Fly Fishing Deep Water for Panfish

Until quite recently fly fishing over water of considerable depth usually resulted in lots of casting practice and few fish

Line manufacturers have been a big help. Most companies now offer sinking lines in a variety of sizes and tapers. In addition the angler has a choice of densities that determine how fast and, to some extent, how deep each line will submerge. Sinking rates are usually designated as slow, fast and extra fast.

Besides conventional double taper and weight forward styles, they are available in thirty foot "shooting" heads or tapers. Made with a small diameter loop designed to be fixed to a similar loop on a level line fastened to the reel, they are usually a little less than half the price of a regular tapered line.

I have had very good luck using these latter for mid and late summer crappie and bluegills. Spliced to the running part of old weight forward lines, they take flies down fifteen or more feet quickly and the level floating line is a good strike indicator.

Splicing fly lines, at least the way I do it, is no big deal. Just lap the two ends and wrap them tightly with rod winding thread and a whip knot. Clip the tag ends close to the winding. Taper with a few more thread wraps and another whip finish. Give the splice several coats of Spar varnish. The thread bites into the plastic line surface and varnish penetrates the wraps well.

The connection shouldn't be over three-quarters of an inch long, nor does it need to be bulky. Varnish will give a smooth finish and the whole thing will slip through the guides without a whimper. Lines rigged this way cast beautifully. Much better than the loop arrangement they come with.

I live a short distance from Madison, and for years have regarded the lakes there, especially Waubesa, as kind of a fly fisher's paradise. Until a couple of years ago, that is. Then, the DNR sponsored a massive weed-poisoning program.

Bays that formerly teemed with bass and large panfish are weedless and fishless. Stripers have entirely disappeared and bluegills nearly so. Crappies that used to forage along weed lines in the shallows now feed in deep water.

We flyfishers have had to alter techniques. The new sinking lines are a blessing. I now carry a reel in my fishing vest besides that on the rod. One has a sinking and the other a floating line. Some experts recommend using a reel with quick-change spools and carrying extras with alternate lines.

It seems to me that it is quicker to switch the complete reel. They take up little more room and there is no hassle with line coming unwound in a pocket.

I always liked the older skeleton-type reels like Pflueger's Sal-trout. They can still be obtained inexpensively at rummage sales and second-hand stores. I am also partial to slip-ring and cork reel seats because they make reel changing easy. The secret of installing reels securely in these rings is to slide the rear one tightly back against the stop at the rear of the seat, slip one reel foot into this, then crowd the other ring over the front foot forcing the reel and ring firmly rearward. Doing it this way makes the rings bite into the cork enough to keep the reel tightly in place.

I have a line on which the first ten feet sinks, but this is rarely used. The thirty-foot fast sinking taper seems the most practical. Care must be taken however to bring most of it out of the water before trying to recast. Picking up twenty or thirty feet of sunken line is a good way to break or seriously damage a rod.

Locating fish in deep water is more difficult than in shallows. We have learned to let our boat or canoe drift through likely areas, fishing as we go. If the wind seems the right speed we may even troll sunken flies. An empty plastic jug attached by twenty-five feet or so of line to a weight makes a dandy buoy. When we get a hit, it is thrown over and we have a marker to fish around. Usually several fish, especially crappies can be taken in one area.

When using a sinking line, leaders should be kept short to be sure the fly swims at the desired depth when retrieved. As a rule, the longer the leader, the higher the fly will ride in relation to the line. Weighted flies of course are an exception. We often use leaders as short as three feet.

Shortly after World War II salt-water fishers started to use lead-head jigs. Eventually these were made in smaller sizes for fresh water use, but so far none have been made commercially in fly rod sizes.

Bob Turner, Evansville, has been making them for his own use for some time, however. His method is simple and here it is. He dabs a little soldering flux on a hook just back of the eye, tins this spot with a little solder and an electric soldering gun, drops a globule of solder on the hook. If necessary, he can adjust the size or shape by another quick pass with the soldering gun.

The result is a lead-head jig that can be cast easily with a fly fishing outfit, and when used with a long leader, sinks quickly.

"Wag-tail" type plastic lures on lead head jigs have been popular for the last couple of years. They donít stay on the hooks well so most dealers carry replacement tails in various sizes and colors.

We have been using them in small sizes on regular fly hooks for crappies and bluegills along with Turner's solder idea to sink them.

A drop on a turned-down-eye hook will make it ride point up. After the solder is in place the shank is wrapped with tying thread and coated with head cement. Then a piece of copper wire about a quarter of an inch long is whipped on the hook and pried away to make a barb for keeping the plastic tail in place. The thread holding this is saturated with head cement also. The winding and solder head can be given a coat of colored naiI polish if desired.

These "wag-tails" are particularly hot for crappies right now, and besides we have been dredging up one or two nine or ten inch bluegills nearly every trip with them. Right now, on Lake Waubesa, that is quite an accomplishment.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have learned since this article was written that, when a
fly Iine is spliced, it's not a bad idea to sew the overlap together with a few
stitches of thread before wrapping with rod winding thread. It makes an even
more durable splice.