Largemouth Bass Lineup

Largemouth Bass Lineup

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of the Bluegill is almost done

Panfish....the Rodney Dangerfield fish of the fly fishing community.  They never get any respect. Why do we, as fly fishermen, often turn our noses up at this species of fish?  To chase them on the fly is akin to slumming so to speak.  Why is that?

It is hard to believe that almost a year ago, Cameron hatched an idea late at night that would showcase an underrated and often under appreciated fish, the bluegill, for the coming year.  It was proclaimed that 2013 would be the Year of the Bluegill.  When I first heard about this, I have to say that I was super excited.  I am at heart a panfish fly fisherman.  I truly enjoy pursuing these awesome fighters on the fly.  I have tailored my poppers as such and created a business around my pursuit of these spunky fish.  Usually, fly fishermen start their journey into the fly fishing world via these fish.  They can be easy to catch, they readily take top water, and they live in places that allow for long back casts.  So, beginner fly fishermen can catch fish, see the strike and work on their casting/presentation.  Somewhere along the way, we switch to trout.  Some stay the course with trout and never look back.  Others, like myself, eventually find their way back to the glory that is warm water fly fishing.  I was so excited about the Year of the Bluegill that I had Melissa take a photo of me working on poppers while wearing one of my many TFM shirts.  That photo (thanks to the many friends and family who voted) was able to be the first winner of the spotting contest Cameron has each year.  January belonged to warm water fishermen and in particular the bluegill. The Year of the Bluegill was off to a bang!

Many months ago, I dug out several books related to panfish and fly fishing.  Once again, I had Melissa snap a quick photo of me with them.  I figured since I couldn't fish for them given my injury, I would at least read about them.  I have had these books for many years now.  I have read them before but I continue to come back to them.  I wanted to do a review of each one and share them with other panfish enthusiasts from around the world that may not have heard about them.  I, admittedly, am a little (lot) late on this but I still want to share these books with you all in case you haven't seen them before now.

First up we have an older book purchased by my father many years ago for me.  It is called America's Favorite Fishing: A Complete Guide to Angling for Panfish.  The copyright of the book is 1964.  My copy is a sixth printing dated 1971.  The book is divided into chapters that highlight various panfish.  The first one is the almighty bluegill but there are also chapters on crappie, rock and warmouth bass, sunfish, yellow perch, white and yellow bass, white perch and bullhead.  Each of these chapters contains information on the specific fish regarding habitat, feeding, reproduction, growth and size and geographical distribution.  There is a small chapter dedicated to fly fishing for these guys.  For me the two sentences of the chapter sum up fly fishing for panfish.  The author writes "If you are used to catching panfish on casting tackle of hoisting them aloft at the end of a long cane pole, then you have a thrill in store for you when you feel the remarkable fighting qualities of these fish on a light, limber fly rod.  Not only will you derive far more pleasure from fly fishing, but you will catch more and bigger fish, particularly in shallow water."  What more can be said on the subject?  I will say that I enjoyed seeing that in the book the "high-priced rods" were those rods over forty dollars!  If only....

The next book devoted to fly fishing for panfish is called Bluegill.....Fly Fishing & Flies by Terry & Roxanne Wilson.  The copyright for this book is 1999.  This book is all about bluegill and how to catch them on the fly.  Plain and simple.  Imagine a whole book based solely around that hard hitting, sideways pulling panfish.  The book is broken down into chapters on gearing up, completing your fly box, choosing the right water, bluegill in spring, summer and fall as well as effective presentations.  Under the completing the fly box chapter there are recipes to tie dries, nymphs, floaters/divers, soft-hackle, wet, terrestrials, bream killers, streamers, worms and crayfish.  Is this an all inclusive list of flies for bluegill or  It does, however, give you a great place to start with a lot of great and easy flies to tie in order to stock up your fly box.  The book is around 150 pages long and is an easy read.  It really shouldn't take more than a few days to finish it.  I would highly recommend this book for those who want to chase the bluegill on the fly.  Also, check out Terry and Roxanne Wilson's website called The Bluegill Pond.  They have a new book out now devoted to crappie on the fly.

Last but not least we have a book titled The Sunfishes: FLY FISHING techniques, tackle, and NEW THINKING in the pursuit of America's favorite gamefish.  This book was written by Jack Ellis and illustrated by David Taft.  The copyright for this book is 1995 and it has around 150 pages.  The book is broken up into chapters that cover everything from the sunfish clan to the bass and bream dilemma to sink or not to sink.  There is, as with others, a chapter on fly tying that contains both SBS and recipes for tying panfish flies.  For me though the author's conclusions may be what is most important.  On page 139 Ellis writes that "It was convenient and fashionable to look down our noses at "panfish" when we enjoyed countless miles of pristine, unpolluted trout streams."  He goes on to write that "I cut my fly-fishing teeth on trout streams and had a difficult time changing my attitude until I realized that sunfish are a lot harder to catch than I had assumed." Nothing rings more true in the fly fishing community than this statement.  Even now, I still get weird looks, turned heads and snide remarks when I tell people I mainly fly fish for bass and panfish.  

I am very glad that Cameron made a last minute decision to crown 2013 the Year of the Bluegill.  It has been a great year with a lot of well deserved attention given to an underrated and often under appreciated fish.  I have been able to meet anglers from all over the world who also have a passion for these fish.  In fact, despite not having met them face to face, I would consider some of them dear friends.  Maybe it should have been the year of the panfish?  Who knows?  I value all species of panfish on the fly but rightfully so the bluegill is king and at the top of the list.  These books are not the only books out there regarding fly fishing for panfish or bluegill specifically.  They are simply the ones I own.  I simply wanted to share my love of them with others out there in hopes that you too may find them useful and insightful.  

As the Year of the Bluegill comes to a close, the question was asked....what now?  What will 2014 be?  The Year of the Panfish?  The Year of the Bass?  The Year of the Smallie?  I don't know.  As of now, 2014 has not been crowned the year of anything.  I have staked claim to the Year of the Smallie.  I am not sure if I have the connections though to make it work like Cameron did with the Year of the Bluegill.  

Works Cited
Rice, F. Philip. America's Favorite Fishing: A Complete Guide to Angling for Panfish. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Wilson, Terry & Roxanne. Bluegill....Fly Fishing & Flies. Oregon: Frank Amato Publications, 1999.

Ellis, Jack. The Sunfishes: FLY FISHING techniques, tackle, and NEW THINKING for the prusuit of America's favorite gamefish. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1995.

Where to Purchase


  1. "2014:The Second Year Of The Bluegill"

  2. Bluegill, I've been known to C&R one now and then. My brother had the pleasure of accidently dropping the biggest Bluegill my Dad ever caught on a fly rod, back into the lake. I guess that makes me a second generation, Bluegill on a fly rod, fisherman.

    1. Mark they are such a fun fish to catch on the fly. Try targeting them more in 2014. You won't be disappointed

  3. My true first love was catching Bluegill with a fly rod. I, too, did the Trout thing long and hard for many years. Now, I have come back to fly fishing for Bluegill, Crappie and other Panfish and have re-kindled my love affair. Therefore, the change in my blog title and focus. Appreciate you sharing the information on the books. Bluegill Fly Fishing and Flies is a great book that I refer too often. With that all being said, Rocky the Movie had several versions. IE: second, third, Four, etc. I am all in for "Bluegill 2".

    1. Mel,

      Glad you came back and that you have managed to make it to the dark side of fly fishing! It is such a pleasure to chase those guys on the fly. I still, every once in a while, do chase some trout though. Any fish on the fly is great!