Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I'm no expert, I've got one full season of fly fishing open water under my belt.  So take my advice with a grain of salt, a dash of lemon pepper, a tab of butter, wrap in foil and grill to perfection..... wait, that's my recipe for the occasional meal of fresh caught gills.

Despite the gray skies, gusting wind, and a slight chill in the air, Spring has sprung, the ice fishing gear is stowed away, doomed to collect dust in the corner of the garage for the next 7 months.  It's time for me to pull out the fly rod for me.

My rod is a 4 piece 4 wt Cabela's traditional II with a Prestige Plus fly reel.  A 5wt with matching reel, backing and line is a great set up for beginners, and I know of advanced anglers who chase all manner of fish with a 0wt.  I've never even seen a 1wt, let alone smaller. A 4wt is my choice, your choice, I'll leave to you because it's all about what you are comfortable with, not what I'm comfortable with.

I'm not going to get into casting to much, as I'm not the best caster out there myself.  There are only two things I'll say about casting, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  The lake or stream is not the best place to practice, because you are concentrating on catching fish.  Replace your fly with a piece of yellow yarn, and put a bucket, or some sort of ring in the backyard and practice casting into that from various distances.  The second thing I'll say on casting is this.... Have some one teach you how to cast.  Youtube is great for a lot of things, but it can't see you cast and tell you what you are doing wrong, or right.  Contact your local fly shop, Trout Unlimited Chapter, or other Fly Fishing club, and I can almost guarantee someone will be willing to show you the ropes on casting.

Enough of that, let's get to what I'm good at, flies, and their presentation!  Well, I think I'm good at it anyway. Grain of salt remember!

Right now, March 23rd, 2010 in Nebraska, means LOW and Slow!  Water temps are beginning to flirt with the mid 40's, and the fish are not looking to the surface for grasshoppers, crickets, and hatches of midges. Some flies to use right now are pheasant tail nymphs, hare's ear nymphs, scuds, and other various small "bugs".  By small, I use size 12 & 14 hooks.  A fly with a bead head, or some wire as an underbody are what I'm using right now, to get the fly down to the bottom.  Think trout flies!  Bluegills are not picky, they won't look upon a fancy trout fly as something too good for them.  Cast your fly out, let it sink, pull the slack from your line, and give it a slow strip, strip, pause. Repeat until there's a fish on, or you have lifted your fly from the water.  Vary your speeds, and the length of the pause.  Gills will often hit on the pause right now.  Watch your line for the slightest twitch.  I was once told to set the hook if I see my line doing anything I can't explain.

Pheasant Tail Nymph


As the water warms up, and the gills are moving shallower, and beginning to think about spawning, I'm still not reaching for a popper.  But I am upsizing my fly to something in the size 12 up to even an 8 hook.  Slow sinking flies are my go to from here on out until about a month before ice up.  I'm still using a "strip, strip, pause" retrieve, but I'm speeding it up a bit.  I'm also using flies with "body parts" that flare out and move with movement.    Dragon fly Nymphs!!!!!! tie some!

A few favorites of mine for slow sinking, non weighted flies... These can be found on Ward Bean's site .  This guy loves fishing for big gills, and knows how to tie flies for them!

Panfish PoleCat

Orange Teal, also works great in black and olive!

Wooly buggers are always a good choice, the one pictured was tied by the mad hatter tier known as Fly-Boy-Wray.

I've got high hopes for this fly once the water warms up

B-Creek Nymph

Summer = top water time!
To me, there isn't anything better than watching a bull gill attack my fly as if he's ticked off at the world and has a chip on his shoulder.  I didn't use poppers a lot last year (remember, 1 full year under my belt....) because I can't make em small enough yet, got some good bass sized poppers made while trying.  Besides, a popper doesn't "look" like anything.  I like to use grasshopper imitations and other dry flies.  Once I begin seeing grasshoppers in the tall grass, I tie on a grass hopper pattern.  If I see any "bugs" popping on the surface, I put on a dry fly.  Bluegills don't really care that your dry fly doesn't match the hatch, they see the disturbance on the surface, and decide that "that" bug deserves to be eaten. You don't want to have your popper/hopper ripping across the surface like a buzz bait, just give it a few twitches.  Grab a live grasshopper or cricket, toss it in the water and watch it kick back to shore for a good example of what to mimic!

Hopper pattern, Can't think of the name, made with green and tan craft foam sheets from Hobby Lobby.

the "Gill-er", made from the same colors of foam as the hopper because that's what I had cut when I tied it.

Any dry fly will work when there's a hatch on!  Heck, they work well even when there isn't a hatch on.

As the water begins to cool, I reverse order, start fishing deeper, and slower..... Strip, Strip, Pause.... Strip, Strip, Pause....

Well, I've exhausted my knowledge of flies to presentation of said flies for bluegill.  I hope at least one person was able to meander through my ramblings and pull something out of it. 

NOTE, I fly fish, and tie flies almost excursively for bluegill, BUT, those pesky bass, an occasional catfish, 1 musky, and even a drum have all fallen to a fly I was throwing while dreaming of big gills.

10" Master Angler Redear, caught on a panfish polecat

21" drum caught on a hare's ear nymph.  Heck of a fight on a 3wt


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great job and information. Ain't ever fly fished before in my life. I bet it was fun pulling them in on light gear. Thank for the pictures again nice job.
Alex, That is a great job. Your flies are looking really sharp. K I am sold got to go fishin, NOW.
Oh Alex, with a year under your belt an the flies and fishon this post, would make you a quasi-advanced Angler. Takes about 30 min. to teach some one to cast, and they will spend the rest of their life trying to Perfect it!!!!!
Hey Alex, If you could only use one fly for B.G. what would you use?
Thanks for the compliments Greg. If I had to choose just one, the panfish polecat. I've caught so many gills on that fly it's ridiculous. Plus, it's easy to tie.
Sweet flies Alex! I got a 3 wt late in the season last year that I'm going to figure out this year.
really nice flies!the p t nymph is as good as i have seen in any book.i have to go back and look at these again.
Great job on the article...

I have fly fished for Gills off and on for the past 15 years or so and now have taught my son of 8 years old to do the same. He has been practicing all Winter since Santa brought his own, first, fly rod. It is going to be a memory, fun filled Spring and Summer, that's for sure.

Look forward to some more "instructions" from the 2nd year veteran.
You know... I think the most fun I have Ever had fishing (and I've been to Alaska, British Columbia, and Mexico) is when I sat out in my float tube on a small pond in San Diego County, and good sized Bluegill were surface feeding all around me. I had an old Fenwick FF750 flyrod and just had a blast catching one fish after another with a dry fly. All by myself on a foggy summer morning. Man, that was the best!
Nice writeup - nice flies - and NICE fish! Just nice all around. Look forward to seeing more from you in the future.
nice flys and pics what part of nebraska do u fish?
i have been using montana stoneflies having great luck on them.
Excellent Alex!!!Worth several rereads and telling fishing pals about. Do you bother with poppers much?I just got the flyrod out of the dusty closet and that's all I'm throwing while learning to match my gear,cast etc.


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