Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred-fourteen

Panfish Primer


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

I have noticed several threads on the bulletin board about bream with some polite arguments ranging from the fish will bite anything thrown at them to the opposite of high selectivity of the bream. I really hate to break the news...but both sides are correct. What we sometimes fail to see is the conditions the "other angler" was catching them under.

Compared to most, I would only be considered a youngster in this sport. I have single-mindedly pursued the panfish for only a little over thirty years now. For me bass are just an extra bonus when I fish, they are not my main quarry. I know where they are and how to catch as many as I want. However the big bull bluegill, the large redbreast, the exceptional shellcrackers and occasional rock bass (google eye) are my mainstay. I have read countless magazine articles on "How to" as well as several books. With today's Internet, an endless supply of information on any species of fish you want to know about can be found.

I have observed the habits of the bream for some time and in my home waters which include the Llano, San Saba and San Gabriel Rivers, I have noticed a few things which seem to almost apply anywhere in the south. Some of these observations may help you as well.

The biggest thing one has to realize is that bream are sight feeders. They have to see it to bite it. That has a lot to do with the biting of plain old bright hooks. As far as they will bite anything, that definitely applies to bedding bream as well as the juveniles. A bedding bream will staunchly defend its bed, striking at anything that invades it. The younger ones will bite at just about anything and repeatedly do so. This is the foremost reason most of us have memories of these fish as children and where we get the notion that bream in general will bite anything. When as kids we use worm, corn, marshmallows or bread on a hook and catch these little fish, this too lends to the "bite anything" fact.

As the bream gets older and larger, their habits and ranging changes. The big bull bream usually over a pound or bigger can get very selective depending on their habitat. I use a spider pattern with great success here. They are very plain looking and very basic in tying. I tie these quick and they do not necessarily come out looking "pretty." Yellow foam, two white legs tied in the middle X-Wing fashion and whip finish, presto, spider.

On numerous occasions I would be catching some really nice bream on any one of the above mentioned rives and suddenly there would a lot of looking but no bites. I used to think that they had just gotten used to that fly and I would change to something else and the biting would start again. Not so. Upon closer inspection and having proved this through many tests, these larger bream are no dummies and contrary to their younger counterparts, will not strike at a fly that just does not look right. A prime example of this is the spiders that I switched after the hits stopped, all had one common problem caused randomly by wind, my casting or the fish hitting and missing the fly. One of the legs would be folded under the bend of the hook.

The larger bream would inspect it but not take it. When I freed the leg and placed it where it belonged, once again I would get good hits and large bream. This prompted me to change the leg style on the spiders.

Another behavior I have consistently noticed is that with their dependency on sight feeding, during windy days on large pools of water they would be patrolling the leeward side of the pool. There is little to no surface ripple, as some natural obstacle would block the wind. This gives them a clear picture of the surface for insects and such that are blown on the surface of the water.

For ones who live in fast moving waters such as some large stretches of the Llano River, the larger bream will be out in the deeper channels and usually patrolling with the big boys, bass. During one summer I was fishing a stretch of the Llano just as dawn was breaking. The water and sky was a slate gray and I was using a white wooly bugger to simulate the small baitfish so commonly found in our rivers. I was doing really well with the Guadalupe Bass when suddenly I was picking up one large bream after another. This went on for about 15 minutes and then they were gone. That has happened now three or four times and it was quite exciting!

River bream of faster currents also tend not to be so picky as a meal is moving and it's a hit, or miss and go hungry game. They tend to hit harder and have no manners what so ever. I have seen these fish clear the water coming up to take a fly. Sometimes the competition from other fish drives this behavior also.

So as you can see from my own experiences I can say that bream can be selective and almost as picky as trout or just hit any old thing you put out there. In any case it's the pleasure we get out of these little fish and knowing they will always be there for us, ready and willing to play. ~ Hillfisher

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