its ambush predatory instincts.

Crappie forage mainly on small fish, so my first choice would be a streamer fly. When the crappie are spawning the fishing can get really good, as the fish become very aggressive! The crappie will average around 10 inches but do reach lengths over 19 inches!

Once you’ve caught a few of these light tackle treats, try filleting them, breading with flour, dipping in egg and cornmeal and then frying to a golden brown.  I think you’ll find they are delicious “fish fry” targets.



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