With the moon shining full in the morning sky, it was prime time for catching spawning bluegills on fly tackle.

My plan was to introduce my friend, Krista Carter of Vicksburg, to the exciting world of fly-fishing. And what better fish for the uninitiated fly angler than bluegills?

My first cast was into a small, shallow cove where the bottom was speckled with dozens of bream beds. The sweet and musky scent of bedding bluegill hung heavy in the cool morning air. As my weightless leader floated softly to the glassy surface of the pond, the black and yellow "bream killer" fly with its white rubber legs wiggled softly back and forth as it slowly sank toward the pond's muddy bottom.

From out of nowhere, a blue-green streak engulfed the sinking fly, dragging the attached popping fly along for the ride to the depths of the small farm pond. Clinching the line against the fly rod, the 8-foot rod instantly bent into an arc as the big bull bream tugged on the end of the line. When I finally fought the fish into submission a couple of minutes later, I was pleasantly surprised.

"Can you believe the size of this bluegill?" I shouted. "It has to go a pound-and-a-half - maybe even two pounds."

Across the small farm pond, my comment had gone unnoticed. It was evident that Krista's attention was focused on battling a big bull bream of her own. And from the looks of things, the fish may have been gaining the upper hand.

Over the next hour-and-a-half, we caught over three dozen of those giant, bedding bluegills, none weighing less than a pound-and-a-half. In fact, a few pushed the 2-pound mark. And that doesn't count the unexpected bonus of eight largemouth bass we landed on our lightweight fly tackle. Three of them weighed more than five pounds. Not too shabby for a small farm pond and a couple of fly rods.

Bluegill fishing is exciting, it can be extremely challenging, and the action is nearly always fast and furious. Like most Mississippi anglers, I have spent a great deal of time fishing for many species of gamefish, cherishing every enjoyable minute spent on the water. But without a doubt, my most favorite memories are of days spent catching bluegills with a fly rod.

Far too many anglers look down their noses at the lowly bluegill and think of them as a kid's fish - since bream were the first fish many of them caught as young children. As they grew older and became more interested in catching larger fish and more prestigious species, they forgot how much fun could be had sitting on top of a hot bream bed. Most anglers get away from bluegill fishing for several years, then rediscover the sport and ask themselves why they didn't come back to fishing for fun a lot sooner.

The bluegill is known by many different names. In Mississippi, he is called everything from bluegill and sunfish to bream and pond perch. Bluegills are without a doubt the most popular sportfish in the Magnolia State and definitely one of the most abundant.

The iridescent blue color on the lower portion of their jaw and gill cover is where the bluegill derives its name. The two most distinctive characteristics are the prominent black spot on the rear edge of the gill cover and the black spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal fin. The bluegill's body coloration is highly variable depending on factors that include: size, sex, spawning stage, water clarity, bottom type, and the amount of cover. Clear water yields bluegills with blue-green backs that give way to white bellies. Darker water produces darker bluegills with olive to black backs that get lighter toward a yellowish belly. Male bluegills are more brightly colored than their female counterparts, especially during breeding, when they exhibit orange to rusty-red breasts. Bluegills also have five to nine dark, vertical bands running down their sides. These bands get lighter in color as they progress down their body, disappearing near the belly area.

Bluegills prefer quiet, warm waters with an abundance of vegetation. While they prefer water temperatures in the 85- to 88-degree range, bluegills can tolerate temperatures upwards of 95 degrees. Their preference for warm water causes them to thrive in shallow lakes and small farm ponds. However, they tend to avoid direct sunlight, preferring the cover of aquatic vegetation and submerged brush.

Bluegills feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks, small fish and small pieces of aquatic vegetation. Although they will feed throughout the day, bluegills feed primarily at dawn and dusk. Since bluegills feed on whatever is available, their feeding patterns will vary greatly with the season of the year. For instance, during the summer when food is plentiful, bluegills often consume up to 35 percent of their own body weight on a weekly basis.

Bluegills spawn several times a year, beginning when water temperatures get in the 65-degree range. In South Mississippi, the first round of spawning takes place in March or April. While female bluegills leave the nest soon after spawning, the males tend the eggs, fanning them with their caudal fins to keep them aerated and free of debris. Often, the males will stay with the young fry, guarding them for several days after they hatch.

Each spawning cycle coincides with the full moon. Knowing the day-to-day activities of bluegill from prespawn to postspawn can be the difference in an ice chest full of these tasty fish or going home empty handed.

During the spawn, male bluegills can be easily taken using weighted flies, not because they are hungry, but because they are determined to defend their nests from intruders. A male bluegill reacts to a fly in much the same manner as an intruder. He will strike at it in order to scare it away. If that doesn't work, he will pick up the fly in his mouth and move it away from the bed. Once the fly is in his mouth, all you have to do is set the hook.

