Sometimes, we as fly fishers can get a little elitist when it comes to what species we chase on the fly and its time that stigma comes to an end. With the right rod and fishing style, any fish can be a blast and a challenge to catch on the fly, and many of these species are probably closer to you than you think. So let’s ditch the concept of “trash fish”, and hit the water without preconceived notions and chase the tug!
For most of us, panfish are the first fish we caught on the fly. They’re found in pretty much every pond in the USA and will happily crush a fly. what makes them truly great is the variety of ways you can target them. You can toss dry droppers, streamers, poppers, dry flies, pretty much any fly you have will hook one. If you want to up the ante and really have some fun, try sizing down your rod weight the next time you go out. A good-sized sunny will pull harder than you think. Plus where there is one panfish, there are hundreds, so no matter their size, you will have a blast chasing these fun-sized fish!
Still considered by many to be a “trash fish”, the carp is one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there. Carp don’t produce lactic acid when they exert energy which means their muscles don’t physically tire out. Instead, you as the angler have the challenge of convincing that fish that the fight isn’t worth it. Which means if you hook a decent sized one, odds are you’re going to see some backing once you set your hook. Since carp are an invasive species, finding them isnt that tough, odds are there are plenty of them around you in streams, rivers or ponds. Personally, my favorite aspect of these fish is that you almost have to sight fish them, which ups the challenge and the intensity!
The white bass is the often forgotten cousin in the bass family. These fish will smash topwater or a streamer with reckless disregard. Found all across the midwest and in the lakes and rivers of the east, these fish offer a prime opportunity for fly fishing fun, especially during their annual spawning runs up the rivers and tributaries they inhabit.
Catfish are probably not the first fish that comes to mind when you think about a fish to start targeting on the fly, but bear with me. These fish pull hard and are a blast to sight fish when the opportunity presents itself. I have personally hooked them on dry flies, #16 nymphs and 4″ long streamers. Found in most fresh bodies of water in the US and boy do they pull hard. One of the best times to target them is during the heat of the day as they cruise around feeding on whatever they find, next time you see one, throw a crayfish pattern in front of them and watch them suck it down!
Hybrid Striped Bass
Possibly one of the best hybridizations of game fish in the US, these fish combine the heartiness of the Striped Bass with the broad shoulders of white bass. Although sterile, these fish can be found all over the Mississippi River watershed, and have been introduced in countless other waterways. One of the easiest areas to target them is when they stack up at the bases of locks and dams and blitz with the ferocity of their salty cousins. All you need is an 8 wt and some Clousers to make it happen!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!