Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

June 15, 1998

Fly fishing for panfish

Every time I got my little dry fly over a particular spawning bed, I picked up a dandy half-pound bluegill.

The problem was the five weight, eight-foot fly rod I was using. More often than not, my fly ended up in an unintended spot with a sunny no bigger than a silver dollar on it.

That was my attempt at fly fishing for panfish on an area lake last week.

For the most part, there was no problem with the new fly rod or fly line I had just purchased at the new Cabella's store near Owatonna. The fly fishing guru there assured me it was good stuff. The problem was related to the guy trying to use it.

For about three years, I've been catching nice sunnies on our area lakes with a variety of flies. But, by no means am I an experienced or good fly angler.

I started fly fishing for sunnies when I found a bunch of flies in the back shed of the home my wife and I had just purchased. I thought: why not give it a try?

So, I rigged up one of my ultra-lite spinning rods with a fly that floated and attached a small weighted bobber about three feet up from the fly. The technique is called float casting, and it works well for panfish.

After a season or so of getting dandy sunnies on a fly when my dad could only get little twerps with his angleworms, I decided to actually buy a fly rod and give fly casting a try.

My first rod was an old eight weight, 10-foot cane or bamboo rod that I picked up at a local garage sale for five bucks. Some old line and tippet material came with it.

Learning how to use and cast with it was a battle, but it worked. That was, until this winter, when the thing accidently got caught in my garage door opener and shattered into a couple of thousand pieces. There was some sentimental value there. However, it gave me a darn good reason to buy a new one.

The new rod, being shorter and of lighter weight, has been giving me some trouble. I think I've snapped off at least a dozen flies on the backcast already.

If my casting doesn't pick up soon, I might even have to take a fly casting class. Learning from a book hasn't helped much in getting my fly to the spot I want it to go.

Regarding fly casting, there are only a couple of things I can tell you.

First of all, in fly fishing, the weight of the line is what carries the bait to the fish. You actually cast the line, not the lure. With spinning gear, the weight of the lure does the trick.

Secondly, be it float casting with spinning gear or fly casting, the trick in picking a fly is to look hard for what kind of bugs are on the water in the area you are fishing. Find the closest match and you've probably got the right fly.

I'd tell you what kind of fly I was using to get the sunnies last week, but I have absolutely no idea what it's called. Whoever left all those flies in my back shed didn't have them labeled.

Lastly, it's fun, it works for big sunnies, and if you get into it, the more you practice, the better you'll get.

Outdoor notes

  • The Howard Lake Good Neighbor Days fishing contest is set for Saturday, June 27 on Howard Lake. To enter, or for more information, contact Contest Director Bill Strandquist at Red's Family Restaurant in Howard Lake at 320-543-3331.
  • The application deadline for the 1998 Minnesota fall turkey hunt is Friday, June 26. Applications are available at area license vendors.
  • The recent cold snap has slowed the fishing activity on our area lakes. A few anglers I spoke with stated the walleye bite has been fair, but to get them, you have to fish at night.
  • If you can't find the big sunnies over spawning beds, try trolling with a small leech rig just off the break or drop off from the spawning beds. When you feel a series of small taps, you've found the sunnies, hopefully the big ones, that have moved to deeper water.
  • Swimmer's itch has arrived. Be cautious of swimmer's itch when you're swimming in a Minnesota lake this summer.

Take a kid fishing. You'll have fun and so will they.

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