Professor Bluegill

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Published on: May. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

The facts shouldn't have surprised me, but I was still stunned by the magazine article. It read, "Fly fishing is the fastest-growing segment of the fishing industry with 30 percent growth in the last two years. Women are entering the sport in record numbers and approximately 14 percent of America's households now contain a fly fisher."

Because of the popularity of fly fishing, fly shops now appear in suburban shopping malls like morels on a warm spring day. Satellites splash fly fishing videos and adventures to all points of the globe. Fly fishing vests have become teenage fashion items in Japan.

Why the popularity? In a world that's become increasingly crowded, polluted and complex, fly fishing offers an environmentally friendly escape to the wilderness and pristine trout streams.

There's a huge disparity between that Madison Avenue image of fly fishing and the opportunities available to many anglers. For instance, trout streams, particularly in Missouri, are scarce and often crowded. Let me offer an alternative.

Try fly fishing for bluegill:

I love bluegill because they provide some of the same kinds of fun that trout do at much less cost - one of those "great taste, less filling" sort of things. For trout fishing I have to save up my vacation days, spend long hours behind the wheel or in a plane and fuss over tackle and tactics. Great fun, but sometimes it's just nice to grab the old fiberglass rod from the corner of the garage and walk out to the pond with whatever fly is attached to the leader.

In the spring this tactic works well. The big males are stuffed into a pocket of shoreline at the corner of the dam. They're aggressive, strong and intolerant of almost any fly thrown their way. For new fly anglers, spring on a bluegill pond is the perfect time to hone your casting and sharpen your fishing, hooking and landing skills on cooperative fish. A variety of flies and small poppers fished on a light fly rod guarantee some fun, once the spawning fish are located.

Later on in the summer, bluegills become more choosey about what they eat. They mostly feed on insects, so match your fly to the size, shape and color of their natural food. A variety of small woolly worms, simple black wet flies and even tiny jigs are useful.

Usually, the biggest challenge is locating fish. When fish are not concentrated in spawning colonies near

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