It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert fly angler or a complete novice, fly fishing for crappie will teach you more about the habits of fish than you would think. Crappie are a panfish located in most freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds. Some anglers will target these in the spring to prepare for the rest of the fly fishing season and others just love landing crappie on a fly rod. Either way, fly fishing for crappie is an absolute blast and you can guarantee yourself action as soon as your fly hits the water.
Fly Fishing Rig for Crappie
A proper fly fishing setup for crappie isn’t overly complicated. You’re not going to need to make extra long casts or have to fight a double-digit fish when targeting them. Whatever you use for your normal fly fishing setup will likely do the trick. As long as it’s not overly powerful, you can have success with crappie fly fishing.
Fly Fishing Crappie Rod
The ideal fly rod weight for crappies is a 4-weight. It’s not overly heavy, so it’s not going to be challenging to cast in tight conditions, but it still has enough power to fight fish or make a cast on a windy day. Odds are, if you own a fly rod, you have something in the medium weight range. Anywhere between a 3-weight and 5-weight is more than enough for these fish. You’ll be able to use streamers, nymphs, and dry flies with a medium-weight rod.
For length, somewhere between 8 and 9-feet is ideal. You can make short or long casts depending on what you need.
Fly Fishing Crappie Reel
The best reel option is going to be one that matches up with the weight of your fly rod. If you’re using a 3-weight rod, a 3-weight reel is what you need. It’s going to create a proper balance and make casting quite a bit easier.
It also helps if the reel is fully sealed and has a large arbor. For smaller reels, you may not get a choice on the size of the arbor, but anywhere from a 5-weight reel and up should allow you to choose a large arbor. Crappie aren’t strong enough that they’re going to spool you, but a large arbor reel is smart to purchase in case you decide to pursue larger fish.
Fly Fishing Line for Crappie
When fly fishing for crappie, use a floating line. Crappie fly fishing is most productive in the spring because they’re in the shallows in the midst of their spawn. As a result, you’re not going to need to get very deep. Your leader should be plenty long to reach these fish.
Make sure the weight of the line matches up with your rod and reel. Many anglers prefer to use line that’s rated one weight heavier than their rod and reel, but that’s a personal preference. The added weight gives you a bit more power when you’re casting!
Since you’ll be primarily fishing below the surface for crappie, you’ll be using heavier flies. As a result, you’ll want to use a 3x or 4x leader. A tapered leader is a great choice if you aren’t wanting to use tippet as well as a leader. A 7 or 8-foot, 3x tapered leader will be long enough to get to the fish and strong enough to fight any fish you find.
If you don’t want to use a tapered leader, use a 5 or 6-foot non-tapered leader with a couple of feet of 3x tippet.
Best Flies for Fly Fishing For Crappie
The fun begins when you get to choose your flies! The most important thing to remember with your fly selection is that the “buggier” your fly looks, the better. Clean and precise flies aren’t a necessity. Crappies aren’t overly picky, so as long as it looks like a good meal, they’ll eat. Also, make sure it’s not a massive fly. Fish size 8 flies and higher!
An olive or black Woolly Bugger will be too appealing for crappie to reject. These flies are great representations of everything from baitfish to small leeches. Depending on how you fish it, you can get it to represent anything you need. Fish it low and slow, and you’ll land plenty of fish.
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 like candy to these fish. You may have to attach a split shot to your line if the fly doesn’t have a beadhead! You can purchase them with beadheads, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Jig patterns are great to use in fly fishing. 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’ll pull in dozens of fish this way.
Muddler minnows are appealing to crappies. They aren’t overly large, so they don’t feel as intimidating for these fish to eat. They’re buggy and have all sorts of appealing features from the deer hair to the small feathers. All of this in a smaller, size 10 fly makes it a perfect option for anglers looking to land crappie.
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.
Techniques for Crappie Fly Fishing
Crappie aren’t an overly complicated fish to target on the fly rod. Time of year and location are important, but as soon as you have these dialed in, you’ll start landing fish.
Spring Is Best for Crappie Fishing
Before you worry about how and where to fish, you need to know when to go. The spring is the most productive time because the fish are up in the shallows to spawn. When the fish are shallow, you can not only see them, but you can access them quite a bit easier with a fly rod. When that ice leaves and weather warms, you can expect to see crappies shallow. They spawn first since they prefer colder water than bass and bluegill!
Crappie Hot Spots: Weed Beds, Docks, and Fallen Trees
Weed beds, docks, and fallen trees are perfect places to find crappie. If you can get your fly up and close to these areas, the crappie will be stacked and more than eager to feast on your flies. As the water warms in the spring, crappie move shallow and try to locate something that’s going to protect them in the midst of their spawn. Structure within 10 feet or less of water is perfect.
Imagine You’re Trolling
If you’re stripping your flies, it helps to imagine you’re trolling. If you’re fishing along a weedbed, a slow and steady retrieval will entice the fish to eat. It doesn’t have to be a jerky or obnoxious retrieval, but a smooth retrieve with the occasional jerk will be more than enough to get the fish to take your fly.
Believe it or not, you can jig for crappie. Since the water is still going to be cold, you don’t have to create a massive amount of movement on your fly. Drop your fly where you want and let it fall a few feet. As it falls, you can pause it and start jigging up and down. If you don’t have a strike right away, drop your fly another foot and do the same. Keep repeating the process until you find where the fish are wanting to feed.
Less is More
Since you’re using wet flies, you may think that you need to create quite a bit of movement on your flies! This isn’t always the case. Get your flies to the proper location, give them a bit of movement and let the fish do the rest. They’re going to take your fly if it looks natural and isn’t overly active!
Open Water Isn’t Always Bad
You can fish for crappie in more open water. Often, you’ll find them suspended over a drop-off or near a channel. You can fish your streamers near or around these schools and likely catch several. Once you find a school of crappie, you should be able to land several out of it with the same fly.
Frequently Asked Questions about Fly Fishing for Crappie
Since fishing for crappie on a fly rod isn’t the most popular way of targeting them, many anglers have questions on how to best do it!
How do you rig a float and fly?
Fishing for crappie with a jig fly and an indicator is a great method. Cast your fly to where you want it to sit and let your indicator suspend your fly for you. You can easily adjust the indicator on your leader to have your fly be shallow or deep depending on what the fish are wanting.
Should I Use More than One Fly for Crappie Fishing?
Double rigging your line for crappie fishing is a great idea. It’s especially productive when you first start fishing in an area. Fish two patterns that you think would work (heavier fly on bottom and lighter on top) and see what you can find. Search patterns like buggers, minnows and Prince Nymphs would work great.
Can I Use Topwater Flies for Crappie?
When you start to see crappie schooling near the surface, it’s a great time to use topwater flies. Topwater poppers are great. Baitfish poppers are especially productive! You don’t necessarily want to use a bass popper because they’re too large.
Fly fishing for crappie is an effective way to catch these fish. They rarely are targeted with flies, so as long as you present it well, you’re going to catch them. Visit your local lakes and ponds early in the spring and see what you can find! Fly fishing for crappie is a great way to shake the rust off and prepare for a full season of fly fishing.