In those days there was only the "holy trinity" in Willard...crappies, cats and walleyes...plus lots of bluegills and green sunfish. The crappies were so numerous and cooperative I started flinging flies at them. In those days...BS (before shad...and wipers)...the fish mostly hung out near the always flooded rock dikes. That's where the food was...the fry of all species and plenty of crawdads and other invertebrates. So fishing along the dikes was the best place to fish.
I flung a 9' for 6 weight rod with a sink tip line. And most of my successful patterns were variations on black...sometimes white or chartreuse. My best all around fly was a "silver Hilton"...a steelhead pattern I brought with me when I moved from California.
When I first started chasing crappies with the fly rod I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the "other guys" liked flies too. On an average trip I would catch grundles of crappies, more than a few cats and a surprising number of decent walleyes. They were all cruising the rocks looking for baby crappies, sunfish and/or catfish. And they all readily munched the feathers.
After moving back to Utah in 2004, I was pleased to find that flies still worked. But because of the changes in the ecology of Willard...shad and wipers...the populations and habits of all species had changed too. However, it didn't take long to discover the joys of hooking wipers on the fly. Yahoo.
Since my fly tying and jig making skills had progressed over the years, I introduced a lot of new styles and colors to the Willard denizens. I have found that they will hit almost any color fly or feather jig...if it is properly presented...at the right depth and speed. But variations of black seem to remain the overall best colors. These include some of the newer combos, like the Captain Midnight (black with blue and red flecks) and the Diablo Rojo (black with red flecks). And as Fatbiker and others have discovered, black patterns with red, orange or even pink in the mix are attractive at times.
Back "in the day", I actually won a $100 bet with a know-it-all customer from Anglers' Inn who disputed my claims to be able to catch cats on flies. I actually lessened his likelihood of losing the bet by agreeing to catch a limit (8 cats) within an hour. When I looked up for him in the crowd...from my float tube on the water...after catching the 8th cat in about 30 minutes...he was a distant speck walking back down the dike to his car. I never collected.
I don't wave the long rod much these days but still throw marabou jigs with spinning tackle a bit. And, like FB and others have found, the mix of species in
Willard makes it an exciting challenge on any given day...to go for a slam...or even a grand slime (5 or more species).