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Pond Fishing for Bluegill, a fun way to learn to fly fish

Updated on May 13, 2009

How it all started

 I have been fishing all of my life but, in all of my travels and fishing adventures, I have never once considered picking up a fly rod.  That is until I was standing next to a fly fisherman who was hooking fish left and right, and I… well, let’s just say I was politely striking out.  Not a peck, not a strike, not a chase.  And this is in a stream that is 25 feet wide and probably 4 feet deep in its darkest pockets!

I was so baffled that I eventually gave over and just stood and watched his lure getting hit until he limited out.  I tried using a similar lure in a similar fashion with an ultra light, but nothing..  I thought to myself “I have been in this position before, and I just assumed they weren’t eating..  Hmm”, so I politely asked for a go at it.  Wrench (the fly guy friend I was fishing with) happily obliged and showed me a few techniques for getting the lure, which was a pink streamer of some type, out into the creek and then stripping it back in six inches at a time.  Before we knew it I was hooked, figuratively and literally.

Here's some video showing technique

What captivated me about fly fishing


I was immediately mesmerized by the difficulty in making the proper motions with my forearm (not my wrist) to get the fly to whip back and forth without slapping the water.  I was entranced by the fashion with which the lure hung just under the water’s surface, sliding towards me with a suspended wiggle of those pink hairs, like it truly was a big, pink frog swimming along.  Then, just when I was thoroughly entranced by the action I was creating with the lure, I saw them.  Little fish lips coming out of the blue mist behind my lure.  Then the flash of the side of a 12 inch white bass, and the fight was on!  I went from fishing nearly two hours with every lure and trick in my book (being not wholly unfamiliar with white bass fishing) and catching nothing, to pretty much expecting a strike almost every cast (every good cast).

By my next day off Wrench had secured a fly rod for me and invited me back up for some Pond Fishing Bluegill action.  Most people unfamiliar to fishing would say “You drove two hours to fish for Bluegills?”, but I cannot begin to tell you how much fun and nonstop action that day was!  I will attempt it for the sake of rounding out this article.

Me and Wrench at Manito Lake

I arrived around 3 PM and Wrench and I headed down to Manito Lake just outside of Fortuna, Missouri. It is a 77 acre muddy reservoir on the 871 acre Manito Conservation area in Moniteau County. It’s a shallow lake with stumps and dead trees sticking up all over the place, and we were able to wade out into the water quite a way in hip waders. Seems like every stump had some type of fishing staged up next to it, ready to eat whatever bug fell off of it.

The great thing about bluegill fishing in a big lake is the variety of species that could hit. We caught Gills, Perch, Crappie, Bass, and if we had stuck around a little longer we probably could have caught a few catfish! All in all it was a unique and fun experience, and I am sure Wrench and I will be hitting Manito Lake again soon.. Next time I am bringing my boat though…

a 1+ Lb. "Honker" Gill
a 1+ Lb. "Honker" Gill
A hungry Bass
A hungry Bass
yet another good Gill
yet another good Gill

5-11-09, an impromptu day off

Catching big honker Gills at Manito Lake got me to thinking about all the little mud holes and ponds and lakes that are around my home. One in particular is still owned by the same folks, the parents of a high school friend. I had a little time yesterday, so I called him up and asked if his parents would mind if I paid the old pond a visit, assuming I wasn’t keeping anything. He politely gave me the go-ahead, and I was off to the pond. I haven’t fished it in 15 years, but the last time I did we caught all sorts of different species of fish, from big fat bluegills to a 15 pound catfish! Yesterday was much the same, only the gills have gotten bigger.

The blue gills tend to huddle up under shade on hot days like yesterday, and all of them were congregated within a few feet of any obstruction sticking out of the water. The proper color and the ability to get the fly out into the right spot were the tough parts. From there simply keeping the fly motionless was very effective in garnering big strikes near or on the surface.

I did disturb something massive in the shallow end of the pond, the kind of fish that leaves a monstrous wake and a cloud of dirt. My guess is that it is a grass carp, now that would be something to hook with a fly rod! Black bugs seemed to work well yesterday, eliciting twice as many strikes. Also worked out the action on a little top water plug and managed to hook five or six(teen) that way.

The fish weren't extremely active, but having the knowledge of what to do and what not to do (thanks to the expert advice I have gleaned from the many internet searches I have done) was what got me into the fish.  I had to try a couple different colors and patterns as well as different weights and sizes of flies, but once I had it figured out they reel didn't get turned until there was a fish on the hook.  I finished the day with a count of 56 fish brought to hand, including the best three, pictured to the right.

