Monday, May 19, 2014

Crappies on a Fly Rod

I do pretty well with catching Crappies with flyfishing gear.  I've fished with a fair number of other fly anglers who have used this same technique, and they have also caught plenty of Crappies.  It works on big lakes and smaller ponds, and even on rivers, although on the bigger lakes, it tends to be more seasonal, because I fish from shore and you have to time this for when fish are in the shallows, or you can use it all summer long if you fish from a boat/canoe/kayak/belly boat, etc.

It works from ice-out to ice-up.  The only change is during the heat of summer I fish deeper beneath the strike indicator, on the outside edge of weedlines, or even out over open water.

So, here's what I do.  I usually use a 9' 5wt fly rod, with a 5wt Weight Forward Floating line.  I used a 7'-9' tapered leader, and at least 3' of 8 lb test tippet (3X).  I could use lighter tippet, but the fish don't seem to be line-shy, and I've had my share of surprise encounters with large catfish and bass that would not have been landed with lighter tippet.

At the end of my tippet, I use a No Knot Fas-Snap, size Medium.  I like these because I can change flies quickly in near darkness (or anytime), without having to take the time to retie a knot and shortening my tippet.  It also allows flies to swing freely and move naturally in the water, similar to using a non-slip loop knot or Duncan loop knot.  I've used the Small size, but have had them bend open too easily on larger fish.

The fly pattern I use for this particular technique is a microjig.  A number of colors will work, so experiment with your favorites.  One of the most consistent producers is Chartreuse.  I usually use chartreuse grizzly marabou for the tail, but solid chartreuse marabou or rabbit fur works great too.  The jighead is 1/80th oz with no collar, and a size 10 hook.  You can find great prices on these on eBay. The body is just chartreuse yarn...REAL chartreuse craft yarn, it lights up super-bright under a UV light.  Its hard to find.  Dubbing would also work.  I use a bright orange thread, 6/0 UNI thread, but any color would probably work just fine.

Use a strike indicator of your choice.  My current favorite is the Fish Pimp original size strike indicator in the bright yellow color.  Their website has videos showing 3 different ways you can attach this indicator to your line.

I set the indicator about 18" above the microjig.  I check it periodically while fishing by holding the indicator up in my hand, the microjig should hang just below my elbow.  This depth seems to be magic in most of the waters I fish, experiement to find the right depth in your waters.  Deeper works better in the Summer, and sometimes deeper can also be good in the Fall, at least during the brightest part of the day.  Crappies like to come up for a meal, so keep the microjig above where you suspect the fish to be.

I cast out along the shores and drop-offs, or beyond weedlines, or over submerged rock piles.  Windy days are nice, as the waves pushing the indicator up and down impart great action to the fly, which the crappies find to be irresistable.  Let the fly work in one spot for up to 10 seconds, then move the indicator 6" to 12", and let it set for another 10 seconds, and so on until you're in water that is too shallow.  If the Crappies are especially active, a very slow steady retrieve will get strikes.  The indicator just goes down or sideways.

That's its.  It works great!
Here's some fish caught just in the past few days:

My friend Chad has videos on his website.  One video demonstrates how to tie these microjigs, and in another video he actually demonstrates this flyfishing technique.  He's even fishing one of the public ponds in my town!  :) Here's a link to the page that has these videos.


  1. Thanks Dave, I really appreciate the information. Will try it out for sure. Nice slabs.

    1. For a bit more info, you may be interested in this....I added a link at the bottom of this blog entry that will take you to my friend Chad's website that has videos on microjigs and using this flyfishing technique.

  2. I've used these for years; in all three sizes. The only time I give it a second thought is when I'm fishing for carp in a river. I've had a few big carp cause them to bend and open.

    1. Gotta love a fish that is capable of destroying tackle! :)
      I like the Small size when using small topwater flies. The Medium size doesn't let some of my bluegill-size foam topwaters float very well. I haven't tried the large size, but they would be great for bass flies and saltwater flies.

  3. Dave, thank you very much for sharing this technique and system with us. I will definitely be using this set up in fishing the Crappie in my area. By the way, those are some really great looking Crappie. Happy hook ups!

  4. You are welcome, Mel! :) I hope you find it works as well for you as it does for us in Iowa. Spawning season is the perfect time to try it out, which is right NOW here.

    One thing I noticed a couple days ago. I was fishing after work, and a single tree was casting a shadow just off shore, Crappies don't like bright sunlight all that much, and tend to be more active in low-light conditions (dawn/dusk/clouds). Anyway, even though there was no spawning cover in that area, I caught crappies in that area simply because there was some shade. FYI.

  5. I just can't see pictures of large crappie like that without thinking of hot oil and cornmeal!! Really nice...