Crappies on the Fly
By: Jacob Noteboom
When we have winters with high elevation precipitation in the Cascade Range our reservoirs fill up, way up. This in turn means that the “perfect picnic spot” where you normally take shore lunches are completely underwater. That was the case for my family as we camped at Prineville Reservoir this past week. While they searched for a new picnic spots, I strung up my 5wt and went wading, searching for any of the multiple species of fish in this prolific Reservoir.
I had spoken to a gear angler earlier that day and he mentioned catching some crappies. I looked at my 5wt, thinking I wouldn’t even be able to feel them on this rod. I was soon to be pleasantly surprised. My younger brother had joined me and we set off for some flooded brush the other angler had mentioned, though we didn’t have to go far to find it. Many hungry Crappies had schooled around all the patches of submerged brush, and we caught fish after fish. Many were small, but some were as large a fourteen inches. Here’s how we did it:
Make your fly an easy meal: Crappie are ambush predators who attack at close range with a short aggressive lunge. I found that the closer my fly was to cover, the quicker and more aggressive the fish would take it. Reaction strikes are possible but I had far more success on twitch strips with long pauses. Pair these up with a lighter streamer with a slow sinking action and you have a good day of crappie ahead of you. Crappies are minnow eaters, and smaller streamers which imitate the small baitfish were very productive.
Try your trout lake rig: I fished an indicator and chironomid amd damsel nymph with great success as well.
Cast Past, Strip in: A wounded baitfish will rarely swim away from cover, which is exactly what it looks like when you cast between you and the bush you’re casting at. Instead of attacking a piece of cover head on, put yourself at an angle where you can cast to one side or the other. Cast your fly about 5 feet past where you think the fish are holding, and feed your fly right to them.]
Low Light = Lines tight: In the dusk hours of the evening when water temps hit that magic 60 degree mark, the Crappies were looking up. Dragons and Damsels filled the air as they hunted the evening hatch of midges. As soon as I saw the first rise, I swapped my minnow pattern out for a panfish popper and waited for another riser. Waiting for the fish to blow up, then putting a fly where the explosion just occurred seemed to be the ticket. As soon as the fly landed I would give it action as if it were a half drowned dragonfly that just survived an attack. If the fish didn’t follow up, I would make a steady retrieve towards the bank which would usually entice an, “Oh shoot my food is getting away” Blow up.
In short, fish the cover, but make it easy for the fish to ambush. Fish when the water is warmest and you might just find an awesome evening of top-water action. For any great crappie patterns or questions on these fun little fish, give us a call at the shop. Tight lines.