• Bluegill: Fly Fishing's Little Magic Bullet
  • Post author
    Kip Vieth
  • bluegillfly fishingfly fishing tipsfreshwaterpopper fishing

Bluegill: Fly Fishing's Little Magic Bullet

Bluegill fly fishing

Photo by Jon Luke.

How Do We Get New Fly Anglers Introduced to the Sport of Fly Fishing?

We hear this question over and over again.

The answer might be sitting in front of us and we don’t even see it. This magic bullet is also a hell of a lot of fun for the seasoned angler as well.

What is it, you ask?

It is Lepomis macrochirus, more commonly called a bluegill.

No matter where you live, there are probably some of these little gems swimming in a pond or lake near you.

Let’s face it, trout fishing can be hard and often a barrier to getting new fly anglers off to a good start.

Sometimes, as experienced anglers, we try to overthink it. I often think of the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid). This applies to getting kids involved, your buddy who hasn’t fished much, or anyone who has expressed some interest in giving it a whirl.

There's nothing better than the humble bluegill to ensure a new fly angler has a great experience and gets put on the path to success.

Get Over It!

Kid fly fishing bluegill

There’s more to fly fishing than trout. 

I guide everything from trout to musky, and that includes bluegills.

You know the saying “The tug is the drug.” Who cares what's causing the tug as long as it’s a tug?

If you keep it simple, all paths lead to the bluegill.

If your buddy, wife, or even your parents express interest in taking up the sport, treat them like you would a kid. Give them a chance to be successful.

Bluegill are fairly easy to catch and perhaps one of the most fun fish for the fly rod you can find.

They can be taken on a very simple fly rig. A trout-sized fly rod, a simple top-water bug (such as a popper tied with the new Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper & slider body) and you’re good to go. There’s no need to talk about rigging, fly line weights, hatches, or a complicated cast.

Just go fishing and have fun.

Watch It!

Bluegill surface fly fishing

Photo by Jon Luke.

The great thing about bluegill fishing is that it is 90% visual.

If a new angler can see the fish eat their bug the chances of them getting involved in the sport are very high. The visual aspect of the sport is what drew me to it.

There's nothing like seeing a fish eat your bug. 

I see smallmouth bass blow up poppers, trout gently sip a dry fly, and 50” muskies crush large flies all season long. That being said, I still get just as excited watching a big bluegill slide under a bug, look at it, and then decide to eat it.

It’s a grand time and when it's on, it might be one of my favorite types of fly fishing.

If a new fly angler can experience that, you have, in most cases, made a fly angler for life.

Experience It!

Double Barrel Bass Bug

Try using the Double Barrel Bass Bug.

I encourage experienced fly anglers to give the bluegill a chance too.

They're just pure fun. When I'm chasing bluegill, I slip into an almost kid-like trance. These little happy fish take me back to my childhood. It’s almost like I’m transported back in time to my great grandmother's resort in Northeast Wisconsin, rowing a boat around the lake and catching fish.

There are no electronics. You don’t have to worry about throwing a reach mend into your cast. You don’t have to worry if you have the correct fly on. Are they taking cripples, nymphs, streamers? None of that. You're just fishing and having as good of a time that an angler can have.

Remember, it’s just fishing. 

Eat It!

The little guys also taste good.

I practice catch and release almost 100% of the time. That being said, if I want a good fish dinner, nothing is better than a nice bluegill fry.

Many lakes are overrun with them and need to be thinned. Harvesting a few doesn't harm the population. Remember, I said a few. Don’t go crazy, especially if the bluegills are big. I've seen some lakes here in Minnesota get over-harvested and an outstanding fishery turned into an ordinary one.

Be smart about it and everything will be okay.

Quick Review

Bluegill are the perfect introductory species.

They're just a lot of fun. They fight great, eat almost anything, and make great table fare.

Show a new angler the joy of fly fishing with the spunkiest little gems that swim, the bluegill.

About Kip Vieth:

Kip Vieth fly fishing guideKip Vieth is the owner and head guide of Wildwood Float Trips. He lives on the banks of the greatest warm water river fishery in the United States, the Upper Mississippi River in Monticello, MN. Kip has been guiding for over 25 years and has owned Wildwood Float Trips for 15 years. He's an Orvis Endorsed Guide and in 2015 was nominated for Orvis Guide of the Year. He was also the outfitter for the Orvis Musky School. As an innovative fly designer, he's written and appeared in numerous outdoor publications and blogs. Kip is a popular speaker and presenter at fly fishing shows and clubs.

  • Post author
    Kip Vieth
  • bluegillfly fishingfly fishing tipsfreshwaterpopper fishing

Comments on this post (10)

  • Dec 03, 2020

    New to fly fishing, but I’ve fished many years, especially for Crappie. My current focus will be to primarily fish for panfish, and I’m interested in learning much more about tying flies for the panfish. Great article.

    — Ron Hall

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Hope you’re using “bluegill” inclusively… I see a redbreast and a bluegill x pumpkinseed cross in two of the photos.

    — Phil

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Very good point on releasing the very large ones. If you want to keep a larger one, along with a few average size ones, make it a female (more pale looking) as the large males (most colorful one’s) play a huge role in the overall genetics of the gills in most bodies of water.

    — Vinnie Fusco

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great message to young and old TUG’errrrs. Lets teach as many fisher’s to carry on this great stewardship of the sport..Again thank you and look forward to more great read’s…

    — Bradley Klaus

  • Dec 03, 2020

    I like the mention of good stewardship. It is unlikely bluegill can be fished out, but taking all the big ones soon turns a fishery into an aquarium full of dinks.

    — David

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Enjoy you posts. Thank You!

    — Tom C.

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great post. Sounds like a lot of what my husband and I have been preaching during our lectures and articles for over a decade. Glad to see more and more people are discovering the enjoyment of bluegill fishing on the fly!

    — Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten, Reel Simple Fly Fishing

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Thanks for a great article. I enjoyed it and will certainly use this advice.

    — Joe Provens

  • Dec 03, 2020

    I have caught countless bluegills, bass, working on redfish and speckled seatrout, but never caught traditional rainbows, browns, or brookies on fly rod, though have on spinning tackle.

    Fly fishing is best for what you choose, and bluegills are most willing…I built a 3 weight just for my son-in-law’s pond, and enjoy it every visit, with bluegills and bass. Time to be happy with our target species…whatever it be.

    — George

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great article

    — Tom Keith

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