Spring is here and summer is soon to follow, for those in the Western New York area the spring steelhead season was less than desirable with snowfall and rain in April, there were very limited days to get out. Soon if not already the tribs will be filling up with suckers and bass signaling the end of another steelie season.
But if the tug is your drug don't fret there is another option. If you are new to fly fishing or don't have the patience to stalk inland trout who spook when you sneeze a mile away its time to find some Stillwater and hit up some redneck trout. These eager little bastards are slobs and basically will hit anything that lands in front of their face. So lets talk the how to on targeting these guys.
#1 The Gear
First the rod it truly doesn't matter how ever I would say the cut off is at max a 7wt fly rod. I have fished with my 7wt that I use for steelies and trust me when you hook up with one of these energetic guys you will still feel the fight. I am not saying your rod tip will be bent into the water but these guys can fight; their compact little bodies allow their tails to thrash neurotically at around 100 beats per second. Many times I have thought I have hooked up with a toad of a largemouth just to pull up a chow hungry blue gill that could barely fit the fly in its mouth.
Second the reel again it doesn't matter click drag, disc drag, no drag you wont use it. The only use for the reel when fishing for panfish is to keep the line from tripping you up. Very rarely will I take a panfish to the reel and a majority of the time you wont react fast enough to.
For a fly line the best bet is to go with a weight forward floating line.
Leader and tippet material, for leader and tippet length doesn't matter but I would not go with a superfine test material as where there are panfish there are most likely largemouth, so I would choose something like a 5lb test just incase you hook into a toad of a bass.
#2 The Technique
Forget about perfect roll casts, whether you're fishing top water or dredging deep with a weighted bugger just get the line out there. These guys aren't spooky and most of the time they are attracted to the sound of splashing. So bomb cast your line out there don't worry if it slaps. let your fly sit, If you're fishing top water wait for the water to settle and the ripples to dissipate from your less than perfect cast, then give it a little twitch make that bug work. Become the bug, be the bug feel the struggle of the bug trying to free its self from the grasp of the water, don't forget to breathe! If you're using a popper or a gurgler the closer to the shore you cast it the better. Make it look like that dumb frog just hopped off the shore right into the lions den of panfish. When fishing any frog pattern I have found the best retrieval pattern is a short strip, strip, strip pause pattern that will drive any fish crazy. If you are using a weighted bugger or streamer your best option is to fish it like you would a jig. Again bomb cast your fly out there and let it sink and retrieve in a slow strip pause pattern allowing your fly to go back down to the bottom. Sometimes they will pick your fly up right off the ground but pay attention right after you cast use the junction between your floating fly line and your leader as an indicator. If your line all of a sudden takes a hard turn to the right fish on!
SET THE HOOK, that is the most important part of fishing for redneck trout. Set the hook, set the hook, set the hook, they are hungry little bastards and if you don't set the hook you'll be trying to dig a size 10 bugger out of the throat of one of these guys. The best way to do that is to never have a slack line, and when you here the popping sound of a hungry blue gill eagerly sucking your fly off the surface, or see your fly line go for a swim use a short striping action to SET THE DAMN HOOK.
#3 The Flies
Dry flies: Again let me restate panfish are not picky so size and pattern doesn't matter. When selecting dries to use its all about floatability, you will get many more bites with panfish than you ever will trout fishing and your fly will be on the water much longer, so you do not want to choose a pattern that you will have to dry off every two hits and add more floatant to. So when looking for dries look for, foam, deer or elk hair, and tons of hackling. You can easily search panfish on our site and a list of the best panfish flies will appear. My top 3 suggestions would be, the damsel dry fly, the stimulator and the elk hair caddis.
Poppers And Gurglers: Size is important here if you go out with a large bass popper will they hit it yes but the chances of actually hooking one is slim to none. You want something that is smaller like our mini panfish gurglers. Also an important thing to look for when buying or tying poppers and gurglers is where the body starts in relations to the hook point if the body of the popper goes beyond the hook point towards the bend of the hook the amount of hook ups you have will greatly decrease.
Buggers and streamers: Your best bet for buggers is a size 10 streamer and something that is weighted either a bead head or dumbbell eyes. Black and olive are the best colors as they will best mimic leeches which are readily found in still water. Again if you search panfish on our website you will get an inventory of our best panfish flies. My top streamer flies are the crystal bugger in black, olive, or purple, and our olive cone head buggers.
So tie one on crack a brew hop in your kayak and reap the benefits of a summer full of fun and redneck trout.