Bluegill, redbreast sunfish and warmouth are among the species that go by the generic name of bream (aka brim). Whether anglers are catching them for fun or for the dinner table, bream are a worthy and challenging target. Add a fly rod to the equation and the fun increases.
Bream don’t get particularly large, but all are feisty fighters. The Florida State bream records are kept by subspecies. For example the record bluegill is 2.95 pounds; the record redbreast sunfish is 2.08 pound; and the record warmouth weighed 2.45 pounds. The biggest in the bream family are the redear sunfish (shellcracker). The record redear is 4.86 pounds. That would be fun on a 5-weight.
Rob Henn is an avid central Florida fly rod angler who often targets bream on fly. The methods he uses in Florida will work in most other bodies of water. Henn views fishing for bream on fly as a great sport for anyone that likes to fish.
“You don’t need the high end rods or reels to catch bluegill, ”instructs Henn. “You usually don’t need to make long casts and drags aren’t needed. Any reel will work because all you need it to do is hold your line. I usually use them, but anglers don’t even need a tapered leader, since a straight length of 10-pound mono will work just fine. Bream fishing is simple, easy and most importantly fun fishing.”
Henn prefers a 5- or 6-weight fly rod when fishing for bream. “I complement my rod and reel with a floating weight forward line and a 8- to 9-foot tapered leader. I tie my own leaders that start with a butt section using 4 feet of 20- to 25-pound mono. I add 2 feet of 15-pound mono and finish with a 2- to 3-foot section of 6- to 8-pound tippet.”
Bream are not very leader shy, so I forgo using fluorocarbon, especially when using poppers. Fluorocarbon is heavier and will make a popper sink.”
The mono is also preferred with a sinking fly. “If I am using a sinking fly, it sinks slower with mono. The slower sinking fly keeps it in front of the fish longer.”
One tip that Henn gives anglers is to tie a sinking fly behind a popper using about 1- to 2-feet of 6- to 8-pound mono. This presentation covers both surface and subsurface feeding fish. This setup can be effective, but Henn gives one warning. “The dual presentation works, but if the winds comes up it can make casting a real adventure.”
Henn’s favorite bream fly is a popper. “My favorite fly is a #8 yellow and red soft foam popper that I make. I also use a small woolly bugger type sinking fly. It has a cream or brown craft fur tail with a couple strands of small pearl Mylar tied in. The body is gold tinsel with a black feather palmered around the tinsel with red thread.”
Henn adds a few turns of lead wire if he wants the fly to sink faster. “The weighted ones are tied with black thread so I can tell the difference in the tackle box.”
Henn usually finds his summer bream on the outside to reed banks. “They seem to like it right on the edges of reeds,” explained Henn. “They are ambush predators. They will sit just inside the reed line waiting for something to get close to them. This behavior is especially true for the bigger males when they are in the spawn.”
Since the fish are in the reeds, Henn wants his cast to be as close to the base of the reeds as possible. “I leave it sit for at least as long as it takes for the ripples to dissipate. Then I make it pop once or twice and leave it sit again. If I don’t get a hit, I will cast to the next spot and do the same thing. I don’t move the cast more than 3 or 4 feet down the reed line.”
Once that first bite comes anglers should work the area well. “If I do get a hit I continuing working the area until they stop biting. When the bite stops move down the reed line to a new spot.”
Henn has picked up on a particular behavior of bluegills. “One thing about bluegill, that I have noticed, is that they sometimes come up to the popper and try to hit it with their dorsal fin. When they start doing that they may hit at it a couple times. If they can move the popper they will leave it alone. If you observe this behavior you might as well move on.”
Even the sinking flies are fished slowly for bream. “When I use the sinking flies, I will cast to the edge of the reeds and let the fly sink. I begin to strip it back with very short strips, about 6 inches at a time. I work the fly out a ways and cast again to the next area. While I am stripping the fly sinks deeper, often resulting in a bonus catch of speck (crappie), which is always fun!”
“If I am in a ‘fishing for fun’ mood, I will take a 4-weight fly rod and use 5-pound tippet. I tie on #12- to #14-dry flies that are usually used for trout fishing. The lightweight tackle is a lot of fun when you hook a large bull bluegill. Just remember, don’t put too much pressure on them as they run you around the boat. They can break off that 5-pound tippet.”
Henn gives a singular reason for fishing for bream. “Bream are relatively abundant. You can even catch them in just about any small pond that is used for water retention in neighborhoods, as long as fishing is allowed. I fish for them because they are such a hoot to catch and they will hit just about any fly you cast to them.”
Bream are scrappy fish that fight like tigers when hooked. They provide the perfect rest and relaxation therapy after a busy week at the office. They are likely to be plentiful and the tools you need to catch them are few. I wouldn’t say it’s a no-brainer, but its not rocket science either. Get out there and get you some.