Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred-two

San Gabriel Fly


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

Made my first trip to the San Gabriel River, North Fork, since winter and had a new fly to try. Much of this particular area of the San Gabriel will not get any deeper than my waist and most of the time only about two feet. However there is the occasional deep hole to be aware of.

The San Gabriel is an interesting river; there are stretches where all you ever catch are panfish, large colorful panfish. You will find everything from the bluegill, sunperch and crappie. On other stretches it's primarily bass, big ole ornery Texas Blackbass. Still in other areas panfish and bass share the same holes and you never know what you will be pulling out! The river is spring fed and in some areas the bluffs simply pour out water.

The San Gabriel has many accesses with beautiful holes to fish. The limestone canyons provide quite solitude and on windy days, shelter, giving the ability to fly fish. There are many places where the river is so narrow, a mere 5 feet, that the trees cover the waters to within a couple of feet. It's next to impossible to fish, but these holes hold some really large panfish.

The best way I have found to fish these stretches is to get up river, kneel in the water and pay out fly line a little at a time allowing the fly to drift down with the current. The panfish just can't resist! These particular holes usually hold only a few large ones and soon become wise and will no longer play. Time to move on.

One of my favorite entry points immediately places me in a nice pool where the opposite bank is a tall limestone cliff with a large fallen chunk of limestone causing the river to form a sharp bend with a large deep pool. Casting is easy with lots of room and the panfish, carp and bass will readily take a fly.

It is here that I can practice many variations in fly fishing. I'll put out a dry fly and have the panfish and bass repeatedly strike until they grew accustomed to it. Then when I switch to brassies with a strike indicator the panfish once again repeatedly strike. Using a strike indicator with a brassie will get the brassie below the smaller fish and suspend the it near the bottom where the larger panfish tend to be.

The wide glassy pools formed below riffles are my favorites to fish.

It's these pools where I have caught and released some large panfish. With the San Gabriel Fly I was getting so many strikes that for a while it was a fish caught for every cast! It was an incredible afternoon! The San Gabriel Fly is very versatile. It ties really fast and for streamside tying I highly recommend having dubbing brushes pre-made. Variations are quick and super easy however they do seem to perform better and get better results without rubber legs. Any size hook can be used, color combination is only limited by the imagination. This is not a terrestrial, streamer or nymph. It is a pure attractor that can fished surface, streamer or nymph. The width of the foam will determine the buoyancy of the fly. For the San Gabriel River I have them trimmed to just hang on the surface. Any strike from panfish will cause it to slowly return to the surface instead of the "bounce" as some dries tend to do. I have found the slow surfacing trait gets more hook ups than some of the more buoyant flies.

Here are the tying instructions:

San Gabriel


    Thread:  Yellow Orvis "G".

    Hook:   Any size can be used but for the San Gabriel River I use ORVIS 11HL size 12.

    Body  Yellow and Orange ORVIS Life Cycle Caddis Assortment, Fine Copper Wire, Yellow 2mm Closed Cell Foam in 1/8th inch-wide Stripes.

    Tail  Yellow and Black Calves Tail.

Tying Steps:

1. Create the dubbing brush, in this photo I use a dubbing block. Yellow and Orange in alternating inch sections.

2. Lay a bead of thread, tie in the tail and leave the thread about 2mm distance from the eye.

3. Tie in the dubbing brush and on top of the dubbing brush tie in the foam strip. Leave enough foam to pinch up forming a head just over the eye.

4. Keeping the dubbing brush and foam up out of the way, wrap the thread back to the beginning of the bend of the hook.

5. Wrap the dubbing back to the thread and tie in. Clip off extra dubbing. Lay the foam over the dubbing and tie in at the same place the dubbing was tied in. Whip finish.

6. Trim Foam to form secondary tail. This should be about half the length of the hair tail.

Fly is finished, go get those panfish! ~ HillFisher

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