Bluegills aren’t the most popular fish to catch with a fly rod, but they still make for some great fishing for those who love spending time outside. If you want to learn how to fly fish for bluegill, here we will cover everything you need to know to catch these panfish on fly fishing gear.
Bluegill Fly Fishing Gear
- Fly Rod
- Fly Reel
Your rod is extremely important if you want to successfully fly fish for bream and other panfish. A 1wt to 5wt fly rod is recommended.
If you’re only going after panfish a 3wt rod will be fine, but if you want to catch other freshwater fish like bass or trout with the same rod you may be better with a 5wt rod.
Slow action rods are better for lighter flies but aren’t as good for casting long distances. Read our full guide on choosing a bluegill fly rod.
For small panfish your reel isn’t as important as for catching larger fish where having a good drag is essential. You can get away with a cheaper reel because it won’t really be tested.
Just find something lightweight that will be comfortable if you’re using it for long periods.
Remember to keep your presentation small when going after bluegill. If your fly is too large, they won’t end up biting. Try to keep your flies around size 10 to 14.
Some of the best options are:
- Woolly Bugger
- Worm flies
The key is to use a fly that imitates whatever the fish are already eating in the lake or pond waters you are fishing. Read our full review of the best flies for bluegill.
Make sure your fly line matches your rod. If you opt for a 3wt fly rod, use 3wt fly line.
You will mostly be catching bluegill in freshwater ponds and lakes, so will want to use a floating fly line made for freshwater.
The last thing to consider when choosing a fly line for panfish is the amount of taper that the line has.
If you’re fishing poppers or heavier flies you will want to use a weight-forward taper. This is also useful for casting flies on windy days when you need a heavier front section to slice through the wind.
For dry flies a double taper line will work well for your needs.
If you’re going to use a tippet still with something around the 4x to 6x range since you want to keep your gear light.
When to Fly Fish for Bluegill
Fly fishing for bluegill is best done in the spring, fall, and early because during this time they tend to stay close to shore in lakes, which makes catching them on fly gear much easier.
When the waters warm up they go into deeper waters so by mid-summer, fly gear is not the best to catch them on in lakes. However, you can still catch them in ponds in the summertime.
Bluegill are common in freshwater ponds and lakes throughout the country. This is the most likely spot you will be fishing for them. Though you can often find them in large warm water rivers too. There is a very good chance that you have a body of water with these panfish very near you.
Do a quick search to find a good spot to fish. If you’re an avid fisherman you probably already know where you want to try casting your flies.
Once you get to your fishing spot, the next thing you need to do is find where the fish are at.
Take a second to look at the water and search the area for:
- Drop-offs – areas that have shallow water with quick access to deeper water are good spots for bluegills. They like to feed in the shallows but swim off into deeper waters to escape predators.
- Aquatic Vegetation – Weed lines are a good spot because of the aquatic insects drawn to these places. Any kind of aquatic vegetation from weeds to lilies will bring insects which in turn attract hungry fish
- Structure – Any kind of structure such as trees or logs is another good spot to look for bluegills. They will often come to these locations to feed and escape predators.
Fly Fishing Techniques for Catching Bluegills
The most difficult part of fly fishing bluegill is usually just locating them. After you find them, then all you need to do is cast and get your fly in front of them.
Here are a few tips:
Present your fly patterns naturally
Making your fly appear natural is one of the most important tips for fly fishing panfish. Often these means using a slow and steady twitch so your fly is never sitting still for too long.
Bluegills like to go after things that move, but don’t move your fly too fast either. Slow and steady is usually the best way to get these fish to bite.
Using Dry Flies
If the bluegills are feeding near the surface, you want to use a dry fly like a popper or caddis fly so that your fly is presented exactly where they are feeding.
You should be able to hear the small splashes the bluegill are making as they come to feed on the surface.
Tie on your fly and cast it trying to place your fly near where the bluegills are making noise. Slowly twitch and pause your lure so it skips across the area and you should get some actions
If the bluegills are a little deeper and aren’t actively feeding on the surface, this is a good opportunity to fish with a nymph.
The strategy for fishing nymphs will be pretty similar to using dry flies. Cast it into the area the bluegill are at, but this time let it sink.
If you don’t get a strike right away start playing with twitches and pauses until you find the right rhythm that works.
You can use a strike indicator if needed to help you see when the panfish are biting
If the bluegills are near structure, aquatic vegetation, or in their spawning beds, streamers can be a good option. Woolly buggers and minnow imitation flies are good options.
To fish a streamer you want to cast your fly so it lands past where the bluegill are. Then strip your streamer through the area they are in. If they aren’t biting, let it sink. This will often get them to bite.
Catching bream and other panfish on fly gear can make for a fun break from your usual bass fishing. Make sure you are using lighter gear with the appropriate fly sizes so the bluegill will still bite it.
After you’ve been out a few times you’ll start to understand the best spots for catching these panfish and how to work your flies for maximum success. Just remember to experiment with different tactics until you figure out what works best.
For more information on the basics of fly fishing for panfish be sure to watch this video:
To learn more about bluegill fishing read our ultimate guide on how to catch bluegill.