It is a completely different story a few days after the fry have hatched and become large and strong enough to fend for themselves. At that point, male bluegills leave the spawning area and head for deeper, cooler water to feed and recuperate from those long days spent protecting their spawning area and the young fry from predators. Fly fishermen can take advantage of this renewed appetite by using wet flies and nymphs in the deeper water near weedbeds or thick cover.

However, use caution when fly fishing near thick cover. Bluegills know instinctively how to fight when hooked. They utilize a myriad of maneuvers to escape and will do battle until they are completely exhausted. As soon as they are hooked, bluegills will usually make a run directly away from the fisherman, normally for only a short distance, in an attempt to escape. But once the line tightens and they are jerked off course, bream will invariably turn at a right angle and use the broad, flat side of their body as leverage against the line.

They will dart in different directions, even diving straight down or bursting up toward the surface. Often, bluegills will turn and run directly at the fisherman, hoping to get enough slack in the line to dislodge a poorly set hook.

In my opinion, there is no other fish with a heart equal to that of the bluegill. Although he may be one of the smallest of freshwater gamefish, he is ounce for ounce the strongest and most determined fighter of them all. Or, as Bruce Brady, my good friend and veteran fly fisherman, once told me, "If a bluegill weighed 5 pounds, you would never be able to land him." Having personally caught a number of bream in the 2-pound range on fly tackle, I would definitely have to agree.

Contrary to what many believe, fly fishing is not reserved for the elite members of society. Instead, it is an inexpensive hobby that all can enjoy.

The art of fly fishing is far different from fishing with conventional tackle. With conventional tackle, the angler casts a weighted lure, which in turn pulls a weightless fishing line along as the lure flies through the air. The opposite is the case when it comes to fly fishing. The fisherman casts a weighted line, which pulls a seemingly weightless leader and fly behind it. Because of this very basic difference, fly fishing requires that the fly fisherman use different rods, reels, lines, and lures.

Surprisingly, getting geared up with the basic fly fishing tackle (a fly rod, a fly reel, fly line, backing, leader, tippet, and flies) is no more expensive than the cost to gear up with conventional tackle. Although there are a number of other accessories and options available to today's fly fishermen, the basic gear listed above is all that is actually necessary.

Fly rods range in length from 6 to 10 feet. An 8-footer is a good all-around choice for bream. Just keep in mind that your fly rod is the single most important piece of equipment in your fly fishing arsenal. When purchasing your first fly rod, I would suggest investing in the best rod that your budget allows.

Your fly reel, on the other hand, is not nearly as important as your rod. Conventional anglers have a hard time understanding this concept since they rely heavily on their reels to retrieve their lure after each cast. Since fly fishermen strip their fly back in by hand without using their reel, the primary purpose of the fly reel is to serve as a spool to store surplus line until it is needed.

When it comes to fly lines, most are 90 feet long and come in a variety of weights. Fly line manufacturers use a grain as their unit of measure, with 7,000 grains the equivalent of one pound. Heavier lines are better choices when fishing in windy conditions, since they can be cast greater distances. However, lighter lines are better when finesse fishing with small flies in calm waters, which is most often the case when bluegill fishing in small farm ponds. Fly lines can also be purchased in two different styles: level lines and tapered lines, with both offered in either floating or sinking versions.

Flies are an entirely different can of worms, so to speak. Proclaiming to know the best all-around bream fly is like claiming that a specific caliber rifle is the ultimate deer rifle. There are far too many variables to take into consideration. Wet flies, dry flies, and poppers all have their own specific niche in the bluegill fly-fishing world.

"Since bream have very tiny mouths, it is best to think small when selecting flies," said Cathy Shropshire, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and an avid fly fisherman. "Bluegills are aggressive eaters and will readily strike a wide variety of flies. Some good choices include Wooly Worms, Copper Johns, Crazy Charlies, and a variety of foam spiders and small poppers. My personal favorite is a tandem rig consisting of a chartreuse popper trailed by a yellow and black Bream Killer."

One of the best things about fly-fishing for bream in the Magnolia State is that you can find excellent bream waters just about anywhere you go in the state. If it is a body of water, chances are there are some bream present. Some good places to find bream include farm ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and creeks.

According to Tom Holman, Fisheries Coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Magnolia State is overrun with super bream lakes. The public lakes that made his short list for top bream fishing spots include: Lake Lamar Bruce in Lee County, Tippah Lake in Tippah County, Simpson Lake in Simpson County, Jeff Davis Lake in Jefferson Davis County, and Lake Chotard in Warren and Issaquena Counties.

"The one lake that stands out above the rest, especially when you take into consideration that it is a relatively new impoundment, is Calling Panther Lake in Copiah County," Holman added. "Several nice stringers of big bluegill have been coming from Calling Panther Lake, and we expect the bream fishing to only get better as the lake matures."

However, when it comes right down to it, none of these lakes have the ability to conjure up special memories of childhood bream fishing trips quite like the lowly farm pond - the place where most of us first cut our fly fishing teeth. Fly-fishing for bream in a farm pond somehow takes us back to what fishing is suppose to be - simple, relaxing and FUN!