Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crappie Fly Patterns

I've tried a good number of fly patterns on the crappies around here.  Almost everything will catch fish at times, but there are a handful of patterns that have REALLY stood out as being VERY effective for crappies.

Crappies everywhere have a ritual of moving both higher in the water column AND closer to shore in the evenings.  During the day they often hang in deeper water, and are more difficult to target with a floating fly line.  But in the evenings they can often be caught fairly easily if you find the right areas.

Also be aware that although crappies often like to hang near some sort of structure (preferably woody structure, like a fallen tree or flooded brushpile), they often also school suspended in open water.  Fishing can be quite good if you can keep near a school of crappies!

Another thing to keep in mind is that crappies prefer to feed UP.  Depending on the water clarity, they will move up a fair distance to take a fly.  I've seen this behavior even in cold water, when ice-fishing.  I've seen crappies move up from 5' to even 10' below the fly to chase it upwards before hitting it.  And that was in water of questionable clarity!

In the evenings, crappies can sometimes be caught on topwater flies, but I don't believe this is the BEST option.

I do a lot of my crappie fishing in the late evenings...from just before dusk to well after dark.  The fly that has worked best for me when fishing at night over several years, is the Boa Yarn Leech.  Silver or white can be good, but bright yellow has worked the best for me.  This pattern has excellent movement in the water, and can be fished shallow and slow.  Slow is key.  I tie Boa Yarn Leeches unweighted on a #8 3XL Streamer Hook.  If the fish won't come up to within 5' of the surface, you can add a beadhead to get the fly down a bit deeper.

Another unweighted pattern that can be good is a charteuse-and-white Thunder Creek Minnow pattern.  The key is to have the right size fly.  I sometimes go as big as a size 6, but usually size 8 and 10's will get more hits.  And this is interesting...I've caught good numbers of 12"+ crappies using spinning gear and 3" long twister-tail jigs...but when fly-fishing, I've had better luck going SMALLER!
The top fly below is a Thunder Creek Minnow.  The other hairwings sure look good, and I have caught fish on them, but just not nearly as many.

For weighted patterns, I've got 3-4 good ones in my arsenal.  First is what I call a Microjig.  These have marabou tail and chenille or yarn bodies.  The best colors for me are pink-and-white, and chartreuse.  I tie these on 1/80 oz and 1/100th oz jigheads, and sometimes larger/heavier if needing to fish deeper or get a faster sink rate.
A very similar pattern is the Springbrook Wunder.  These are usually tied in more natural colors, starting with grizzly chickabou tail, and a silver or gold sparkle chenille body:
Here's the actual one that caught a lot of the nice crappies in the previous blog:

The next pattern is a Kraft Fur Clouser...which is tied like a Clouser Deep Minnow.   Because I tie these in sizes 8 and 10...and sometimes even 12...I find Kraft Fur works a lot better than bucktail on patterns this small.  1"-2" sizes work very well.  I've caught crappies on all the colors below.  Chartreuse and/or white is always a safe way to go, size seems most important.  Choose the barbell, hourglass, or beadchain eye size/weight to suit the hook size and the sink rate you desire.  Also, you can somewhat affect sink rate by how thick you tie on the Kraft Fur.  Too much can hamper hooksets, though.
Red sandwiched between white has been a good color scheme for me, too.
Somewhat similar to the Clouser, and also very effective, is the Crappie Candy.  Again, pink-and-white or chartruese-and-white are usually good colors to start with.

One last pattern to consider, especially in dingy water is a minnow pattern tied with silver or opalescent mylar tubing, and your choice of tail material.  You can use lead tape or lead-substitute wire under the mylar tubing to achieve the sink rate you desire.

If you feel comfortable with Woolly Buggers, weighted and unwieghted versions can work in a pinch.

Of the ones I've listed above, my top 3 would be Boa Yarn Leech for the shallowest presentations, and I really really like both the Microjigs/Springbrook Wunder, and the Kraft Fur Clousers.  All three of these are very quick and easy to tie, which is a plus.  If you are fishing around brush, you definitely might lose some flies!

You can use a strike indicator and fish somewhat vertically. In this case, the Microjigs are most likely to sit horizontally in the water, and so look like the most natural presentation.  Wind/wave action on the indicator will provide movement to the microjig.  If not using an indicator, I usually cast out, let the fly sink to an appropriate depth, then start a slow, jerky retrieve.  For some reason, Crappies LOVE a jerky retrieve!  Sometimes this can be better achieved by sort of shaking your rod while slowly retrieving, but often just doing very short, abrupt movements while stripping in the line works well.

