The cold front proved to put the bluegills down with just a rare take in deep
water with a cricket. Just the day before, big bluegills were pouncing on our red worms and crickets in all depths providing
ample fun for the kids and adults alike, fun that was much missed on this day
after the front. That is until the wind began to kick up and the grasshoppers
hit the water!
Strong gusts of wind began to move through the trees as I began my search
for big 'gills with casts along the shoreline with no takers. The activity along
the shoreline was much less than the open water as the many swirls and splashes
behind me indicated. I was thinking about moving back out in the open water when
I spotted a huge stump just under the surface next to the bank. I made a point
this time to place the popper tight to the shoreline and work it over the
The fly landed with a plop next to shore. I waited a good 20 seconds then
twitched the popper ever so slightly and waited again. On the third twitch,
before the ripples could fully dissipate, I saw a large bluegill come from
somewhere in the stump and engulf the small popper before turning towards the
darkness of his domain. I set the hook and turned the big 'gill before he
reached the tangled roots below. A pattern was born and I worked the bank this
way for a couple hours of topwater action.
Finding Big Bluegills Can Be A Challenge
Some people, including myself, take bluegills for granted. We tend to believe
we can just simply throw a bait or fly anywhere and
pick up a few bluegills and often times this is true, but when searching for
big bluegills it can sometimes be a challenge. Sometimes you might find a
school of a hundred while other times they are scattered and holding tight to
cover as I found out on my bluegill trip.
On this particular day, I did better with my fly rod than with conventional
tackle with crickets, which had been hot until the cold front blew in and
slowed down the bite. The front had turned the bluegills off, but when the
grasshoppers began to hit the water they just could not resist the highly
nutritional meals kicking around on the surface of the small lake.
Catching big bluegills on topwater is
as exciting as it gets, especially on a 2- or 3-weight fly rod. Sometimes a
4-weight is needed if you are unable to get out of the wind. Small, rubber
leggy poppers are fine to use. I tried at first cutting the rubber legs off my
popper as it seemed too bulky, but got no strikes until I tied a new popper on
and left the legs attached. Of course you will need floating fly
line, and attached to the end you will need a lightweight leader of 2- to 4-pound-test. You can tie your own tapered leader or purchase a machine-tapered
leader, but the easiest and least expensive leader, that works just fine, is 3-
to 6 feet of monofilament. Adjust your leader to match your presentation.
Fly Color Can Matter
There are many flies to choose from out there and even more if you tie your
own. On most occasions, color on a popper will not matter, but I have seen on
some occasions when a certain color outperformed another so it is a good idea
to carry an assortment.
The presentation of your popper can be simple or complex as it depends on
what the fish want that day or even that hour. There are times when a
half-hearted cast will produce while other times only a well-placed
presentation and patient retrieve will bring them up. You have to experiment.
On this trip it seemed as though the bluegills were recklessly slamming the
surface gobbling up anything that moved. I found out that was not the case
later and had to adjust my presentation often until I finally hit on one that worked. That presentation was opposite of what I initially
thought would work. Tight to cover, a fly placed inches from shore with a very
light twitch and a long pause in between was all that seemed to work on this
day, but once the pattern was discovered nearly every cast triggered a strike
from a big bluegill.
The next time you are on the water and begin to see grasshoppers floating on
the surface grab the fly rod and popper and find the presentation they want and
have some fun. Just another hint about those grasshoppers.
At night when the bluegills go to sleep the channel cats wake up and love those
grasshoppers the 'gills missed! They will cruise the bank gobbling them
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