The How, What, When and Where of Fly Fishing for Bluegill

Posted by  Thursday, May 29 2014 3:00 pm
Published in Blogs > On the Water > Fishing > Panfish
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AboutFlyFishingBluegill blogFly fishing is the first love of many die hard anglers. Few things match the inspirational feeling of loading a rod up and shooting a line 40 feet across a cold, clear trout stream. Equally inspiring is the powerful strike of a hard fighting fish. Trout are fabulous fish to target, but finding a place to catch them where the action is steady can be very difficult. Here are some tips on fly fishing for bluegill.

Where to Fish

Bluegill are prolific breeders and are found across the country in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. Many fish and game departments stock bluegills in new lakes to provide a food source for other species such as bass and catfish. Bluegill are so common that they are most often the very first fish a child catches.

Bluegill seem to be everywhere in a lake. They do often hang out by boat docks and other structure where algae grows. Other bait fish and insects live around such structures and bluegill follow.

The shallow ends of ponds and the back and sides of coves in lakes will hold bedding bluegills. Shallow water spots with little current are the spots to check in streams. Look for shallow, basketball sized depressions on the bottom in water depths 6 inches to 2 feet. You have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when you find a colony with hundreds of nests in it.

When to Fish 

The opportunities to fish for bluegill are as prevalent as the fish themselves. There doesn't seem to be a bad time to fish for bluegill. Day, night and any time of year, bluegills can be found. They are a great to to fish when the action for other species is slow. Bluegill stand alone as a fish that is sporty and great dinner fare as well.

The summer months are the best times to fly fish for bluegills. The prolific breeders begin gathering on colonies of beds in shallow water in May in the south and into the summer the further north you go.

How to Fish

Approach bedding bluegills with stealth. They will spook easily. If you do spook them from the nests, stay put. They will will return quickly.

Locate the edge of a colony and begin fishing there using a 3 or 4 weight fly rod. Slowly work your way around the edges and into the middle as fishing slows on the outer edges.

You can easily catch bedding bluegills from the pond or lake bank. However, a small craft such as a kayak or a belly boat is ideal for approaching and fishing bluegill beds. you can quietly move about without spooking fish and put yourself in the best spots. The big advantage of fishing from a craft is that you can work big beds thoroughly by rotating from spot to spot every few minutes.

What Flies to Use

Bluegills defend their nests with great valor. They will attack anything which falls into their nests or near it. Bluegills have very tiny mouths, so flies should be kept small. Wet flies, virtually any pattern, will work if cast softly to the nest. Black gnats are favorite. The black body with a red tail shows up well.

For blow up action, tie on a small popper or rubber spider. Bluegills will make explosive strikes as they clobber any floating bug that gets close to the nest. If one misses on the first strike, cast back into the nest. They will strike again and again.

Flies can often be difficult to remove from a bluegill's mouth. Carry a popsicle stick; cut a "V" notch in one end. It makes the perfect hook disgorger for bluegills. Carry and extra popsicle or two in your cooler as well. They will be great on a hot summer day after catching dozens of big bluegill on a fly rod.

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Bill Cooper
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Bill Cooper is a 40-year veteran outdoor writer from Missouri. He is a Distinguished Military Graduate from the University of Missouri where he earned a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education. He is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a past president of the Missouri Outdoor Communicators. Bill received the Conservation Educator of the Year Award from the Conservation Federation of Missouri in 2000 and the Conservation Communicator Award in 2008.

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