The simplicity of a fly rod and a bluegill mesh nicely

Popper Bluegill

I spent an afternoon visiting with some old friends recently – a mess of spunky, sporty bluegills in my Froggy Bottom pond, and a fine little 5-piece, 4-weight fly-rod built for me by a long-departed, much beloved fly-fishing buddy, Bob Miller.

It was a grand reunion. I was surprised anew by the light and lovely “feel” of Miller’s creation; it seems that aging, arthritic hands grip such a delight more delicately, gently, the way such a rod is meant to be handled, not man-handled. The result is softly laid casts with small popper bugs.

Bluegills, of course, are aggressive little piscatorial piggies, eager to grub down almost whatever morsel comes their way, artificial or live bait. Whatever they can fit in their small mouths.  I pinch down the barbs on the hooks, to allow ease of releasing the catch, which I most often do.

Last summer, I loved being Grampa to seven grandkids, ages 9 to 15, at a homestead family reunion. The delicate little 4-weight remained stored as I instead equipped the young anglers with reliable if unsophisticated “cane poles,” bobbers, and maggots and red worms.

So, this recent fly-rod reunion was overdue. It only took a few casts about my little quarter-acre pond to find where some active ‘gills were hanging out. My small water harbors few lunkers, but it has plenty of “average” ones. The sudden “sploot!” of a feisty bluegill slurping up a popper is angling joy, pure and simple, uncomplicated and unsophisticated. Just plain fun, a way to relax after chores for as long as you want to play. That is the species’ hallmark, followed closely by their sweet deliciousness when scaled and dressed whole, then pan-fried in butter.

I never could understand some anglers who want to fillet bluegills. That wastes so much sweet meat. You can scale the little guys with a high-pressure nozzle-set from a garden hose; just grasp the fish head facing away and blow off the scales from their backsides. Works like a charm. Then cut out the spiky dorsal and soft ventral fins, behead the fish, slit out the entrails cavity, rinse, and it’s ready for the frypan. Quick and easy.

Bluegills are not particularly bony, and the fried flesh is easily flaked off the backbone and ribcage. Yum. I once taught some Boy Scouts, for their fishing merit badges, this way of bluegilling, from catch to frypan. They embraced it, with enthusiasm and gusto.

This time of year in Midwestern latitudes, of course, bluegills generally are building and guarding shallow-water nests, and they aggressively defend same. Which makes catching them even easier. Side note: I was surprised to find a pod of larger bluegills nervously tending a series of nests made in secluded, shallow water – mere inches deep – way back in one of two patches of cattails that I maintain in the pond. I left them alone to their reproductive devices…No “fishing in a barrel!”

I have decided to keep that lovely little 4-weight rod strung up, broken down into just two pieces, a fresh popper tied on and ready, all summer. So, whenever I feel the urge to relax, and connect with Nature directly, I will be only a few steps and a cast or two away.

Categories: Blog Content, Ohio – Steve Pollick

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