Flicking Flies for Bluegill

For many anglers the first fish they wrap their hands around is the bluegill. One of the feistiest fish, if they got to five pounds you’d probably never get one in your grip. There are as many ways to catch them as there are places. Years back it could have been a simple set up like a cane pole, a push button reel and rod combo was common, light open faced spinning gear is still employed by many but for a “ton of fun” flyrod fishing is hard to beat. Part of the popularity of the bluegill is the places to find them. Wide spread distribution and many diversely different kind of waters are home to the “gills.” Small creeks, sprawling impoundments, farm ponds, mighty rivers and literally lakes of all sizes are home to big populations of this colorful character. The approach to finding them and fishing for them are equally varied. I’ve spent many hours walking the banks of small waters in search of the hand sized models. Wading creeks and streams has also yielded both fish and memories. One of the most successful bluegill trips I ever had was with a diehard bass angler. We blasted out on his home lake, Center Hill in Tennessee in a highly powered 21 foot bass boat. On the deck were a handful of rods rigged with two large pinch on type split shot sinkers with #8 hooks tied to the end. The sound of the crickets was deafening. There were several hundred of the bugs in cricket cages, they were described as the preferred food and bait to lure the bluegills out of deeper water. The next three hours produced non-stop action and two livewells full of “bull” bluegill. Big enough to fillet and great fare at the table the biblical size bluegill catch that day supplied many fish for the subsequent fries.


The qualities of the flyrod plays perfectly into the nature of the bluegill, other members of the sunfish family and bass of all varieties and sizes. With the subtle, silent approach of the long rods, they prove effective in presenting mid water columns with wet flies, or my personal preference taking them from the top with floating surface bugs. The artistry of the cast allows a quiet landing of the fly of choice, stripping the line with the left hand (if you are right handed) in small swimming motions, or letting the offering drift with the current in moving water or locomotion supplied by the breeze bluegill will readily follow the fly and eat it. The “slurping” sound they make on a small popper or sponge spider makes every flyrod enthusiast smile. A simple sweeping upward motion secures the hook in the mouth of the fish and the bow in the rod plus the scrap they put up is intoxicating. Because the brave bluegill will attack just about anything in the immediate area they can be tricked by a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes of artificial lures. While there are legions of folks content to walk or wade the kayak offers a certain amount of positioning without sacrificing stealth.

Generally I like to carry to rods and a small collection of flies and some redundancy in types. A sponge spider tied to a #10 hook on green or white presented on a five weight flyrod is deadly for bedding bluegills. Black gnats, small cork bodied poppers and just about any combination of feathers, yarn, marabou or deer hair (its’s hollow and it floats) is likely to draw the attention of fish on the fly rod. As it is with any artificial bait presentation making the lure look injured or in escape mode draws a multitude of hits. Again retrieve speed is gauged on the aggressive nature of the fish at the time. As a side note, bluegills spawn at 70 degrees and on the full moon and unlike most fish they will have multiple spawns as long as the surface water is at 70 and each subsequent full moon they go again. The beds are easily spotted. Bluegill beds appear as bottom indentations about size of a dinner plate and in a gravel or hard bottom area the multiple beds form a “honeycomb” with pairs of the “gills” swimming nervously in tight circles.

The beds are in places that get a maximum amount of sunlight to incubate the eggs. A good pair of sunglasses are invaluable to locate the beds. I use the reasonably priced Strike King sunglasses www.strikeking.com there different frame styles and lenses colors for bright sunshine and overcast days also. Sunglasses also protect the eyes from the errant fly bugs as well as the sun’s rays. While fly fishing I have caught giant bass, up to eight pounds, several slab crappie, an unintentional epic battle with a 25 carp that ate a cicada pattern and even channel catfish. The realism and natural look of the bugs that imitate just about anything including mayflies, the afore mentioned cicada, crawfish, minnows, frogs, dragonflies and more of the natural forage found in and around the water fool fish on the regular. A simple set up the fly rod launches the lure at the hand if the angler, the reel is merely a place to hold the line. Kayak poisoning and area entry is smooth and stealthy. I’ve used my Big Rig, the MayFly and soon the Liska for the stability and perfect platform for the fly fishing techniques. Positioning with the paddle (mine is the Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon model) www.bendingbranches.com is accomplished with small shallow strokes anticipating the glide. In approaching bedding bluegills keep your distance and fish the beds closest to you first as to not spook the rest of the spawners. Even when they are scared off they return to their own nest eventually.


In harvesting bluegills I recommend the ten to one rule. To keep balance in a small body of water for every bass kept string ten bluegill. If it’s private water a mess of fish fillets might ensure an invitation to return. Fly fishing fun from a kayak, it’s not for everyone, just those who want to catch a bunch of fish!

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