A lot of fly fishermen who grew up in the Midwest, like me, have a soft spot in their heart for the bluegill (or sunfish as some people know it). I often go out looking specifically for these tenacious little buggers, especially in late spring and early summer primarily due to all the top water action. One of my favorite flies to use when I am fishing the shallow shoreline for bluegills is called the “Dragon Tail” (commercially tied by Montana Fly Company).
Behind the design
I designed this pattern after not being happy with other dragon fly patterns out on the market. Here are a few improvements that I focused on when I was designing the “Dragon Tail.”
- Wings – The wings stay straight out even after a bunch of fish and hours of casting. Most dragon fly patterns have wing material not stiff enough to withstand a day of casting and becomes permanently bent to the back of the fly.
- Tail – Another reason I like this pattern over others is the highly flexible tail. Most patterns use wound deer hair or mono braided tubing/line; sometimes the stiff tail will cause missed hookups.
- Hook – The hook used for this pattern has an extra-large hook gap compared to other dragon fly patterns which also helps reduce missed hookups.
- Legs – To add to the realism, I made sure this fly included rubber legs.
- Visibility – It’s always nice to be able to easily see your fly, especially when using it as the indicator for a dropper or when fishing it in thick lily pads, for example.
- Colors and realism – The pattern comes in multiple color variations that mimic many of the dragon fly variations I have seen on the water. Plus, the combination between the three layers of foam and the segmented body give the pattern a realistic frame.
Though I designed it initially with pan fish in mind, the “Dragon Tail” is not exclusively a pan fish fly. I’ve used it already to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass (and even the occasional pike!). I haven’t yet used it for trout, but have no doubt it would work .
How I Fish It
Sure, it’s not rocket science, but here are a few tips for fishing the fly.
- I always tie a loop type knot such as the Rapala® Knot or some similar variation. This allows for a little freer movement of the fly.
- Typically use either my 5wt. or 6wt. 9’ rod.
- Standard floating line with a 9’ or 10’ leader
- After casting, I let the fly sit a few seconds before I give it a couple of twitches. If there is a fish in the area, it usually smashes it.
Occasionally when a cold front comes through and the fishing slows down a bit, I use the “Dragon Tail” as an indicator by dropping a nymph or small leech pattern off the back. A roughly 18-inch piece of tippet works well most of the time.
Some real results
Last summer, after a long day on the lake with little success (despite all the rumors we were we heard about being in smallmouth heaven) Jason and I decided to do some exploring and headed to a smaller lake. We got into some monster bluegills and the occasional largemouth bass thanks to the “Dragon Tail.”