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Thread: Tenkara High Lake Food Forms - Land Based Insects

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    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Fresno, California

    Default Tenkara High Lake Food Forms - Land Based Insects


    Of the 452 fish I caught on dry flies in 2010 (the only time I have ever gone to the trouble to keep track of that information), 285 of those 452 fish were caught on size a 16 and a size 12 ant fly patterns. In the six surveys of terrestrial fall collections Gary LaFontaine did on high mountain lakes, ants were always the most frequent land based insect collected, with beetles always coming in at second place. So here is the link to Ralph Cutter's take on ants, for both lake and stream fishing as well: One of the draw backs to ant patterns is that they are hard for the angler to see on the water. The main trigger for ants is the narrowness of their waists. My Two-toned X-rated Ant pattern emphasizes the narrow waist with the Madam-X style round rubber legs, with the visibility for the angler being taken care of with Two-Tone black/tan laminated closed cell foam shell-backed over dyed black peacock herl under bodies of the ant's head and abdomen - black underneath for the fish to see, light tan on top for the angler to see looking down on the water.


    On a trip made to Canada some time back, driving toward the Kamloops Lakes region of British Columbia, it was not possible to see a healthy tree not infected with Pine Bark Beetles for as far as you could see in any direction. At Lac Le Jeune they were cutting the infected trees down in the winter when the beetles were dormant, so they would not leave their dying hosts and spread to infect more healthy trees. But with the advent of climate change, the warmer winters has prevented the Pine Bark beetles up there from going dormant, like they always did in the past, and the shear numbers of infected trees has surpassed the government's abilities to physically destroy the numbers of trees so infected. So insecticide laden pest strips have been tried in the hope of controlling the invading pests to some extent by that means. How successful that has been I do not know. Trees cut down that have been infected with the beetles will show a blueish ring a few inches inside of the bark/wood juncture line on the stumps. The trees natural defense is to flood out the invading pests, which bore through the bark and into the tree's interior, with pitch and resin. But in dry years the trees lack the necessary moisture to mount an effective defense, making the spread of this insect prevalent all across western North America during drought years and well there after. Infected trees first show a yellowing of the needles, then a rusty red coloration, then the needles all die and dry out completely, with the dead tree loosing the needles in a year or so down the road, once the beetles over come the tree's defenses. While this situation is reeking havoc with our forests all across the west, beetles are a good food source for trout living in mountain lakes and streams. A mature beetle is a robust, black, size 12, going down as small as a size 18 or so. The fish tend to move farther and faster to take a bigger beetle pattern than they do a smaller one in my experience. Of course there are all kinds of other sized and colors of beetles out there that trout will also eat, but the standard black beetle pattern is hard to beat. The Two-toned Foam Beetle pattern I use is one half of a Two-Toned Ant body segment, with the addition of a soft black hackle, clipped top and bottom, with black starling being my favorite beetle hackle material, over an under body of peacock herl. Although you are not very likely to come upon a high lake containing a population of aquatic snales, this is another application for your beetle patterns that may come in useful at some time in the future, according to Ralph Cutter:

    High Country Hoppers:

    While the mechanism that makes all land based insects available to trout, besides accidentally falling in the water off of foliage or falling out of the air in flight, is thermal afternoon up-slope-blow-in winds. The high country has its own, resident, hopper populations, which tend to be smaller than their lowland hopper counter parts are. A size 10 or 11 is about what they top out at in the high country. The big hind legs found on traditional hopper patterns are not really needed in order to catch fish. And not imitating the big back legs allows you to fish one fly pattern for cadidsflies and stone flies, as well as hoppers and crickets, with color being the primary difference between the crickets and the hoppers, crickets being more blackish in color. Trout simply love to eat all of them if they have been exposed to enough of them to expect hoppers or crickets to be on the trout food menu, whether you are fishing in lakes or streams. Adjacent grassy areas are helpful but not really necessary for hoppers to end up in the water. It would probably be best to tie or buy hopper patterns with colors that match the hoppersyou see in your mountain areas. However, all of these land based insects drop in at nature's whim, and the fish take what they can find with no preconceived notion of what to expect to be up next on their dinner menu, so color, size, and body type are seldom all that important to fish living in these impoverished mountain waters, be they lakes or streams.


    Spiders come in all colors and sizes also, often carried on the wind in web structure kites to disperse their kind and to colonize new territories. Although I have found land based true spider patterns to be better stream patterns than they generally are in lakes, I have, none the less, had some truly exceptional successes with my spider patterns on stillwaters on occasions. My Foam Spider pattern has a parachute style hackle of partridge, wound around the thread post that affixes the light cream colored foam over body to the peacock herl under body wrapped on the hook. It is a highly visible pattern, as are all the rest of these patterns, even though all of these flies ride very low in the water.


    In many, if not virtually all, of the high lakes trout could not exist with out the daily falls of terrestrial insects the wind delivers to them. Wind not only is responsible for delivering the trouts daily sustenance on the water but also driving it to concentrate the food on the windward side of the lake shore for the trout. You should concentrate your fishing efforts from that shoreline, casting your fly in to the wind so the pattern will drift back toward you, drag free. That is the fly should move at the same speed as the wind generated surface currents of the lake. Here, for this kind of presentation, a floating style Tenkara fly line is much better at doing these kinds of presentations than the more traditional Tenkara level or hand tied tapered sinking Fluorocarbon lines are, or the Traditional sinking Tenkara Furled lines can be. So what we need is a floating Tenkara fly line, with floating fly patterns that we can see on the water well, with a low visibility tapered leader to separate the floating fly from the more visible floating fly line, just like in western fly fishing.

    On timbered lakes, with trees crowding right up to the water line, using the bow-and-arrow cast will be called for. For doing this presentation, one of the advantages to it is the lack of rod movement as in doing a standard cast and the chances of hanging up your back cast. A tapered hand tied fC line a couple of feet shorter than the rod is long will work the best for doing the bow-and-arrow cast than a floating Tenkara fly line would. And you want a low visibility line as the fish will often be within inches of the shore, patrolling it looking for food, feeding into the wind. You need to lead the fish enough that the fly will not frighten them when it lands on the water. But the splat-cast, placing the fly on the water with some force, will often attract the trout to your fly, often with a considerable sense of urgency and speed, which is quite thrilling to see.

    The fish will be in water only inches deep, be very spooky and skittish. This is challenging fishing to say the least, but it makes success all the more sweet and rewarding for you. Stealth and the ability to spot the coming fish visually are your most important allies. Polarized fishing glasses and a hat that keeps the sun light and glare from getting in behind your glasses is equally important. You do not need full camouflage clothing but you should wear clothing that will blend in well with your surroundings at the lake to be fished to get the best results with the fish. One of the things I really like about fishing with terrestrial fly patterns is they are a real boon to the day-trip fishing angler, since the most productive fishing period with them is in the middle of the day, leaving the cool of the early morning for the drive up and hike in, and the hike back out and drive down in the cool of the evening. And since you will not be staying overnight, you will not need to deal with the Forest Service for a Wilderness Permit. You can travel fast and light with out all the gear it takes to stay over night. Good luck with your terrestrial fishing in the future. Here is a link to an article on Dry Flies for Stillwaters, by Gary LaFontain: ...Golden.
    Last edited by Golden; 10-17-2012 at 07:20 PM.

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