"See that disturbance in the water over there next to the bank?" Jeff Efird asked. "Try to get a cast in there."

His partner in the john boat, Natasha Getway, duly complied, wielding a 9-foot, 8-weight fly rod with a delicate touch to feather down a little Sneaky Pete popping bug precisely where Efird suggested.

The nicely-placed cast drew instant action as an aggressive bluegill attacked the popper. There was none of the gentle kiss associated with bream taking surface offerings of the sort one gets later in the summer. A hefty, hump-backed male, riled by an unwelcome intrusion into the bedding area, hit with the sort of ferocity that would do a bass proud.

The young lady who had made the cast reacted with an excited "wow" as she set the hook.

Once it felt the sting of the hookset, the bream raced for deeper water and put a most satisfying bend in the fly rod. Using its width to good advantage, the fish made two determined dashes toward nearby submerged brush before turning on its side, exhausted, so Getway could ease it to the boat.

"That's a good start," said Efird as he lifted the fish from the water, "but we need to put a couple dozen more of these fellows in the cooler."

During the next few hours of this delightful afternoon trip on a balmy May day, his goal would be achieved and then some. Each bream bed, readily distinguishable to the knowing eye thanks to disturbances in the water as well as visible saucer-shaped depressions lining the shallows, yielded half a dozen or so fish before the bluegills seemed to wise up and stop hitting.

Then it was time to move to the next gathering of spawning fish.

By the time a complete circuit of the pond had been made, the fish at the starting point had settled down and were once more willing, indeed eager, to dispel intruders or eat - it's always a bit of a question of just which is the case when it comes to bedding bream. For the angler though, it doesn't really matter so long as they are taking what is offered.

Ponds dot Efird's Chester County property, and he realizes when it comes to bream the oft-expressed advantages of catch-and-release turn to a dramatically different approach - release to grease.

Bream (a generic term that covers bluegills, shellcrackers and a variety of sunfish) readily overpopulate in ponds and small lakes, and keeping one's catch helps keep the bass-vs.-bream numbers in balance as well as producing bigger bream.

Also, when it comes to fine eating, large bream, especially those sizeable enough to fillet, offer the sort of fare guaranteed to bring tears of pure joy to the eyes of a hungry country boy.

From an angler's perspective, bream are singularly cooperative fish and can be caught at any time of the year in South Carolina. When it comes to predictable action though, May has a magic all its own. Fishing folklore suggests bedding fish are most active in conjunction with May's full moon, and most veteran anglers who take the trouble to observe the "signs" agree that such is indeed the case.

Take, for example, the thoughts of Rock Hill's Shag Tillman. A genial giant who has such a winning personality that folks actually shop at the Harris-Teeter Store where he works just to have an opportunity to interact with him, Tillman is a lifelong sportsman with an enduring love affair with bream.

He has laminated copies of articles dealing with bream that have appeared in the local paper over the years, and when this particular aspect of the rites of spring rolls around each year, Shag finds time to be on the bank of a pond or lake.

"I've never quite figured out how to catch crappie with consistency," he says, "but bream, now that's another story. They're fun; they're fine-eating; and a man will look long and hard to find more pure pleasure than a day spent bream fishing."

That pretty well sums things up, although a few thoughts from Sam Tucker, an avid fisherman who lives in York, merit sharing as well.

"Give me a sleeve of crickets, or a bunch of red worms, along with a simple spincasting rig," Tucker said, "and I'm ready for springtime business."

Tucker has developed a real knack for locating bedding bream, and that treasure-finding ability means fish aplenty when he ventures out on the water in May. He looks for all the visible signs of bream on the bed, but two other senses come into play as well.

It's possible to smell out bream beds during calm days, something that can be of considerable importance when the beds are in 3 or 4 feet of water and undetectable with the naked eye. Tucker also uses his ears to good advantage, because often he discerns splashing in a protected area that helps him zero in on a bed.

Locating bream beds is probably the most important aspect of May outings (and it should be noted that bedding activity continues into June and, especially at large reservoirs, July as well) for these members of the panfish clan.

However, that they're quite easy to catch doesn't mean there's no skill, no blending of piscatorial art and science, when it comes to catching panfish. Quite the opposite holds true, and a bit of a primer regarding the most-effective tactics and techniques might be helpful.

Proven Ways for May Days
Although the first cast or two to a bed probably will produce a strike no matter how splashy or inept the presentation, Efird said it's much better to drop a lure into a bream bed with some degree of finesse.

Specifically, if an angler can determine the whereabouts of the outer edge of the bedding area, he should make the initial casts there and, soon as a fish is hooked, do his best to horse it away from the beds.

The last thing an angler wants is a bream running amok amongst its companions guarding other beds. Gradually extend casts toward the heart of the bedding spot, and once several consecutive casts produce no action, it's likely time to move on to the next spot. It's not a bad idea to let a good spot "rest" and return later.

