Hard-fighting panfish are plentiful, willing to take a fly, and provide hours of entertainment for the fly fisherman who’s willing to chase them.
Bluegill, Crappie, Green Sunfish, Warmouth, Redbreast Sunfish, and several other species of fish make up the genre of “Panfish.” So called, due to the old adage, “That they never grow bigger than a frying pan”. They can be found almost anywhere in North America. From small farm ponds, all the way to large rivers and lakes, and anywhere else in between.
Fly fishing equipment for Panfish
Catching panfish on a fly rod is not a complicated ordeal, and it certainly does not require expensive equipment. For rods, a three to five weight fly rod with a length ranging from seven feet to nine feet long will do fine. A standard fly reel matched to your rod and line is all that you need with these guys. Nothing fancy with all the bells and whistles. Just a decent reel that will hold 75 to 100 yards of backing. You can use either a weight forward line, or a double taper line. A double taper line excels here because of its delicate presentation of small flies and its roll casting abilities. Using a floating line is standard practice when fly fishing for panfish, although a sink-tip might come in handy if youre targeting suspended Crappie. Leaders usually range from 2X size down to 6X size and between 7.5 and 9 feet long.
Flies for Panfish
Panfish will take a wide variety of flies. Popular flies for panfish include: panfish poppers, woolly worms, small woolly buggers, and small streamers. Theyll also readily take small dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs intended for trout. If youre targeting Crappie or White Bass, small, white colored streamers with some flash in them are excellent producers. Yellow perch dont seem to mind them either.
Just after ice-out fly fishing for panfish can be very worth your time. Especially if youve been bitten by the fly fishing bug and started itching to break out your fly rod. Although a tad sluggish, panfish will still actively feed in cooler water. Try using a strike indicator with a bead-head nymph close to the bottom and slowly retrieve your fly. Surprisingly, Ive caught many Yellow Perch this way out of a local lake.
Another specialty rig is the popper-dropper method. Tie on a small popper, then tie an eighteen to twenty-four inch piece of tippet to the bend of the poppers hook. On the other end of the tippet, attach a nymph, streamer, or wet fly. The popper acts as a strike indicator, but also is a second fly on the water, doubling your chances of catching a fish. Not to mention, giving you a shot at catching two at a time!
So next time youre out fly fishing, go after some of these pint-sized brutes. Theyll put a bend in your fly rod and a smile on your face! Tight lines!