Tip #1: Stand on the "shoulders of genius" whenever possible!

I have decided that, for learning the basics and for not getting discouraged, fly fishing a pond in an open field is great! You don’t have the low overhangs and obstructions that a river usually has, you don’t have to fight with the current to stand in place or keep you upright on mossy rocks, you don’t have the distraction of a prettier spot just downstream, and all in all it allows you to concentrate solely on the things that are important to figuring out to become a successful fly fisherman. (Like using your forearm instead of your wrist, learning how long to pause in your back and forward stroke, how the lure interacts with the water, and so on)

Bluegill tips stolen from the “Masters”:

  • Gills hit small bugs, the smaller the better.
  • They prefer a slow moving lure, like a bug that looks like it is slowly drifting to the murky bottom, or suspended, almost dead, in the water.
  • Color is important, match the hatch. A quick check of your surroundings should provide you with all the answers to what the fish are used to feeding on.
  • Gills tend to live in cloudier, muddier water. Clear ponds and lakes usually harbor smaller gills, if any.
  • Hit the warmer side of the water you are fishing in early spring months (I.E. the side that get’s more sun on the water, but still has shade for the fish).
  • The larger fish almost always move in to the banks first (as the top layer of water warms), so pay close attention to what you were doing and how you were doing it when the big one strikes.
  • Timing is everything with Bluegills. If they are on, it’s crazy... If they are off, you won’t catch anything but the little ones...
  • Find a mentor, someone who knows the ropes already, that can advise you.
  • Do internet research (like the search that may have brought you here) and remember that any advice is good advice when it comes to fishing; it’s properly applying that advice that is the most important to catching a “mess ‘o Gills”.

Good luck, tight lines….


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    • Tod Zechiel profile image

      Tod Zechiel 5 years ago from Florida, United States

      Great article on fishing for gills. Your article makes bluegill fishing with a fly rod sound so adventurous. Like Barranca stated above, I recently purchased a 2wt fly rod and have really enjoy targeting bluegills. Ounce for ounce, I believe they fight harder than any other fish.

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very good hub.

    • Fishin' Cricket profile image

      Fishin' Cricket 8 years ago from The Ozarks Hills and Hollers of MIssouri

      I'm so glad to see so many folks liked this article, I enjoyed writing it. :)

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great info! I have bookmarked this hub for further reading..

    • barranca profile image

      barranca 8 years ago

      I happened upon flyfishing for bluegill on a recent evening and, like you, had a lot of fun. Normally I am a trout fisherman on the Farmington River in Connecticut, but on this particular evening I was fishing the Bantam river which flows out of Bantam lake. I was in a slow moving pool and it just seemed to be alive with Bluegill, Sunfish and Perch. I found that they would hit almost anything on a slow retrieve. The little beggars can be fun on 2 weight rod. Many happy summer fishing days to you. Thanks for the hub!

    • steveBaxter63 profile image

      steveBaxter63 8 years ago from Northern California

      I have been fly fishing most of my life and have caught all kinds of fish, from 20+ pound steelhead in BC to monster Roosterfish off the beaches in Mexico. I've caught striped bass over 20 pounds on top-water, King salmon over 30 pounds, behemoth brown trout and giant rainbows that still make my mouth water to this day.

      I've fought tarpon, snook, and big bull reds in the south, and largemouth bass close to 10 pounds... all on flies. Why am I telling you all of this? Am I bragging? Nope (well maybe a little). My intent is to confess a dirty little secret of mine...

      Even with all those incredible fish-of-a-lifetime under my belt (and hopefully more to come in the future)... I still sneek out with my 2wt almost every night during the Spring to a local pond near my house and have the time of my life harrassing those spunky little gills!

    • profile image

      Michael 9 years ago

      Hey got a big trip planned for the 12th. Gonna leave and spend the rest of the week on the Lake. Can't wait.

    • profile image

      The Fisherman 9 years ago

      Those are some awesome bluegill there. Keep up the good work!

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Love to fish for bluegill. Last summer I spent a day fishing and releasing and wore myself out after four hours of near non stop CATCHING. Great hub!

    • Fishin' Cricket profile image

      Fishin' Cricket 9 years ago from The Ozarks Hills and Hollers of MIssouri

      Cause you didn't have me there to guide you, Genee?

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Well, now I know why I was a bust at fly fishing!

    • Fishin' Cricket profile image

      Fishin' Cricket 9 years ago from The Ozarks Hills and Hollers of MIssouri

      Thanks Froggy, I have been contemplating on what should be my next topic (auto and fishing related).. any suggestions?

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 9 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Another great fishing hub Cricket!!--Keep 'em coming!!


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