When it comes to baits or lures, choosiness isn't part of the bream family's vocabulary.

"They will readily take red worms, bits of night crawlers, grasshoppers, 'nests' (the larva of stinging insects such as wasps and yellow jackets) and crickets," Tucker said.

The latter probably work best of all the baits, but it should be noted it's far easier for them to steal a cricket from the hook than is the case with some other types of bait. Use light monofilament - 4- or 6-pound test - a small split shot to sink the bait a bit, and a little bobber (long, slender ones of the porcupine quill type make less disturbance when they strike the water at the end of a cast), and an angler's in business.

In truth, as long as bream are bedding, artificials can be nearly as productive as live bait.

For anglers such as Getway, who love the long rod and whistling line, small popping bugs such as Sneaky Petes or Hula Poppers, foam spiders or dry flies of the type normally used for trout work quite nicely.

If an angler handles a fly rod with some adroitness and wants an extra thrill, consider using a two-fly rig. To achieve this simply add a dropper beneath the surface lure. Just use an improved clinch knot to tie a short length of monofilament - 1- to 2-feet long, depending on the depth of the water holding the beds - to the bend of the hook. Attach a small beadhead nymph such as a Pheasant Tail or Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear and an angler has a two-for-one offering. And, every so often, anglers will hook two fish at once

"Two fat, feisty bream hell-bent on going in opposite directions put a bend into a fly rod you would only expect with much larger fish," Getway said.

The angler equipped with spinning gear can use bait, but he also will find that small jigs, beetlespins, Creek Critters of various types (PRADCO), and in-line spinners such as Mepps Aglias or Panther Martins (just make sure they're small enough for bream to get in their small mouths) work quite well. Another useful lure is a small Colorado-blade spinner with a long-shank trout fly as a trailer, fished with a couple of split shot to get it down a bit and make casting easy.

Finally, when it comes to a suitable choice of equipment, Tillman recommends anglers not overlook that old standard, a long cane pole. According to his way of thinking, a pole of 15 feet or so in length, equipped with a suitable amount of monofilament, a hook, sinker, and adjustable bobber, can be "a bream-busting tool of the first water."

The length of the pole lets the angler use the weight of the bobber to lob the hook into the place he wants with minimal disturbance, adjusting to different depths requires nothing more than slipping the bobber up or down the line, and the pole can be used to hoist hooked bream straight out of the water with minimal disturbance.

No matter what the preference when it comes to equipment and lures, once an angler gets the hang of locating bedding bream, he'll find a new reason for the old adjective that described the month of May as being "merrie." Then too, as Efird, said at the end of the outing described above, "It's might comforting to know that you've not only caught a bunch of fish and had a good time; you also have the satisfaction of putting delicious food on the table."

Bream and Kids
There's no finer way to introduce a youngster to what potentially can be a lifetime of pleasure than taking youngsters on a bream outing in the late spring.

The likelihood of success, something that rates high in the eyes of a small child, is about as promising as anything connected with the uncertainties of fishing can be. There are no requirements for a high degree of skill in terms of things such as casting, hook setting, and playing fish.

Then too, chances are one can end the day with the makings of a fish supper.

Keep a couple of things in mind. The dorsal fin on bream can stick a hand or finger like nobody's business, so for young children, older anglers probably should do all the removal of fish from hooks (and possibly take care of baiting chores as well).

Don't plan to do much if any fishing on your own - you'll have your hands full baiting hooks, removing fish, answering questions, and wearing a guide's hat for the day.

Rest assured, however, that you'll enjoy an ample measure of pleasure and end the outing with a rare sense of inner satisfaction.

Bream on the Table
By all means keep your catch, and not just because it makes sense from a management standpoint.

A regimen of fried bream fillets, or bream fried whole if they're too small to lend themselves to the action of a fillet knife, flanked by companies of hush puppies and with backup support from a big bowl of cole slaw, fills the inner man wonderfully well.

Or, if you worry about grease and cholesterol, place fillets atop a broiler pan, adorn with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and some bread crumbs, and pop into a high temperature oven until the topping browns and the fillets flake at the touch of a fork.

Yet another approach is to use chunks of fillet, along with milk, corn, onion, celery, and spices to taste, to make a hearty fish chowder.

Finding Fishy Places
One of the great things about bream is they're every man's fish.

From small creeks to large rivers, from half-acre farm ponds to sprawling reservoirs, bream are found most anywhere in South Carolina.

And anglers don't have to have a high-dollar boat to fish for them, and when they're bedding, bank fishermen can more than hold their own with their boating brethren.

Even better, often a polite request to a landowner will afford an angler access to a farm pond. And don't overlook the intensively managed public lakes, maintained by the S. C. Department of Natural Resources, scattered across the state.

Also, most anywhere public launching areas or fishing piers exist at big reservoirs, bream will be lurking nearby.


Jim Casada caught his first bream at age four, and the joy of the sport never has palled. His web site is at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.