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Fly Fishing for Panfish

Bluegill on a Fly Rod
Fly Fishing for Bluegill, Crappie and Perch

Fly fishing is often thought of as an elitist sport that costs tons of money and is beyond the skill level of the average angler. Nothing could be further from the truth and pan fishing is as good a way to get started in the sport as any. Even better, if your real objective is to fly fish for trout, fly fishing for bluegill, perch, and crappie is a great learning experience in preparation. You will need to spend hardly any extra for what you need.


You need not spend thousands of dollars, not even hundreds. Here I will simply say that the basics include a 5 or 6 weight rod, line and leaders, and a very few flies. In this article I will focus on tactics and flies. (Read this article for info on BASIC FLY FISHING SETUPS)

For water temperatures running a bit on the cool side, the pan fish I am after will not be feeding much on the surface except for a brief period in the mornings and evenings. The go to fly for me is a black wooly bugger.

When you retrieve, do so very slowly. Cast as close to the bank and brushy cover as your skill allows. Often, a hookup will occur immediately. If not, as you strip line on the retrieve, pause after each strip. The pause will likely be when the hookup occurs in these circumstances. Be prepared for big fish too. You definitely will catch a few bass. The wooly bugger will also occasionally even produce channel cats.


Once the water warms up, begin experimenting with small foam poppers. These flies are fished in a similar manner; however there are a few subtle differences.

Cast to the same sort of places as I mentioned before. However, this time, allow your popper to sit 10 full seconds before you do anything. Once you begin your retrieve, do so in short and aggressive strips so as to create a "pop" with the fly. After each pop allow a short period for the fly to sit. The strikes will be aggressive. You will likely not have to hook the fish. Again, be prepared for bigger fish.

You can easily catch enough panfish using these methods in a relatively short period for a nice fish fry. In most places, bluegill and many other pan fish are an almost unlimited resource so harvesting them is not an issue. There many methods for preparing them. I like to fillet them and cook them in oil with Andy's seasoning. I prepare fried potatoes and a green vegetable to accompany them. This is not the healthiest of recipes, but boy is it good. Great fishing to you and most of all, enjoy the great outdoors.

Crappie Fishing - Fly Rod
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