As for strike detection, crappies often just suck the fly in.  You'll really need to watch your line.  At any indication that some extra weight is on the line, or your line begins to move backward while you are doing your slow retrieve, SET THE HOOK.  A quick hook-set is more important than a STRONG hookset.  Just tightening your line, or doing a medium side-sweep with your rod is usually sufficient to bury the hook.  Don't horse the fish too much during the fight.  The skin around their mouths is paper-thin, and you can rip the hook right out of their mouth with too much pressure.

Crappies on fly gear are a lot of fun!  Good luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, 10-24-2010 - Fly-Fished an Urban Public Lake in Des Moines

I drove my daughter and 4 other girls to their choir rehearsal in downtown Des Moines on Sunday, and had some time to kill before it was time to pick them up. I visited a good-sized urban public lake I hadn't fished since Spring. I recall catching some decent bluegills and small bass there.

Well, there were lots of people walking or biking on the paved path around the lake, but only one other guy was fishing when I arrived, and he left after I caught 2 small fish right away. I'm not suggesting that is WHY he left. But I'm glad I didn't have to listen to the copper bell on the end of his rod any longer.

It was really slow. I don't know this water very well, so it was a struggle. I finally had a good fish on. They stocked wiper fingerlings in the lake in the Spring of 2009, so I figure they should be about 10" long by now. I saw the fish on my line, and it was silver. I knew it was either one of the wipers, or a crappie. It got off as I put pressure on it to lift it from the water. DRAT!

A few casts later, I got a snag, and had to break my line. OOH, structure! I retied, and cast a few feet to either side of where I got the snag. Nothing! Must be a pretty small snag. I lost a few more flies to that snag before I left, but I discovered some bluegills and some really nice 12" crappies (both white and black crappies) were near that tiny piece of structure. I was THRILLED! I caught 7 nice crappies (plus the smaller bluegills) in a fairly short time. And that time was interspersed with me casting into the willow trees and brush behind me no less than 3 times, and I had to retrieve my fly from that mess.

Still...those were some HEALTHY crappies. I could have put together a pretty delicious meal if I'd been in a position to keep any of them.

These were caught on 1/100 oz Springbrook Wunder microjigs. I used natural grizzly chickabou for the tail, and some goldish sparkle chenille for the body.

Saturday 10-23-2010, Local Public Pond Fly-Fishing

Well, I hit that pond one more time on Saturday. It isn't often I get to fish during the day on Saturdays...but it worked out this time. I fished from about 9:30am to 2pm. I could have fished longer, the fish were still biting steady, but I was exhausted and hungry. So I went home.

I caught over 100 crappies, 2 small bass, 1 bluegill, and 7 green sunfish. The crappies probably averaged around 9". I measured one at 10", and another at 11", but didn't bother measuring any others.

I tried a variety of patterns, and the two top producers again were the microjig, and small Kraft Fur Clousers with beadchain eyes. White/red worked very well, but I can't really say I tried a color that DIDN'T work well. I caught a bunch on olive, too, as well as pink-n-white, and also chartreuse.

Oh, and at one point I could see a small school of crappies messing around near the surface, occasionally swirling.  I put on a foam topwater, and caught myself laughing out loud watching them actually leaping completely out of the water trying to hit this!  It was amazing seeing crappies being THIS aggressive!  I tried to get it on video, but I couldn't work the fly and hold the camera still, plus the fish seemed to have moved on by the time I got the camera ready.  I hooked a few of the fish, but all of them managed to throw the hook before I landed them.
Here's some fish pics.

I liked the stripes on this one:

This little guy was just too cute not to photograph:

I think this one was the one I measured at 11"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lunch Fishing 10-21 and 10-22-2010

I fly-fished a local public pond during lunch....same place as in my previous blog entry.  The weather continues to be very bright sunny, mild, and breezy.
Tried some other fly patterns.  I tried hairwing streamers, Kraft Fur minnows, etc.  Just about everything caught fish, but some patterns made it much quicker and easier.
Microjigs and Kraft Fur Clousers were the top 2 patterns.  Unweighted patterns just didn't get down close to the fish quickly enough even though the crappies would eventually come up to take them.  I only tried a blue Clouser...not a color I use often, but it worked very well.  I tried a variety of colors of microjigs, and all caught fish very well.
On 10/21, I caught at least 12 Crappies and 3 Green Sunfish.
On 10/22, I caught 21 Crappies and 3 Green Sunfish.
On both of these trips, I caught some black crappies along with the white crappies.
Heres some pics from these 2 days:
Green Sunfish

Black Crappie
 Blue Kraft Fur Clouser
 Kraft Fur Minnow
 White Crappie

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lunchtime Fishing Report, 10-20-2010

I fly-fished a local public pond during lunch today. Its a pond I drive by almost daily, but rarely ever fish. My gar fly-fishing buddy, Ben, had visited the pond this past weekend with his son, and had caught some fish. I figured it was time I checked it out personally.

