About Bluegill
If they grew to five pounds we wouldn't know what they looked like

Excerpted from an article By Bob Brunnsell

The encyclopedia defines game fish as meaning "any fish that by reason of its courage and strength puts up a vigorous and prolonged resistance to capture and will take an artificial lure or fly". Did you ever hear a better description of a bluegill? Its strong and untiring fight when taken on a fly never ceases to amaze anglers. As one said, "If they grew to five pounds we would never know what one looked like".


In many Wisconsin lakes they reach a weight of well over a pound and weights of two pounds have been reported. [Bigger fish are seen further south..editor].
A flyrod fish without peer, bluegills are usually available within short driving distances to both rural and urban residents, and so can provide exciting action for most fly fishers all summer long.

Although tending to be less active in the brightest part of the day, during early morning and late afternoon and evening hours the bigger bluegills move in from deep water and begin feeding. As shadows lengthen their caution decreases, and the circling wakes from their rises can be seen and fished to.


One pound bluegills didn't get that way by hanging around close to boats and wading anglers, so if you can consistently make 50 foot casts your chances of taking large ones are greatly enhanced. Also be careful about banging the boat bottom, dropping oars, or any other noises that could move the old wise ones out of casting distance. When feeding they will take both dry and wet flies with enthusiasm, but can be choosy as to size and color, so carry a variety. Fish the weed lines, around lily pads, off the ends of bars and back in the bays, particularly weedy ones.

Although not necessarily a schooling fish, they do group together roughly according to size so sometimes it's necessary to move around to locate larger fish. Drifting or paddling and trolling wet flies will often bring results. When large fish are located, anchor and make casts about 10 feet apart in a circle around the boat, retrieving slowly with frequent pauses. In Wisconsin it's legal to use two flies, and here is a case where adding a dropper fly of a different type or color can help determine which is the most productive at that particular time. Two sunken flies will usually travel deeper than one also.

Rigging a dropper fly that won't tangle is easy. Tie the fly to a six inch strand of monofilament, a little heavier than the regular leader, with a loop in the other end (similar to the old time snelled flies). Then fold the strand around the leader, pass the fly through the loop and pull tight just above the tippet knot Keep it short, five or six inches is about right. The stiffness of the double strands of material in the loop will hold the dropper out away from the leader.

Gray, tan, brown or green are good wet fly and nymph color for bluegills. Green is usually effective in pockets in weeds and along weed lines. Peacock heri nymphs are good, especially in northern lakes and are attractive to bass also. A dandy peacock herl nymph can be made by trimming the wings down to stubs on a regular leadwing coachman wet fly. Fish them with a slow start and stop retrieve, being particularly alert for a take while the nymph is

Undoubtedly the most consistently effective fly rod lure for big bluegills is a small cork popper on a number 10 or 12 hook. In the hands of an experienced bluegill angler, fished early morning and evenings, this floating lure is deadly all season long.

Large bluegills have a killer instinct that, chances are, the successful popper fisher has learned to capitalize on. They use their dorsal finsto slash anything they want to destroy, and even when not feeding, they can't seem to resist trying to cut that popper in pieces as it moves, then pauses on the water surface above them.

The tyro popper fisher's standard complaint is, "I get hits but can t seem to hook them". Well, the secret of hooking them is to put the popper right back where the hit was immediately. Don't waste time false casting. Shoot the line* instead and get the popper right back in the same spot at once. Large bluegills will try several times to kill the fly with their back fins, and usually by the third or fourth cast, the fish becomes so enraged that it takes the popper with a rush and hooks itself. Here is another instance where knowledge about the fish you are seeking and accurate casting pays off.

Poppers with full, stiff dry fly type hackle are virtually weedless when fished slowly across lily pads and other pond weeds. Yellow with brown or gray hackle and tail is the favorite of a great many successful popper fishers. Brown hackle is apt to be stiffer and therefore more weedless than gray.

Bluegills rarely surface feed after dark, but they will often take nymph flies for an hour or more after they quit rising to poppers. A peacock herl nymph is a good bet then.