HOT SUMMER BREAM
Summer fishing can be frustrating...or moderately successful. Here are some suggestions for mid-year success.
Come July the weather was will be hot . If the heat index doesn’t get you first, the lack of fish will make you question your willingness to leave a nice cool fly tying bench. Water temperatures in small ponds can reach into the eighties and catching fish becomes work, even at dusk. Frustration builds when a pattern produces a few fish then nothing for the rest of the summer. Face it, it’s summer and things aren’t going to get better.
. Boudreaux’s uncle Clermont runs a diner in St. Landry Parish near Chicot Lake. Clermont likes running his restaurant, except in the summer when all of the rude demanding tourists come to the lake. On one particularly hot day, a man walked in with a panda on a leash. Now Clermont has had plenty of hunting dogs come visit so he figured a bear wasn’t much different. The man ordered a sandwich for himself and bamboo for the panda. Clermont had some trouble finding bamboo, but the nearby nursery had some. Proudly he delivered lunch and watched as the man and bear ate hungrily.
After they have eaten, Clermont handed the man a bill and the panda proceeded to take a gun out of the man’s bag and shoot the cash register. The man and panda stood up and started to walk out. Clermont yelled “Where are you going? You just shot my cash register, and you didn't pay for lunch!”
“Hey, Mister,” the man replied, “this is a PANDA!”
“So what?” Clermont answered.
“Look it up!” the man insists and tossed a book on the counter.
Clermont opened the book and read: “Panda: a large bearlike mammal of China and Tibet that has woolly fur with dramatic black and white markings, including black rings around the eyes. Eats shoots and leaves.”
Summer bream are abundant. That doesn’t mean big sunfish are everywhere in a lake full of fish. Fly fishing for any of the half million bream that reside in many lakes is as much fun as beating your head against a brick. Fly fishing in other fish-filled waters requires a WeedEater pattern. Fly fishing in still others demands a Ouija board. But most summer waters have at least some bream that a little scouting and planning can fool.
As a matter of general information (and because kids always ask), bream body coloration is highly variable with species, size, sex, spawning, water color, bottom type, and amount of cover. Females and and younger fish are less colorful and older fish are often dark and do not always fit color profiles. Some sites you might visit to see color variations include:
http://www.mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/mofish/mofish.cgi?st=11 [Missouri]; http://www.toledo-bend.com/toledo_bend/index.asp?request=fish2 [Texas/Louisiana Toledo Bend];
EQUIPMENT: First, you don’t need anything more than a 4 weight outfit unless you think large bass are likely to bite. (Of course, catching a three pound bass on a three weight rod is really exciting.) A 5/6 weight is fine, but bigger than that is like bringing them in with a winch truck. Little bream are predictable as being anywhere and everywhere, but as summer gets hotter, decent sized bream feed in deep waters, except occasionally at dawn and dusk. The larger predators like structure and will laze around the bottom of a lake looking for something interesting and edible. These fish aren’t going to move to a fly. To catch these fish you have to goto them. That means sinking lines, or sink tips, or long leaders with weighted flies (and possibly lead weights). Please note: casting weighted flies on a long leader is a really good way to take a hook in the ear unless you have practiced casting this type of rig. There are no roll casts here. A twelve foot leader is going to be effective down to six feet but requires an entirely different casting technique with big loops. Fortunately, sunfish aren’t particularly line shy so you can use large leader and tippet. A few feet of 4-6 pound test fluorocarbon works just fine for tippet. Vanish is the cheapest option here.
Long leader/tippet combinations will get your fly down but you should consider that: (1) your leader doesn’t hang straight down (there will be an underwater bow in the line that effects depth and sensitivity) and (2) if you can’t cast it you shouldn’t use it. Sink tip or sinking lines are useful, but are not instantaneously deep and work down to depths of six feet or so at about six inches a second. They do what they are advertised to do, but the problem is that you will either have to change spools to floating line or give up on the option of using a dry fly.
PRESENTATION: For most of the day, slow deep presentation is important, but doesn’t require a lot of finesse. You want to cast out enough line to pass by your target. Yes, “lining” trout is a cardinal sin, but a passing line doesn’t bother panfish nearly as much as you might think. Large bream may shy away from a fly line right next to them, but they quickly return to their previous location. Let your offering sink then drag it slowly through the likely location of bream (around structure or changes in the lake’s bottom – ridges or dropoffs). Start with pause, strip, pause, etc. Allow the fly to stay near the bottom – where the big bream are. Keep the line taut and slowly bring in the fly (having your rod tip in the water will help to feel strikes) with varying twitch or strip methods until one produces a fish. Bream are pretty predictable in that what works on one will usually work on others. When you get the right depth and retrieve pattern, that should do you for several fish.
FLY PATTERNS - NYMPHS: Many underwater fly patterns will work to catch bream and sometimes a pattern will be perfect for a particular waterway. The Jitterbee is a classic that many panfishermen swear by. http://laflyfish.com/flies/jitterbee.php Nymphs and insect imitations will produce more consistently than minnow imitations or dry flies. (Chasing minnows takes too much work in hot water.) A march brown imitation (see photo) is a good choice in size 10-16. Use the patterns on these links or any variation thereof.
Basically, any nymph pattern tied in tans, browns or olive is likely to represent some insect found in every waterbody. The Boudreaux pattern (see photo) is about as reliable a panfish fly as any. Color variations can often make a difference and more than one should be tried before giving up on the pattern. See
Soft hackle flies can also be very successful and work particularly well on tandem rigs tied in front of a smaller nymph or Boudreaux. See
FLY PATTERNS – DRIES: At dawn and dusk you can use wets and dries at the edges of shallow water. Edge means edge. Bream are looking for insects straying/falling into the water and will most strike a fly within three feet of shore. Beetles, mayflies, spiders, crickets and hoppers all work. Again, these particular flies are best fished early in the morning or late in the evening. Check and see if fish are rising and taking bugs off the surface. While parachute flies in Adams, Duns and Drakes can be productive, foam varieties are easy to tie, cheap, and effective. See for example
Summer bream don’t like working for food. Your fly must look like more or less like food, and for cautious big bream, the pattern must generally resemble something a bream would eat. Be patient with your fly and remember that in hot weather, slow is the key word. Cast, and wait. Twitch and wait. Pop and wait. It’s enough to make you lose your religion. For drys, aim your cast above the target so that it falls onto the water softly. If you’re lucky, a strike occurs immediately or within seconds – it really will happen more often than you might imagine. If not, wait till the ripples disappear and twitch the line (not the rod). Work it inches at a time about five feet through the target area and try it again. Bream don’t like chasing food. If you’re pretty sure you’ve selected a bream-ish location, cast again to the same spot because hitting the target is important.
Widow Meaux was brought into the Emergency Room for a cut on her hip. The doctor asked how she came to get the cut and she explained that after the death of her husband of sixty years she decided the best thing to do was to stab herself in her broken heart.
“But how did you cut yourself on the hip?” the doctor asked.
“Well,” the widow replied, “I asked my personal doctor where the heart was and he said you measured two inches below the nipple.”
If you are on target and nothing happens in a half dozen casts, try within a few feet either side of your target, but still in the shallows. Still nothing, find another spot. Each cast and retrieve will be about 15-20 seconds, meaning you can work over a location in 5 minutes. If you catch a bream there will likely be 4-10 more at the same spot.