While not as hard pulling as a rockfish or as striking as a brook trout, crappie hold all of the characteristics to make them an excellent fly fishing species. My initial encounters with them were accidental; they would hit a popper intended for bluegill or a streamer when targeting bass. As I fished more, I noticed many occasions where I could see them schooled up eating but could not catch them. This drove me insane. I was
determined to learn how to catch these fish.
Early in the season, often in mid-February, I begin to see crappie dimpling the surface of a few ponds I fish. I went through boxes of topwater patterns and boxes of streamers trying to catch these fish but they would not hit anything. One day, I noticed some empty bug shucks on the water’s surface. I looked around, there were a number of midge flies hatching on the pond. They were bigger bugs, about a size 12. Confident I
now could catch these fish, I paddled the canoe to the shore to retrieve a box of trout flies from my truck. I threw every dry fly I had along with every nymph I had. Still nothing. I left, the feeling of denial lingering into the evening.
The next day I went back determined to catch these fish. It was time to try something unorthodox. I had tied several emerging insect patterns. One I was particularly proud of was a version of LaFontaine’s Sparkle Caddis tied with peacock herl instead of dubbing. I had decided to fish as I would for trout, using a longer leader tapered down to 5x. I paddled out to the fish and began casting half-heartedly; wondering if my fishing habits had crested the realm of insanity. About the fourth cast, the fly got slammed. Like a streamer fisherman, I tried to strip strike. I missed. Excited, I cast to another splashy rise. Again a missed strike. Finally, I put the fly into the fish again and set the hook into a good crappie, about 12 inches, by lifting the rod as one does for trout. I fished for several hours, missing many fish and catching a good number as well.
This event began my fascination with fly fishing for crappie. Year after year, this pattern proves effective. Through trial and error, I have began to unlock how to consistently catch these fish with flies. They can at times be as easy as bluegill while other times being as selective as spring creek trout.