February 25th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Why Panfish
By Johnny Irvin, (HillFisher)

Why do I and many others throughout this great country fish for panfish? Why would we seek out a smaller species of fish as compared to the other alternatives? What causes us to lean back on a cold winters day and dream of bream. Well I certainly can't speak for others but I believe we do all of this for the same reasons.

One of the biggest reasons is the availability of these fish. It does not require a lifetime savings to get to a far away exotic week of fishing. For most people a short drive is all that is necessary. In a lot of cases just a mere short walk is all that's required. In just about every farm pond, park lake, stream, creek, river and lake you will find a healthy population of panfish. Of course the term "panfish" covers a lot of various fish. This includes all the perch (bream) family which would be yellow perch, bluegill, warmouth, rock bass (red eyed perch), shell crackers, just to name a few and then there is the crappies both black and white. In some references this also includes the white bass (Sand Bass).

For the bream, sizes range anywhere from mere ounces to a record of 4 pounds and 13 ounces for a Shell Cracker caught by Joey Floyd Marianna in Florida. To see this outstanding fish follow the link to www.finefishing.com/1freshfish/aaspecies/records/recshellcracker.htm . One page back also includes the story of the man who held the record for 40 years with a Blue Gill that weighed in at 4 pounds and 12 ounces. These fish really give a panfisher something to dream about!

Another reason is their constant willingness to take a top or subsurface fly. When most other fish have stopped, these feisty fish are still going at it. Perch are sight feeders and will usually stop when it's totally dark, picking up again after daybreak. They are also smart enough, after taking a fly for a few times, to quit and totally ignore the fly as a non-food source. An excellent example of this took place this last summer when I tried an experiment on the San Gabriel River. I found a hole of water with a large rock in the middle. I would cast to one side of the rock repeatedly with a yellow spider, catching bream after bream until they started to ignore the fly. At this point I changed to a yellow hopper. Once again I was hammered time and again until they grew bored of it also. This time I left the hopper on the line and switched to the other side of the rock. Again I was hammered but only a couple of times. I'm pretty sure it was the same group of bream. This gives us two choices, select another pattern and continue taking the same fish or move on to another location. I always opt for the latter as it gives that particular hole a rest and I get to explore another stretch of river.

With a smile like this, who can deny the fun of panfish

Another of my favorite reasons for panfishing is to teach the next generation of flyfishers. If you want to teach a child to fish, these are the fish to introduce them to. Of all the people I have talked with, it's these little fish they hold dear to their memories as a child. I have fond childhood memories of those lazy summer days filled with the endless joy of catching those scrappy little fish. My father would spend a week of vacation down on the Pecos River at the Chandler Ranch. This was a private ranch which allowed people access to the river including overnight camping. This was my first experience of river fishing. I remember the cliff swallows and their haunting cries as they flitted about their nesting sites. The ever present sound of running water. The gurgling, murmuring and laughter of water as it found it's course over and through the rocks. The seemingly endless days of exploring the river banks and best of all, catching all those scrappy perch. Of all my memories of fishing, these I hold the dearest.

If you are a fisherman, or have ever fished, it's a sure bet that sometime during your life, the little panfish was a part of it. ~ Johnny Irvin,AKA Hillfisher


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