Crappie are one of the most underrated fish to target with a fly rod. They provide a ton of action and put your skills to the test. With some patience and trial and error, you’re going to find that there’s something about Crappie that makes them more fun than most panfish. However, without the right flies, you’ll find yourself coming up empty. Companies don’t often sell specific flies for Crappie, but you’ll find that they don’t need overly exotic patterns. The best flies for Crappie fishing are the ones that resemble their food!
What Does it Look Like to Fly Fish for Crappie?
When you’re fly fishing for Crappie, you have to change your mindset. They aren’t like trout, bass or any saltwater species. They’re not overly picky, but they expect accurate representation of their food. Panfish are panfish regardless of whether you target them with a fly or spin rod.
Crappie spawn in the spring, live near structure, and like to feel protected.
This can mean that you’re going to find Crappie in 20 feet of water near submerged trees or in muddy water a few feet off of the shore. Find wood structure and you’ll find Crappie. If you give yourself a chance to fish brush piles or even weed lines, you will definitely have success.
Another great thing about fly fishing for Crappie is that they’re willing to eat in a variety of ways. You can jig flies, strip flies and even dead drift them. If you’re stripping, imagine that you want to emulate trolling. Smooth strips through the water are going to entice the fish. Again, with a few minutes of trial and error, you’ll find out what works. Crappies aren’t overly finicky, so it shouldn’t take you too long to figure out what they’re wanting.
You’re not going to need any sort of special gear when you’re fly fishing for Crappie. Bring your 9’ 5-weight, moderate fast or fast action rod, a matching reel and floating line. Use 1 or 2x leaders and you’re good to go. The only thing that may change is the type of line you fish. If the Crappies are hiding deep, you may need to use a sink tip line to get to where the fish are living.
Essentially, any type of fly rod is going to work for Crappie. As long as it’s not a 1 or 2-weight rod, you’ll have enough to land these fish. You want to be able to make 30 or 40 foot casts, but that’s not absolutely necessary.
11 Best Flies for Crappie Fishing:
When it comes to choosing Crappie flies, don’t overthink. These fish aren’t overly picky, but they do have certain types of food they enjoy eating. Buggy-looking flies and representations of small prey that you would usually find in a lake or pond will work wonders. Take a look at the following 11 flies and make sure you have some of these in your box when you next head to the water.
Woolly Bugger – Size 8 (Black, Green, Tan)
The Woolly Bugger is as versatile of a fly as you’re going to find. Let these fall near the structure you’re fishing and then begin the retrieve process. You can strip these back to you like you’re trolling or even jig them. Quick and short strips over the structure are very appealing for Crappie. They’ll more often than not hit the fly as it falls in the water column.
Balanced Leech – Size 6
Leech patterns are well-known favorites of Crappie. Since Crappie will feed off the bottom during the spawn, a leech pattern bounced along the bottom is hard for them to resist. Depending on the depth that you’re fishing, go ahead and attach a split shot to your line! The split shot is going to get you to the necessary depth. However, a free flowing leech is just as productive at times!
Micro Jig – Size 12
Jig patterns are great to use when fly fishing for Crappie. Crappies are used to eating jigs from spin anglers, but jig flies work equally as well. You can fish these patterns similar to how you would fish a normal jig on a spinning rod. Cast it near structure or the weed line and bounce it up and down. You may find that mini leech jigs are equally as productive. It feels a bit wrong to jig with a fly rod, but if it’s the method that’s working, it’s hard to argue with results.
Muddler Minnow – Size 10
Muddler minnows are also appealing for Crappies. They aren’t large, so they don’t feel as intimidating for these fish to eat. They’re buggy and have all sorts of attractive features from the deer hair to the small feathers. Seeing one of these flies bouncing around the wood cover is going to look realistic. Crappie schools will snatch up the Muddler quicking than you would expect.
Prince Nymphs – Size 10
If you’re a die hard nymph angler and can’t seem to prevent yourself from fishing with them, then Prince Nymphs will work. These are buggy looking patterns, but at size 10, they’re a little meatier than you would find in a smaller Pheasant Tail. You’re going to have to fish the Prince Nymph a bit like a small streamer. A slow retrieve should be enough action to entice the fish. You can also jig these flies if you would like! Either method is going to work.
