Welcome to Panfish

Part Nineteen


"Variation On A Theme"
By Randy Fratzke

In another article I mentioned going out and breaking the rules. If you haven't done that, you probably won't like this article either. Mostly because you are a conformist! Your flies are probably all neatly organized, as are your rods and lines and leaders and tippets. Everything is cleaned and in perfect working order. You are one of those people who really needs to get a life! If you're not one of those folks, listen up, cause we're going to break some rules here that ought to help you fill your stringers with plenty of warm water pan fish. Who knows, unless you try it. Maybe it'll work on saltwater fish and trout too!

First of all a disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for any damage to any equipment or persons attempting anything or any variable to anything I'm going to write. You need to use a little bit of common sense and good judgment! If you want to load a reel with 10wt line and slap it on a 4 wt. rod and the rod busts, I don't want to hear about it!

While doing some reading the other night, I came upon a couple of presentation and casting techniques that I've tried (they're basic and nearly conventional) but I combined them with a couple of other ideas, did some experimenting, and came up with something that's new, at least to me. Now the first thing I want to clarify is the fact that I did not invent this technique. I'm sure that others have tried it before me, all I did was take a little advice from this person on one subject, a little from another subject, a little common sense, and a lot of experimenting. The result is something that works really well for catching bass, crappies and gillies. I'm sure that it'll work on other species, I just haven't gotten that far.

The first thing I did was to put a 6wt, slow sinking tip, bass taper fly line on my 4/5 wt rod. That's nothing new or unusual, right? The next thing I did was put on about a 6 ft leader, made out of 12 lb. monofilament. A little short you say? Remember, we're pan fishing here, in water that is usually a little turbid, not crystal clear, spring-fed trout water. The third thing I did was NOT use a tippet. Okay, that's pretty unconventional, but read on.

At this point what I would normally have is a fairly fast sinking line that slightly over-loads the rod, but gives me greater casting distance, right?

Next, I tied on a fly I call a "Humpy Skunk", on a #8 hook, it probably has another name, but basically it's a humpy, tied with gray squirrel hackle, a white body, with a few black elk hairs running the length of the body and out to make the tail. Not exactly a fly that is usually associated with pan fishing, but we're being unconventional here anyway. The next thing I did was totally coat the entire fly with floatant oil, not paste or spray, floatant oil.

Okay, now what have I got? Something that breaks more than a couple of rules. Especially when I say that I cast it from my dock, downstream, and retrieve it against the current!

Let me explain the terrain I'm fishing first. The bank is a gentle slope of about 3 feet, filled in with rip-rap of various sizes. The depth falls off fairly rapidly, in steps, from 3', to 6' to 10'. Some of the rip rap has fallen in, creating eddy pools and crevices. The current is fairly slow, but is pushing against the shore. It's a great little panfish hole! Plenty of structure, plenty of food, and along the south shore, which means cool shadows during the day.

Okay, I've got this convoluted fly outfit rigged up and I'm thinking, the slow sinking line ought to take the fly down, but the fly is coated with floatant so it's going to want to float back up to the surface. It can't really get to the surface because the leader isn't that long. To top it off, I'm going against the current, so the drag on the line ought to help keep it down. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon with clear skies and hot, not exactly the best time of day for fishing. Oh well, add it to the list of broken rules...

What happened was this: I cast the fly along the shore line at about the 6' depth line. If I did nothing, the fly would continue to float for several minutes before the weight of the sinking line and the drag from the current would slowly drag it down. I also noticed that the current would actually play a factor in keeping the line from sinking as fast as it was supposed to. If I started a retrieve, at any speed, the line and current would immediately pull the fly under. If I stopped the retrieve at any point, the current would push up on the line and the fly would bob up to the surface. This meant that I could put the fly at any depth I wanted, hold it there as long as I wanted to and fish each depth until I found the fish that I knew were there.

I got a lot more than I expected! I caught fish for three and a half hours. Bass and crappies holding between 6 and 10 feet, bass off the bottom, gillies on the rise. I even had a bass hit one of the crappies I was pulling in! The set up may be unconventional, the presentation is definitely unconventional, but I sure caught a lot of fish! Try it for yourself, try different flies. I read once where Charlie Brooks used to use a similar rig with a Clouser Minnow. I know I plan on trying it out on walleye using the chartreuse colored Clousers I've tied. Let me know what works for you.

~ Randy Fratzke

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