I started out with a 1/100th oz microjig tied with white marabou tail and pink chenille body. I rigged up a strike indicator FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. I caught a couple fish with it, but it was kind of slow, and the way I rigged it up allowed it to slide up and down the line too easily. So, I removed the strike indicator. After that, I caught a fish on nearly ever cast. In the 30 minutes of fishing time, I landed 15 crappies and 4 chunky greeen sunfish. Most ponds in town that have crappies have Black Crappies. The pond I fished today is the oldest one in town, to my knowledge. All the crappies I caught today were White Crappies.
Here's some of the pics:

Very fun LUNCHTIME! I definitely plan to go back soon!

More Fly I've Tied Up Recently

Here's some fly-fishing fly patterns I've recently tied up.  I've included the names if I know them.

 Misc. microjigs (1/100th oz.)

Woolly Worm

Hardy Demon

 Blacknosed Dace Hairwing Streamer

Springbrook Wunder microjigs

Monday, October 18, 2010

Warmwater Fall Fly Fishing Starting to Improve?

I fly-fished a local public pond on Friday night after dark.  I caught 13 crappies (finally, decent numbers!), 3 bass (2 were nice ones, I measured one at 16.75”), and 7 bluegills.
All hit a #8 bead-chain eye chartreuse Kraft Fur Clouser.  Geez, that’s a pretty long title for a fly, right?

Here's the biggest bass of the night:

And here's one of the crappies:

Decent night for fishing. It wasn’t fast at all, but I found a couple spots where I caught several crappies each, and that helped. The bass were great fighters, and a nice surprise.

I hit the same pond again with the same fly on Saturday night after dark, but it was slower again. 3 Crappies, 11 bluegills, and 2 bass (both 11”).
The good news is, it looks like the algae mats are diminishing on all the local public ponds.

In other news, I tied up some fly patterns I hadn't tried before, or hadn't tried for a long time, anyway.

Here's a variant (in both tying method and materials) of a Berry's Super Stone Skwala, size 8:
And below is a Matuka that I thought turned out acceptable:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ocotber 9 & 10, 2010 Fly-Fishing Outings

The algae blooms on the local public ponds have been horrific for at least the past 3 weeks.  Most places, the algae mats extend 15feet or MORE from shore, with random floating and submergent algae beyond that.  Its as bad as I've ever seen it.  I'm sure it can be attributed to the deluge of rain that was our Spring and Summer this year, which would have brought a lot of lawn nutrients (and shoreline waterfowl droppings) into the pond.  The nutrients are pretty much locked in the system now, unless cleaner water flushes it out.  The algae, unless removed (not likely), will die off, sink, decay over the winter (hopefully not causing a winterkill...keep your fingers crossed), and the nutrients will remain in the pond in some form or another.

The algae has made fishing from shore difficult, but as long as you don't mind cleaning junk off your hook after each retrieve, its do-able.  The algae is only one issue lately.  The other issue is the bluegills (and crappies) have been ultra-finicky.  Willing to hit almost everything, but not wanting to hang on to anything long enough to get HOOKED.  So, I've been tying up a variety of patterns I normally don't use, in order to try and pinpoint something the fish will take and hold onto longer.

First was a variation of John Scott's CFC October Caddis.  I left the rubber legs/antenna off this example:
A nighttime crappie picked it off the surface near shore:
And here's a bluegill that took a blue version of the same fly:

The most successful pattern last night was this woolly-bugger type pattern, tied with a ginger/brown rabbit fur tail, dubbing of cat hair salvaged from our pet's brush, and some black hackle.
 Here's a couple of the bluegills that liked this:

Here's a parachute pattern with an extended body.
A largemouth bass hit that, and then the thing wouldn't float very well, so I had to change flies again.

And finally...I was staring at some Chamois material while sitting at my fly-tying desk...and it occurred to me to tie up some of these.  I'm not sure if anything like these have been done before (I've seen San Juan Worm patterns tied with double hooks similar to this), so for now I'm just calling it a Chamois Bluegill Worm.
I was excited to try them out on the bluegills.  It needs more experimentation, but it DID catch fish!