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Part One hundred fifty-six

Panfish Chat- Host Ron Kusse - Monday. 6-8 p.m. PST (9-11 EST)

Popper and Panfish:
Great Topwater Action!

By Kevin Wright


Hot Poppers This is the time of year when most waters are warming and many species of fish are preparing to spawn. This is also the time of year when I grab my flyrod and a box full of small surface poppers.

When the water temperatures approach 70 degrees, most panfish (bluegill in particular) are ready to spawn. They can become very aggressive at this time. Search the shallow water of your lake for nests. Watch for rising fish as they feed on surface bugs.

Look for the fish - bluegill, crappie, and even redear - in the shallow waters. I might add this this is about the only time to catch redear sunfish on surface lures. You won't catch many, though! They are a deep water fish and do not hit popper very often. You just might pick up one here and there. They will add to your fishing pleasure.

Once you find good signs that the fish are in the shallows, it's time to prepare for your fishing outing. My outfit consists of an eight-foot flyrod with a 5 weight floating line. I generally use a seven-and-a-half-foot, knot-less, tapered leader tapered to a 3 or 4X tippet. If the water is very clear, you may have to go to a longer leaders, say nine feet. If the water is murky, you can go to a shorter leader. Unless the fish are particularly spooky, don't get too involved in leader size.

As in trout fishing, you need your gear to match up. If you are casting smoothly, having good line turnover and a soft landing of your fly on the water, then you have a matching outfit. The weight of your fly or popper will make a big difference in the balance of your outfit. I must also point out that if you are fishing heavy cover, go to a shorter, heavier leader to get them out of the rough stuff.

Now that you have your gear ready, let's head to the water. Be cautious as you head to the water, you don't want to spook the fish. Look on the edges of the cattails or weedlines . . . any type of structure.

Once you make a cast, let the popper set for a few seconds (until the rings disappear), and give it a short twitch, then wait again. It should take only a few twitches before you see a topwater explosion. Give the fish a second or two, then lift up on your rod tip and set the hook. You will then have quite a battle!

There will be times when the fish will just such your popper under (crappie are famous for this). Keep total concentration on your popper while it's on the water.

If you are fishing weedy cover, keep your rod high after you hook the fish. You will have a hard time pulling the fish out of the weeds with such a light leaders. Keep the rod high will keep the fish up and will eliminate this problem.

Most of my fishing these days is on a catch-and-release basis. I will keep a few fish for supper, though, but most are released.

Redear Sunfish

To make my fish releasing easier, I pinch down the barbs on my lures. You can catch several fish in an evening's fishing; this will make releasing the fish a lot easier. Many are hooked in the lip, but many hooks are swallowed. See what damage you have done to the fish; release only the unharmed fish.

Although this is an article on fishing with poppers, you can catch fish on other flies, too. Wet and dry flies also work great. Keep a few nymphs and wooly buggers in your fly box. I like to keep my fly box filled with all these flies in a variety of sizes and colors. You never know what will work.

If I had a favorite time to flyfish for panfish, it would be the evening hours. The air is cooler, and the thrill of watching a topwater bait being smacked on calm water is hard to beat.

The time is getting nearer, so get your flyfishing gear ready and prepare yourself for some great topwater action! ~ Kevin Wright

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