pan-fish – noun 1. A fish suitable for frying whole in a pan, especially one caught by an angler rather than bought.
For many, the thought of learning how to flyfish can be daunting. I was born and raised in the OklaTexArk region and had only seen flyfishing on movies. I put it up there with golf, a lazy pastime of the distinguished and wealthy, two things I was far from as a child.
I was in my mid 30’s when I first stood in a stream waving a stick around. I was on a four day trip to Northwest Arkansas to kayak and fish the Beaver Tailwaters. My two best friends were flyfishing and I asked if I could try. It sure didn’t look hard.
One quick lesson, two or three sloppy casts, and snapping the fly off on the brush behind me, I handed the goofy thing back. I was catching trout just fine with my spinning rod, thank you very much.
Move forward three years and I’m a fly fishing fanatic. Living in Central Oklahoma has its challenges, mainly that the only two year round trout streams are more than three hours away from me.
What I do have are ponds and lakes full of panfish.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife maintains numerous urban fisheries through it’s “Close to Home” program. Most of the neighborhoods have HOA ponds on them that you can gain permission to fish and they’re all very low pressure.
So what does it take to catch panfish on the fly?
You would be hard pressed to go too light with your tackle. A 9 foot, four or five weight will work fine, as well as tippet in the 5X to 8X range. I stay in that range because I often hook into some bass while targeting panfish.
Flies that you would use for trout work great with panfish.
I’ve had good luck with small poppers, wooly buggers, foam ants, nymphs, egg patterns, and when the going is real tough, San Juan worms.
There are a lot of resources out there on the interwebs too.
Panfish are thought to be easy to catch, but that’s not always true. Like their bigger cousins, they’re affected by water temp, color/clarity, available cover, and access to deeper water.
Cover is a good place to start. I’m talking submerged logs, trees, grass/moss, branches, and rocks. Then figure out where they’re at in the water column. They will move quite a ways to strike.
Aside from being fun to catch and putting up a great fight, I like to catch panfish because they are beautiful. Bluegills in their spawning colors, crappie decked out in urban camouflage, and every variation in between are not done justice by pictures.
Panfish on The Fly is a great resource that I used when I first started.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, enjoy the sun, and post your pictures or tips in the comments!