A Fly-Fisher’s Panfish Defense

A Pumpkinseed's Colors Rival Any Fish
Fresh, Salt, Tropical or Temperate

I wish I could fly fish for trout more often. Unfortunately, good trout fishing isn't nearby. On top of that, the summer is my time to fish. And during July and August, New Jersey's major trout rivers push 70 degrees and it's best to lay off.

That's why a lot of my summer fly fishing is on local lakes and ponds. I love casting to panfish, bass, and if I can find them - carp. I fish from the bank, from my SUP, or from a belly boat.

No matter what I'm fishing for, I keep the striped bass work ethic alive.

Getting up in the dark and fishing first light is common when chasing striped bass. But many anglers don't do the same on trout streams or when fishing local freshwater ponds and lakes. Dawn patrol fishing, combined with a midweek morning, provides solitude and a better shot at fish. Not to mention beautiful sights and sounds. The world is a different place at dawn.

Here are some of my catches and takeaways.

A Summer Fly: Dave Whitlock's Hopper

Terrestrials, like hoppers, ants, and beetles, are a major food source for trout in the summer. They're also eaten by panfish and largemouth along the shoreline of lakes and ponds. Plus, they're a lot more fun to cast than big, air resistant bass poppers. Dropping a hopper next to a grass-lined bank and twitching it slightly to imitate a panicked grasshopper can result in some incredibly fun visual fishing.

Summer Largemouth
Egg Eater, Maybe This Fish Took It For A Berry
Closer Look

Across the street from my home is a lake with water quality issues. It's victim to a large population of geese and receives a tremendous amount of storm-water runoff. With minimal water flow, it sits stagnant throughout the summer. Water temps are high and visibility is low.

I love urban fishing, but I don't think this lake can support bluegill or largemouth. The only fish I've ever seen are carp. They're tough as nails.

This Carp Turned and Ate A Black Bead Head Mini Bugger

The lake was recently dredged to hold more water and prevent flooding. Now the only shallow areas are along the shoreline, many times underneath overhanging trees. That's where I find carp rooting around in the mud for food, usually on calm mornings or evenings. If the wind is up, they seem to be either deep or just difficult to see.

Although bait fishing for carp is popular, if you're after them with a fly rod, it's a sight fishing game. Blind casting is a waste of time. I haven't caught many, but I've had success with small streamers like mini buggers. Another option is fishing an egg pattern. Carp are known to be omnivorous. They eat mulberries and cottonwood seeds. So an egg fished under a tree is probably mistaken for a berry or seed.

Carp are known to be selective and spooky, but the fish near my home are not pressured. When fishing, I've learned to lookout for reaction strikes. A reasonable fly, dropped in front of their nose, can result in a quick take.

Closer Look

It's cliche, but time flies. And the older I get, the faster the flight.

We're halfway through August. Soon I'll be going back to school to prep and grind my brain back to bells and lesson plans.

Rubber Legged Popper Eater
Keep 'Em Wet - All Fish Like It

But it ain't over yet. There's still time for a few more dawn patrol sessions, fueled by strong coffee and visions of big fish on a long rod.

Keep 'Em Wet - All Fish Like It

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So proud to have my writing in a magazine I've read for years. On The Water Magazine's Angler's Almanac for 2019 is out and will be on shelves until the end of March. Consider picking one up!

Angler's Almanac Cover
A Fly-Fisher's Panfish Defense

To celebrate and honor these fish, I took advantage of a warm Saturday (1/5) and threw a soft hackle at a local pond. It felt great to cast and a few little jewels came to hand.

Remember, ice fishermen connect through the ice. So if we get a warm day and there's open water, you can panfish with a fly rod all winter long.

Those fin rays remind me of the summer sun.