In May of this year, I received eight flies that were part of the Panfish On The Fly Facebook Group’s first fly swap. For those that may not be aware, there is a Panfish On The Fly Facebook Group in addition to the Facebook Panfish On The Fly Page. Currently, the group has over 3000 members at the time of this writing. That's 3000+ people that love sharing their experiences of chasing panfish with a fly rod. It is a pretty cool place to hang out.
Back to the fly swap. Our first fly swap was organized by Panfish On the Fly contributor Jake Wade. The exchange was opened up to the first ten individuals who signed up. The requirements were simple, tie ten of your favorite panfish patterns and ship them off in a crush proof container along with a few bucks to cover shipping costs. As is always the case with most fly swaps, some folks drop out at the last minute or never send their flies. In the end, seven fly tiers submitted their work with one tier going above and beyond by sending in two flies so each participant received eight flies.
Unfortunately, only a few of the flies were tagged so I don’t have pattern names and cannot credit most of the tiers. If you participated in the fly swap and happened to read this blog post, please leave a comment and tell me about yourself and your pattern. I should have photographed each fly individually as a reference **before** I fished them, but I neglected to do so. Luckily I did take a group shot, so I have some way to reproduce them myself.
I spent the months of May, June, and July traveling the country from Maine to Montana, chasing the bluegill’s cold water cousins. I had planned to fish these flies and write this post shortly after receiving them, but it did not work out that way. In fact, so much time had passed that I had forgotten about the flies all together. On a recent fishing trip, I discovered the small fly wallet containing the flies in a compartment on my kayak. I decided to fish each fly to test their effectiveness. Since I neglected to take good individual photos as a reference, I did not want to risk losing any of the flies, so I set some simple rules. Fish each fly until it catches a fish then cut it off the line and put it away.
Every fly produced fish within a couple of casts, so they were all winners. In the end, I only lost one of the flies. It was the brown leech-like fly with the dumbbell eyes and the rabbit strip tail (top row second from right). It took an 18” pickerel on the very first cast, but I lost the fish at the side of the boat. The rest of the flies caught their fish and were safely returned to the fly wallet. Refer to the group photo above if you want to follow along. The flies were used in order from right to left starting with the top row, with the exception the blue and yellow James Wood Bucktail, which was my submission (I already know that one works!). I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story from here.
This olive and black streamer is going to find a home in one of my panfish fly boxes. I broke my own rules right from the start and caught several chunky bluegills before cutting off the fly and moving on to the next fly. Every fish literally inhaled this pattern. You can't see the fly in the photo, but trust me its in there!
Next up was the brown leech type fly, but as I said earlier a nice pickerel made off with it. Fortunately, it was a simple tie so I can reproduce it from the photo.
The third fly in the line up was snatched up by a fat little large mouth bass after a half a dozen casts. It put a deep bend in the Douglas Upstream 3wt I was fishing!
Next up was a hopper pattern from Jeff Jones. It was the only fly in the group that I knew who the tier was. Jeff's hopper took a scrappy little blue gill on the first cast. The fish saw the fly coming and moved to intercept it as soon as it hit the water! But it is likely the only panfish the fly will ever catch as it found a new home in my terrestrial box for trout.
The next fly, or flies, in this case, were both submitted by the same tier. The yellow and red spiders were styled after the LIgon Bream Guineas that could be found in tackle shops across the country years ago. The originals caught fish like crazy and so did these!
Last but not least was a realistic beetle pattern. This fly was probably my favorite from a fly tiers perspective. The fish like it too!
Thanks to everyone that participated in the fly swap. I’m going to run another one in September so keep an eye on our Facebook group if you are interested in taking part in the next one!