Many years ago I stumbled across a very popular fly pattern from England called the Red Tag. The fly is used in both rivers and lakes for trout and grayling. There are even versions of the fly that are used in saltwater for targeting sea run brown trout throughout the British Isles and Scandinavia. My research into the pattern revealed it was developed around 1850 and was originally tied as a dry fly for grayling. I was introduced to the wet fly version, which I used for trout for many years. Some time ago, I was restocking my fly boxes at the end of the season with some freshly tied red tag wet flies. I had tied too many of this particular pattern, and the extras ended up in one of my panfish boxes.
The fly was an instant success on bluegills and other panfish. In addition to bluegills and sunfish, I have taken some other species on this pattern, including crappie, yellow perch, largemouth bass and on one occasion a pickerel.
I currently fish both wet and dry versions of this fly with equal success. The dry fly version is pretty straight forward. Red yarn tag, peacock herl body, and a brown rooster hackle. I tie several versions of the wet fly, only substituting a hen hackle for the rooster. I tie it with a traditional wet fly collar and also with a hackle palmered through the entire body in addition to the collar. Both styles are equally effective. If extra weight is needed, I add a lead wire underbody, a bead head or both. It is a very versatile pattern with the ability to fish top to bottom.
The dry fly version works well any time the fish are looking to the surface for food. It is a general attractor style pattern but probably accurately imitates some terrestrial insects well. In my experience flies with a peacock herl body are usually fish catching machines.
I will reach for the wet fly variants early and late in the season when the fish are not actively feeding on the surface. I also use the pattern for fishing deep along weed lines and other shoreline structure during the heat of the day in mid-summer when larger fish retreat to the depths to avoid the heat and bright sunlight.
Wet or dry the pattern is worth giving a try. It is a simple pattern to tie, but one that deserves a spot in your panfish box.