Blue Gills and Sunfish (Bream)
Crappies (Black or White)
1. Poppers are one of my favorite "flies" for pan fish. For gillies and crappies they need to be small though, usually in the ¼ inch to ½ inch range. They can be in almost any color but white, yellow and green seem to work the best for me. Some have "whiskers" or legs, some have feather or marabou attached to the back ends, some have both and some have neither. Some also have flat fronts, some have slant fronts, while still others have cupped fronts. They all seem to work at times. So what's the best? I prefer a cupped front so that it actually traps air when it's jerked and makes a "popping" sound. I also like legs and a marabou tail for more water movement. Others anglers will agree or disagree with this but my argument is that these are attractor type flies and the more attraction you can make the more fish your going to catch.
2. If you make or tie your own poppers make sure you buy some "popper" hooks. These have a couple of bends in the shank, like a "W" to keep them from turning inside the popper. You can also make this style of hook if you're careful, using a 4x long shank hook and a small pliers, as long as the hooks aren't made of tempered metal which will break instead of bend.
2. Humpy Style Dries - Humpy style flies naturally trap air inside the body of the fly which keep them floating longer. They also seem to make a lot of "noise" on the top water which attracts the fish. I use a wide variety of humpy style flies, including the Royal, Yellow, and Grey Humpy, Horner's Deer Hair, and Irresistables.
3. Other Light Colored Dry Flies - Almost any good, light colored trout fly seems to work well on crappies and gillies. Cahills, Hendricksons, Quills, etc. all seem to do the job, as long as they are hatching at the time. If it's in the air or on the water it'll work.
C. Terrestrials - There are as numerous terrestrial patterns out there as there are fly tyers, with as many variations as you can tie. Grasshoppers, crickets, ants, spiders, caterpillars, "water-walkers" and the like all fall into this category. I'm not going to give you specific patterns because there are so many and so many variations to choose from. Try several different patterns out and find one you're comfortable with and use it. What I will do is give you a few tips on when and where to use them.
1. Hoppers and Crickets - Use them when they start emerging and you start finding them all over your yard and flower beds. Crickets are usually first, in late May or early June, then hoppers, in mid July until frost. Use them along shorelines, especially a shoreline with a lawn or grass. Usually you'll have better luck on the upward wind side of the water since they are usually blown into the water by the wind and the fish will lay there waiting for lunch.
2. Ants and Spiders - Ants and spiders usually wind up in the water because they fall from something like an overhanging tree or rock ledge, tall grass or cattails and docks. So look for those types of areas and either cast or drift a fly into it. Just be prepared for a quick sucking sound and your fly to disappear!
3. Water-Walkers - Again, there are so many kinds and so many variations that it would be hard to list them all. Sow bugs, long legs, creepers, stink bugs all fall into this category. Amazingly, I've seldom seen many fish eat these insects. I know the water around my dock is full of the little black-shelled insects but none of them ever seem to disappear into the mouths of the crappies and gillies that live there. So, my advice is, don't bother with them, unless you happen to see fish around you eating them.
Wet Flies and Submersibles (Divers)
A. Wet Flies such as the wet versions of the Royal Coachman and variations I mentioned above work very well on both types of fish, especially during the spring spawning. Work them through the areas very slow but deliberately. In other words, don't drift them but, rather, mend the line slowly to show movement.
B. Streamers such as Clouser Minnows, Muddlers, Spruce, Silver Darter, and Shiner Patterns, and the perennial favorite, Mickey Finn, all work well. If the water your fishing in has a good population of bass then the Clouser is a must. Gillies and Crappies feast on little bass. Most of these patterns should be tied on #8, #10 or #12 size hooks, with either 3x or 4x long shanks. This translates into minnow patterns between 1 ½ inch to 2 ¼ inch streamers. Yes, you can make larger ones if you want, but remember what kind of fish your trying to attract.
3. Nymphs and Deep or Bottom-Running Flies such as Weighted Ants, Nymphs, and Stoneflies and, one of my favorites, crayfish. Remember the old adage about 90% of a fish's intake is from underwater aquatic insects and larvae? Well it's true with these species of fish also. They bump their noses and heads on dock legs, underwater tree branches and grass stems to knock meals lose. Cast near a shoreline and let the fly slowly sink of its own weight. Maybe mend the line a little, but you want a natural presentation, like something that just fell into the water off the side of a cattail stem or that the current just swept off a rock. Crayfish patterns, on the other hand, need to be mended in short, quick little darts, allowing time to settle on or near the bottom between mends. Usually the fish will hit while the fly is floating to the bottom so be prepared.
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