Pulling out of our driveway Saturday, I paused to admire the crimson clover blooming in our pasture and along the roadside. Sitting there, I could hear the words of my dad and my father-in-law reminding me, “When the red top clover blooms, the bream are on the bed.”
Those words echoing in my mind made me eager to grab my fly rod and a popping bug and head down to the lake, which I made plans to do later this week. They also reminded me of the pure and simple joy of fishing, bream fishing in particular.
For many, bream fishing is their first foray into the world of angling, and in terms of getting someone new hooked on the sport, I can think of no better experience. The action is fast and (usually) nonstop, and the list of needed equipment is minimal.
Grab a bamboo pole and a can of red worms or crickets, the aforementioned fly rod and popping bug or a spinning reel and beetle spin, and you are ready to go. Oh, and did I mention that it’s just fun, pure and simple joy — which makes me wonder why I don’t do it more often.
As we made our way north toward Oxford for our daughter Tate’s graduate school commencement ceremony, I found myself checking out each farm pond along the way, hoping to catch sight of a youngster with a bowed rod in hand. I also found myself thinking about some of my favorite bream fishing memories.
It had been a morning of hard summer rain that had put our fishing plans on hold. I can’t remember if my dad had gotten a hot tip or just had a feeling, but, for the first time ever, he decided that we were fishing below the spillway at Mr. Ethrel Robert’s watershed after the rain subsided.
I remember that the air was still heavy and humid from the rain and the sky was still dark and ominous as if it might unleash another downpour at any moment. However, my attention was soon focused on the fast and furious bream action.
As soon as our hooks hit the water, they were taken by the aggressive panfish, and as our basket of crickets was depleted our stringer began to fill. In fact, to keep up with the rate that we were catching fish, we started tossing them into the 5-gallon bucket we had brought along to use as a seat.
Often when it comes to childhood memories like this, I find myself envisioning the scene in the sepia tones of old photographs. However, this memory is different. Even today, I can clearly see the vivid orange and purples of those bluegills or what we called “strawberry bream.”
Up until recently, I thought that name was based on the coloration of the fish. I don’t know why, as there were really no red colors among those scales. However, I now have a much better understanding of how and why these fish came to be called strawberry bream, thanks to fellow outdoor writer David Hawkins.
In his article “Strawberry Bream — Tips for Catching Harvest Moon Bream,” featured in “Mississippi Sportsman,” Hawkins points out, “The full moon has long been associated with bedding bream.” In fact, he adds, “In North America, the harvesting of strawberries in June gives that month’s full moon its name, the Strawberry Moon.”
I’m quite certain my dad knew this based on his knowledge of the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” but since I never asked the reason for the strawberry moniker, I never knew the answer. Another thing that he certainly knew was the secret to making a child love fishing — make it fun!
On that note, I received a few photos from good friend Greg Monsour this week of the giant bream his daughters caught recently at their family lake in Clarke County. I have fished there with him many times and can attest to the fact that these panfish, or more accurately, “skilletfish” are among some of the largest and most aggressive that I have ever caught.
Judging by the smiles on the faces of Stelynn and Anniston Monsour, bream fishing is just as fun as I remember it being at their age. In fact, I think it’s way past time for me to head down to the lake with my fly rod and popping bug. Until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at email@example.com.