Beginner or expert, budget tackle works
Longtime readers of this column know that I often refer to sunfish as “gobbules” (pronounced gah-bools). Many might wonder how the term originated.
When my boys were young, Jacob caught a big, colorful bluegill in the neighborhood lake. He took it home and placed it in an aquarium. The kids decided to give it a name, and Jacob suggested “Gobble” because it gobbled up everything in the tank.
Kevin thought the name needed to be Cajun. He told us that the French word for gobble”was “gobbule.” (Maybe incorrect, but the name was catchy — so Gobbule it was.)
After that, every sunfish we caught was referred to as a gobbule.
Get no respect
Unfortunately the fly fishing community considers sunfish as a “gateway species” — one that beginning fly anglers can use to learn with before pursuing more acclaimed gamefish like trout, redfish and others.
Case in point — at this year’s Atlanta Fly Fishing Show there were over 130 presentations covering 26 different species — but none on bream.
To make matters worse, many beginners are lured into buying “panfish outfits” that come in plastic-wrapped packages with pictures of Spongebob Squarepants, Spiderman or the Ninja Turtles.
In general, stay far away from any fly fishing outfit associated with a cartoon character.
There’s inexpensive, and then there’s cheap. Cheap rods are made of fiberglass. Not the new grade of glass (which make for great rods), but the old grade that your grandfather used. The black EVA foam handles are a giveaway the rod is poor quality.
The right stuff
A good inexpensive rod will be made of graphite, have stainless snake guides and ceramic stripping guides. It should also have a moderate action to better cast strike indicators and wind-resistant popping bugs.
The rod should also have as many guides as length of rod. For example, if the rod is 8 feet long, it should have at least eight guides not counting the tip. Fly line is heavy — a rod with only five or six guides will have too much sag between the guides and won’t cast well.
For bream fishing, I prefer an 8-foot rod in either 4-weight or 5-weight. This length is a good compromise between casting accuracy and distance. It also allows for close work in trees and around docks, and it’s stout enough to land the random bass or catfish.
Good inexpensive rods without a warranty include Cabela’s Bighorn ($69), Bass Pro’s Dogwood Canyon ($69) and the Redington Crosswater ($79).
Spending a little more, though, gets you a warranty. Depending on the series, the manufacturer will replace your broken fly rod within five years or 25 years of purchase, or maybe even a lifetime. Just send the damaged rod back for a nominal fee.
Such models in the budget category include Echo Base ($89), Fenwick Eagle ($99), Allen Compass ($99), St. Croix Rio Santos ($120) and TFO Signature ($125).
I don’t always recommend outfits, but you can’t beat the value of the Orvis Encounter ($169) or Redington Path ($189). This includes a high quality rod, reel, fly line, backing and case.
Don’t skimp on line
A good fly line is as important as a good rod. Even those $800 fly rods that can cast a mile will have difficulty shooting a bad line.
The good news is that there are some really good lines that won’t break the bank. I’ve used the Orvis Clearwater, Rio Mainstream, TFO Floating Series and Cabela’s Prestige — all under $40 — on my bream rods. They’ve casted well, and with good care, are still in good condition after several years.
Stick with a weight-forward floating line. It’s the best all-purpose line for Louisiana freshwater.
When using popping bugs or flies under a strike indicator, it’s better to have a line that quickly loads the rod so you only make one or two false casts. Accuracy is also critical.
For these reasons, it sometimes benefits to slightly overload the rod. For example, using a 5-weight line on a 4-weight rod. Or you could buy a “plus-one” line. These are a half-weight heavier than their rated weight. For example, a plus-one 4-weight line actually weighs halfway between a 4- and a 5-weight.
If you’re looking for where to go cheap, it would be the reel. For bream, the reel is simply a line holder. There are several good die-cast reels between $30 and $60. You can also check with your local fly club. Many members often have used reels they’re looking to sell cheap.
Those hard-charging gobbules will be bedding starting this month. Give them the respect they deserve — and make your fly fishing experience a great one — by using good tackle.