Welcome to Panfish!

Part One hundred eighty-one

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Which Fish?


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

Panfish or Bass, a question often posed when a day of fishing begins on the river. Typically, my primary focus is on panfish, more so the breams. However I've never complained about any bass which chooses to sample my fly. In the following parts I will do my best to convey the Rivers, creeks, flys and methods used here in the Texas Hill Country to produce fine catches of panfish and bass.

Llano River

First, let's talk a little about the Panfish. Pound for pound, panfish, specifically perch can put up a strong fight to match what you can experience with the largemouth bass. Bluegills, Longears, Sunnies and Shellcrackers can become quite large depending on their environment. It is not uncommon to consistently land these feisty fish in one to three pound range from a stock pond or large river. A full day of catching these on five weights or less equipment can have a tiring but satisfying affect on any flyfisher.

What makes these fish such fighters is typically a bream will turn and put its body on a 90 degree angle to your line tension direction. This gives it the maximum body surface to apply the greatest force against you. This at times, causing these little fish to seem much bigger than they really are. A two-pound Longear will give you a good long fight on a five weight or less. If it gets down and cross current to your position, breaking off 4 pound or less tippet is a good possibility. I have on numerous occasions had these fish hit a surface fly as hard as any bass. Some have completely exited their bodies from the water to take the fly. Other times a mild swirl of water as the fly is sucked under.

Nymphing and streamers are also effective but totally different approaches. Nymphing is fished much the same way as you would for trout. With our rocky bottom rivers, the real challenge for beginners is telling the difference between a fish strike or just another rock pausing your nymph as it bounces along the bottom. A slight tug on the line will usually be enough to release the nymph from a rock. If it happens to be a fish, this action will also set the hook and most times your line will start moving upstream, definitely an indication of fish.

Streamers work well cast downstream and stripped slowly upstream. The key word here is slowly. I prefer grabbing the line between my thumb and forefinger and pulling in an inch or two at a time. The fish usually strike during your pauses to grab more line.

Some of the larger bream will be out in the current near the bottom holding behind rocks or other submerged objects to pick up small baitfish and food moving down with the current. This means whether using nymphs or streamers, plan your path to pass closely to any submerged object.

Remember, for bream, keeping your hook size small will give you more hookups. I never use anything larger than a size 10 and most of my flys are size 12. Sometimes the fish will swallow the fly and using barbless hooks will greatly increase the survivability of the fish. Circle hooks may be the most effective as the reports I have read are very favorable.

In the next part I will be discussing the flys, places and methods for catching these fun little fish. ~ Hillfisher

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