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Professor Bluegill

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Published on: May. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

shore, I resort to sinking fly lines, or weighted flies and strike indicators, often prospecting around drop offs, submerged trees and brush until I find fish. A few avid bluegill anglers utilize electronic fish finders to locate fish in larger bodies of water.

You'll find lots of bluegills but the challenge is finding "big" bluegills. I consider a big bluegill anything over 8 inches long, with trophies starting at 10 inches. I know anglers who specialize in stalking trophy bluegills with a fly rod, traveling all over Missouri and to distant states in their quest.

Whoa! Wait a minute, this is starting to sound like trout fishing.

The truth is, you can make fly fishing for bluegill whatever you want. You can use one fly pattern, fish the known spawning locations of a familiar local pond on warm spring afternoons, and you have the ingredients for rewarding and relaxing fishing fun. Scientific anglers might even enjoy chasing schooling bluegills with size 20 dry flies during a hatch of Caenis mayflies on a late-summer evening.

Whatever approach you choose, you'll find that bluegill, like trout, were designed for the fly rod. Bluegills make their living eating invertebrates, insects, crustaceans and a myriad of other small bugs. They're not designed to chase down 6-inch gizzard shad, so throwing a plug the size of a small poodle just scares them. Fly fishing is the perfect way to catch almost any fish that eats small foods imitated by tiny artificials.

Fly fishing for bluegills isn't just fun, it's deadly effective. However, don't get greedy. Help yourself to a nice meal of bluegill fillets now and then, but give big bluegills the same respect you'd give big bass or trout. In Missouri, bluegill take 6 or 7 years to grow to 8 inches. Obviously, Mother Nature cannot replace such old fish overnight. Limit your kill, don't kill your limit.

To Get Started:

  • Rod: 7- to 9-foot fly rods designed to cast 4- to 6-weight lines.
  • Reel: a lightweight, single-action reel with a clicker drag is all you need.
  • Line: Double taper or weight-forward taper floating fly lines are the most versatile. Check your rod for the manufacturer's suggested line weight before you buy.
  • Leaders: 7.5- to 9-foot tapered leaders with 3- to 6-pound test tippets.
  • Flies: A wide variety of wet and dry flies, nymphs, streamers, cork and deer hair poppers, jigs and sponge bugs will all catch bluegill. Size 10-14 hooks are usually best.
  • Accessories: Because bluegills have such small mouths, a pair of hemostats is useful for removing hooks. Polarized sunglasses and a hat with a brim will keep sun and hooks out of your eyes and help you see the fish before casting.

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