Fly fishing for bream

Bream are a challenging fly fishing target, particularly when you first start chasing them, but with perseverance you’ll discover how rewarding a sportsfish they can be.

I began chasing bream with a six weight a year and a half ago. Mostly from my canoe in the coastal lakes and estuaries along the east coast of NSW. It was slow going at first. Snail pace. The bream were far more educated than flathead, far more tentative than bass.

I put it down to their age and the experience that comes with it. According to NSW Fisheries, a 30cm bream is around 10 years old. A 40cm bream could be 18 years old. Imagine how many shrimps and prawns and crabs an 18 year old bream would have eaten in its lifetime. Enough to have a fair idea of the shape and movement of their prey.

As a fly fisher it’s a challenge to fool them, particularly the larger models. That was certainly my experience at first. But by sticking to it and learning from others I’m starting to catch bream more regularly now.

 Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

Find their food source and the bream won’t be far away

Sea grass is a bream’s favourite drive-through. Shrimps, prawns and baitfish live there. So when I paddle my canoe over sandflats, I’m constantly scanning the water for the shadows caused by sea grass. Some of my best bream on fly have come from these sorts of locations.

In terms of fly fishing technique, I either work my fly along the edges of the sea grass or over the top if it if there’s enough water. Usually I’ll give the fly a couple of strips and then a pause. Subtle and slow has worked best for me.

If I see a disturbance on the surface over sea grass, I know there’s a fair chance a bream is chasing some unlucky critter, so I fire a cast in post haste. This scenario is the one that pays off more than any other, so be sure to scan the surface for fleeing shrimps or baitfish. It’s a dead give away a bream in feeding mode is in the area.

Bream on prawn imitation fly

Bream and structure are a match made in heaven

There’s a reason why there’s so much literature on fishing structure for bream. Bream love cover for two reasons – safety from their predators and as an ambush point when they are playing predator. Structure comes in a multitude of forms. Fallen timber along a river’s shoreline, bridge pylons, rocky points, beds of sea grass. All of these areas are worth a cast when you’re chasing bream.

In my experience fly fishing from a canoe, I’ve had most luck casting in tight to a river’s bank. If there’s dead timber in the water under the shade of an overhanging tree, I’ll take the time to fire a few casts in. I fish flies as light as conditions allow so they don’t make too much of a splash and sink slowly.

The technique I use is simple. After giving the fly a couple of seconds to sink, I’ll give it two or three strips and then pause. If there’s a bream there the hit will typically come within a metre of the bank. I’ve found there’s little point working the fly all the way back to my canoe. I’ll cast it in as tight as possible, work the first couple of metres away from the bank and then re-cast.

 Open sandflats with worm and yabby holes are worth a cast

While sea grass beds and structure are my preferred target areas from bream on fly, relatively featureless sandflats have also produced a few fish for me. If you look closely on a low tide you can see the depressions where bream have fed over the flats. There’s a food source there for them, I have no doubt about that.

I prefer to fish the flats on a rising tide in low light conditions. My casts are longer and I give the fly a good half dozen strips to attract the attention of any nearby fish before the pause. Some of the best fishing I’ve had over the flats has been in less than 30cms of water. In these scenarios the bream are taking a risk of being swooped on from above. They’re on the flats to feed and they’re aggressive – find them with a fly and you’ll often witness a bow wave heading directly for your offering.

Best fly for bream fishing

In my experience, an olive prawn imitation works best. Red or yellow eyes, some pink to represent an egg sac, and not too much material trailing behind the hook for the bream to nip at. I have experimented using stinger hooks but I have found they wrap around the material and do more harm than good. Besides, the decent bream I’ve caught have all devoured the fly so there was no need for a stinger.

In the warmer months, I’m a surface fly addict. I work surface flies in much the same way as sub-surface – a few strips and then a long pause. In the majority of circumstances, the bream will hit the surface fly on the pause. Typically, the bigger hits will be from smaller fish and the more subtle slurps from larger bream.

The skipping prawn fly tied by Brett at BWC is my go-to design – in either olive or tan.

Bream are a worthy fly fishing target – get out there and chase a few

If you haven’t targeted bream on fly you’re missing out on a challenging and satisfying prospect. They aren’t easy, particularly at the start, but with time they are sure to reward you with the wonderful memories we all go fishing for.

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