Crappie Candy – Size 8
Crappie Candy flies are a combination of Clouser Minnows and Swapfs. They’re often tied in bright colors to attract the attention of the fish. Fish it like you would a normal minnow pattern. Give it a decent amount of action as soon as it falls in or near the structure. Imagine that this fly is a minnow fleeing a school of Crappie. As long as it’s in the right place, it’s going to land fish! Don’t be shocked if it entices a few other species of fish as well! Bass and pike will eat it.
Woolly Worm – Size 8
A Woolly Worm is a mix between a worm and a Woolly Bugger. These patterns are a bit more intrusive than a San Juan Worm. Many Woolly Worms are tied with a bedhead to help them get lower in the water column. These are another good pattern to let fall and float around within the structure. Slow strips towards you out of the structure should be enough to get the fish to bite. You don’t need too much action, but a bit will get the fish engaged.
Popper – Size 6
Popper flies are great if you see the Crappies feeding on the surface. You’ll see them snapping at the surface, and the drag of a popper through these fish is going to be enough to get them to bite. It may get lost in the surface feeding action, but that initial tug is plenty to get you on to fish.
Beadhead Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear Nymph – Size 14
Soft hackle flies are great Crappie flies. The Hare’s Ear Nymph is usually a more sleek looking pattern, but with the Soft Hackle, it adds an element of bugginess. This is a great pattern if you’re fishing shallow and dirty water. It has a dark brown color to it, so the fish are going to be more willing to eat it if they see it. You can let this bounce along shore or do short strips towards you. If you know the fish are shallow, use this fly!
Dusty’s Black Soft Hackle – Size 12
Similar to the Hare’s Ear, Dusty’s Black Soft Hackle is going to work great in shallower water around structure. You can also use this fly if you’re fishing weed lines. Let it float right along the edge and do long, elongated strips back to yourself. You’re sure to be able to find a fish to pounce.
Marabou Leeches – Size 4
Marabou Leeches are a favorite fly for trout anglers, but they work just as well for Crappie. Tied with a beadhead, these flies are going to get deep. If you’re fishing a brush pile near shore, throw this fly next to the pile and you’ll have a bite within seconds! Crappie absolutely love this fly!
Frequently Asked Questions
Since fly fishing for Crappie is a less popular technique, the majority of experts are those anglers who are willing to use a trial and error method to understand the habits and desires of these fish. Thankfully, the fly fishing methods don’t have to be overly different from those used by spin anglers. Combine the unique aspects of fly fishing with the tried and true aspects of spin fishing, and you’ll catch fish.
Can you Catch Crappie With a Fly?
Yes, you can absolutely catch Crappie with flies. They’ll eat insects like dragonflies as well as small minnows, leeches, and crayfish. Tie on a pattern that represents one of these, and see what happens. As long as you’re able to present the fly accurately and in an appetizing way, you’ll give yourself a great chance at landing some of these fish.
What Size Flies for Panfish?
Flies between sizes 6 and 12 are the most successful. They’re not always eager to eat large streamers, but they also don’t need extremely small nymphs or dries like trout might. An average size fly that looks like an easy and appetizing meal is plenty to catch the attention of panfish. While there are always exceptions to rules, you can’t go wrong with a medium-sized fly.
What Time of Day is Best for Crappie fishing?
Crappie feeding time is right after sunrise and right before sunset. However, the beauty of Crappie is that they will eat all day long, especially if they’re spawning in the spring. Stick with traditional fish feeding times, and you’ll be good to go.
How Do You Fly Fish for Crappie in a Lake?
When you’re fly fishing for Crappie in a lake, make sure you’re targeting structure. Laydowns, boulders, and submerged trees are common places for Crappies to be. During the spring spawn, they’re going to be up in shallower water, but still near some sort of structure to stay somewhat hidden. Weed lines are other places you should focus on fishing.
Final Thoughts on Best Flies for Crappie Fishing
The best flies for Crappie are not overly complicated patterns. Streamers, nymphs, and the occasional dry during their surface feeding are all you need. Make sure the fly you’re throwing is a good representative of the food they’re eating! Schooling Crappie are going to take one look at your fly and bite!