Monday, May 21, 2012

Fly Fishing Sunfish and Crappies in the Brainerd Lakes Area

Josh with a 12 inch sunfish
The subject of Fly fishing around the Brainerd Lakes Area is not a common topic.  However, I grew up catching sunfish off our dock using a fly rod.  Between my whole family I couldn't even count how many different fly rods we own, ranging from 2wt-12wt.  I have been fortunate to experience fly fishing all over the country, and I have had some absolutely incredible fishing.  When people ask me what my favorite fish to catch on the fly is, I typically don't list just one species.  I will rattle off tarpon, small mouth bass, giant Alaskan rainbows, and sunfish...wait sunfish???  Let me give an example as to why they always make the list.  

Walleye season is open, and I get a text message including a picture from my brother that says "it is flat calm."    “Flat calm”,  referring to the lake, and implying that it is perfect for fly fishing.  30 minutes later Josh and I have a plan to catch some feisty fish on the fly.  We don't need minnows or worms. All we need is a couple 3 wt fly rods, some small nymphs, and a couple cold beers.  We walk down to the boat, knowing that we are in for a blast.  Catching fish is the main goal, but I also look forward to spending time with my brother, who is going to school in Chicago.  Spending time in the boat with Josh is not as common as it used to be, so we intend to make the best of it.  

I hardly get the trolling motor in the water and Josh says "I got one!"  I turn around to seem him hoisting a 10 inch bull sunfish out of the water.  I told him he was cheating and that one didn't count because I hadn't even got my rod yet!  I jumped up, fired the first cast to the shoreline, gave it a few twitches, and BOOM!  Fish on!  My 3 wt rod struggled against the feisty bull sunfish that had eaten my fly.  I reached down and  grabbed another sunfish flirting with the 10 inch mark.  I looked at Josh and we both had giant smiles. 

Normally, whenever Josh and I go fishing we keep track of number of fish caught, and make it a little competition.  This was not even possible!!  Some people say "they were biting every cast," but sometimes that would be 20 minutes in between catches.  We were casting, catching, and releasing fish as fast as we could.  Josh mentioned that he didn't even have time to drink his beer, which is typically a bad thing, but when fishing,  that is a good thing!  

Now I have caught many 6 foot tarpon, 20 inch small mouth bass, 28 inch steelhead, and many other large fish on the fly before.  So many people assume that a 9-12 inch sunfish wouldn't even be a fun target.  Not true!  When using the appropriate rod (Josh and I use a 3 wt fly rod), these sunfish pull like the above mentioned titans of the fly fishing world.  Once hooked, a sunfish will desperately dart and dive, using its dinner plate shaped body to avoid capture.  The best part about fishing for these little bruisers is that they are typically easy to catch! 

Once the sun hit the trees, the sunfish slowly decided to quite biting, or we realistically could have given most of them sore lips.  Whatever the case, Josh and I sat down and reflected on the epic fishing adventure we just got to experience together.  Josh and I couldn't get over how hard these little fish fight, and how willing they are to bite.  To me any fish that gives me the opportunity to make a memory with my little brother, and have an incredible time doing it, is worth making the "favorite" list every time!

Have fun on the water! Capt. Tim Hanske

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