Since we are getting close to the holidays (less than two weeks) most of you will probably be
staying home or visiting friends and family during the coming days. I doubt that many of you will
be traveling to and fishing the Smokies although I hope you do. January and the first part of
February is probably the coldest time of the year and you will have to pick out the better days to
expect much success fishing the freestone streams. By the end of February, everyone will be
doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to respond even though they will probably
have to wait a few more days to see any surface action. That considered, I thought I would write
about some fishing trips we have made to various other destinations. Don't expect these articles
to be well written and edited. I am not trying to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and some that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Bream and Shellcrackers, Panama City Beach & Sea Side Florida
I lived at Panama City Beach, Florida for several years up until I moved to
Gatlinburg, Tennessee almost four years ago. The first home I had there was a
block from Deer Point Lake, a very clear lake that has huge bass, bream and
shellcrackers. I keep a canoe to use in its jungle like backwaters where I fished
quite often. Catching those fish was not very easy unless they were spawning. It
had to be a very cloudy, low pressure day or near dark or daylight for the fish to
take topwater flies in its clear water. It was fun to paddle the canoe around and
catch the bream and bass on a fly rod late in the day. I also used the canoe on
occasions at the many lakes in the Sand Hills north of Panama City.
Later I moved to the beach where I lived for several years mostly at Edgewater
Beach Resort, a half block from the beach. Now you wouldn't think that would be a
very fishy place. However, there was a nine hole golf course and about that many
lakes. When a green is built on the beach, they usually make a lake to get the soil
for the green. One lake was twenty feet out my patio door. I could walk around the
course and catch bass, bream and shellcrackers on my fly rod anytime I wanted to
do so. It was popping bug heaven. On just about any day, fishing at daylight and
near dark you could catch dozens of bream and bass. I don't consider myself an
expert bream fisherman by any means, but I have done quite a bit of it because it
was so convenient for me to do so.
I did a series of TV shows there in the early nineties for some local stations. One
show was done with some guys that are experts at catching bream on a fly rod.
Those guys fish for bream about one out of every four days of their life. One guy
owned an automobile dealership in south Alabama; another was a manufacturers
rep that lived on the beach; and another the head of a board of education in a
South Alabama County. These guys used $700 Orvis rods for bream fishing. They
had thousands of flies and popping bugs. Over the years they had come to the
conclusion that certain flies, wet and top water, worked far better than others. I
gained a lot of knowledge from those guys.
One bream trip I taped for one of the TV shows was unbelievable, especially when
you consider where it was shot. We caught over fifty, huge bluegill all within a
couple of hundred yards from the beach at Sea Side between Destin and Panama
City Beach Florida. You could watch the waves crashing on the beach while you
fought big, beautiful bluegills.
Now I will get back to my experiences at Deer Point Lake and for the several years I
lived on the beach. The reason I jumped to the TV show at Sea Side was to point
out that what I learned on that trip and a few others with one of the guys, enabled
me to catch several times the number of bream I had been catching. The biggest
lesson I learned was how to slow down the presentation (to the point you could go
to sleep); to use a very light tippet; and of course, which flies were best for the
conditions. That is what inspired me to create the "Perfect Fly" bream and panfish
flies -The Baby Popping Frog, Baby Diving Frog and Baby Slider Frog and my
three Nymph Bream flies.
Now many of you will be quick to correctly point out that there have been similar
files to all of those for years. Once I learned I could swap to use one of these three
frog flies (to fish different depths) and catch bream any time the water was not real
cold, I improved my catch considerably over what I had been doing. I had been
using the standard balsa wood popping bugs that have been on the market for
years. Of course they work great at times. The problem is that they don't work all
the time. The times they didn't work, I use to think that you just couldn't catch bream
on flies. The deer hair slider and diving flies work at times the popper won't work.
When those didn't work, I used the flies I call "nymphs". My Green and Yellow
Bream Nymph that resembles a dragonfly nymph, the Greentail Panfish Nymph and
the Whitetail Panfish Nymph that imitate damselfly nymphs fairly well.
Neither of those are completely new to the market. There have been flies similar to
those for years. I just think my patterns improve them. They are woven and not
exactly easy or cheap to have tied. I learned that just about any day, at least in the
Florida Panhandle, I could catch bream and shellcrackers using the flies that
inspired the design of those. I didn't use the ones I now sell back then. I didn't have
them. What I used was not as well made or as effective as the ones I have
designed. That remains to be proven but I will be very surprised if they are not
better than the ones I used - thanks to the guys who really knew what they were
Copyright 2008 James Marsh