I’ve come to realize that crappie take top-water flies with incredible enthusiasm. Although not a “classic” fly rod target, their surface-slurping tendencies – especially in the fall – deserve your attention…
Although the spring crappie bite can be awesome, late summer and early fall can be even better. At my latitude in southern Manitoba – just north of the U.S. border – this time period typically runs from the last week in August through the first two weeks of September.
When the weather is pleasant and settled, crappie at that time of year turn on like crazy. I usually fish small, shallow, flatland reservoirs and the fish swarm into the same weedy bays they frequented in the spring. They are also drawn toward turns and points on rocky shorelines. The rip-rap along a dam is another magnet.
The magic really starts to happen an hour or two before sunset. The crappies often give themselves away as they swirl after baitfish and other critters. Better yet, they eagerly suck in #8 to #12 streamers attached to a intermediate line and a 3 to 5 weight rod. A type II line also works well, especially if the water is 5 or 6 feet deep. Some of my “go-to” patterns are shown in the accompanying photos.
Occasionally, if there are sunfish around, I will use a #12 or #14 nymph. Both crappie and sunfish will hit a small nymph but I really believe that crappie prefer something a little bit larger.
Wait a second… Didn’t the title of this article say something about top water? Don’t worry, it’s coming…
As dusk moves in, put away the streamers and tie on a panfish-sized popper or gurgler. Short, rhythmic strips – and the resulting surface commotion – draw the fish in.
My favorite outfit for presenting poppers and gurglers was inspired by a Sage Bluegill. A Sage Bluegill is probably a bit heavy for most of the panfish in my area so I’ve taken a crisp action 4 weight that is 7 ½ feet long and matched it up with a 6 weight line and a light reel. The resulting combo loads great with a short line; it is amazing at hitting little pockets in rip-rap or any other target. Plus, an 11 inch crappie puts a good bend in it!
A boat or a float tube are great for working fall hot spots but walking along the rip-rap face of a dam is also effective. Actually, as dusk turns to night – but the fishing is still lit up – walking on shore with a minimum of equipment is perhaps preferable to being in a boat or a tube.
Crappie are a great way to say good-bye to the dog days of summer and say hello to fall!