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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Abundant bluegill make fine April fly-fishing fare

April 17, 2005

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April is a month blooming with possibilities for fly-fishing anglers.

Overlooked, perhaps, is the feisty bluegill, which isn't as glamorous as the rainbow trout, or as athletic as the smallmouth bass, a brown blur that attacks streamers like a homing torpedo.

But bluegills are so available, found in farm ponds and small lakes in many other parts of the United States.

"Farm ponds warm up before other bodies of water and offer the best fishing in the early spring," said Lee McClellan of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

"When water temperatures reach 55 degrees, bluegills get extremely active. They start chowing down," said Fred Pfister, owner of the Orvis fly-fishing shop in Lexington Center. "They like to see a moving fly because they're feeding on nymphs that are emerging."

Nymphs, the larval stage of aquatic insects, live on the bottoms of lakes and streams, and are found around rocks and logs. They have scaly, segmented bodies and clawed legs.

As the water warms up, a nymph will emerge, swim or crawl to the surface, shed its skin, and turn into a flying insect (mayfly, stonefly or caddis fly).

Two sinking flies that Pfister recommends for spring bluegills are the No. 12 bead head Zug Bug, and No. 10 Montana nymph.

"You've got to remember that even big bluegills have very small mouths," Pfister said. "No. 8 (size hook) is about the biggest for bluegills. No. 10 and No. 12 are the most popular sizes." Remember that when considering hook size, the larger the number, the smaller the hook.

Pfister also recommends that fly anglers carry a pair of forceps to remove flies that are hooked deep in a bluegill's throat.

"You're not going to be able to get your fingers in there," he said.

In early spring, when bluegills are feeding on nymphs, they are usually found in water that's fairly deep. They aren't up on the banks yet, and often suspend on a drop-off, just off the shore. The best banks are often the ones with shallow flats adjacent to deeper water. In early spring, fish during the warmest part of the day.

That's usually in the late afternoon. Avoid days immediately after a heavy rain, when runoff tends to muddy up ponds. Cold rains turn off the bite, but a light, warm rain often gets bluegills in a feeding mode.

Start fishing on the pond's deeper banks, and work your way shallower as water temperatures increase.

"An 81/2-foot, 5-weight flyrod is ideal for bluegills," Pfister said. "It's a lightweight rod that has more flex (than longer, heavier flyrods). You're going to have a lot of fun bringing in a 6- to 8-inch bluegill."

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