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Fly Fishing 101, Part 13
For a Big Bite Look for the Bugs!


Just because the bugs are flying, you don't necessarily want a can of spray stuff to kill them. For fly fishers, flying bugs are a good sign. Bugs sitting on the water are terrific. Bugs crawling out of the water are great. Even those still clinging to the underside of rocks in the stream can give you a good clue. Birds swooping over a stream are eating bugs too. A sign of a hatch!

If you don't much like bugs, or maybe are afraid of an insect bite, here is a little reassurance. Most of the insects trout eat don't have any working mouth parts. Put simply, they can't bite. So maybe you don't need all that bug spray stuff. Well, there might still be a mosquito or two around. Can't win them all.

You don't have to be an insect expert to fly fish. Tying flies does require more knowledge about the parts of insects and how they look. But for most fishers, just knowing some basics will put you ahead of the game.

Successful catching (note I didn't say fishing) does mean you need to know about the fish you are trying to catch. And what it eats. It helps too, if you know where the fish might be under different circumstances.

Most trout food fall into three categories. Each of those also has a nymphal form also food for the fish. What we see flying above trout water is the easiest to recognize. You may have to catch one to get it right. Or you can look for insects floating on the surface of the water. In-the-know fly anglers carry a little net to scoop stuff out of the water. You know, the kind they use in stores that sell fish for the home aquarium. Very little cost to add a great value to your fishing and catching.

Caddis are the most prevalent bugs trout eat. My granddad, the one who called brook trout "speckles", named caddis for me. He called them "dusty millers." Some caddis do have a dusty appearance, but it is the shape of the wing that matters. Caddis have tent-shaped wings, when they sit still which is rare. They don't seem to like the water much, and will fly up and down and sideways in a quick flitting motion. Actually it's their mating ritual.

Caddis
Caddis drawing from Presentation by Gary A. Borger
Drawings by Jason Borger
Published by Tomarrow River Press

Colors vary from almost white to nearly black with lots of tan and brown shades in between. This is probably the trout food seen most often.

I'm not an expert on insects, although some bugs are really quite neat. Caddis, when they hatch (all hatch from eggs laid upstream on the water the previous year) build a house. A tiny underwater house.

Some use tiny sticks, some sand and bits of gravel. The house has one opening and the caddis nymphs stick tiny legs out the opening and grab even tinier food as it passes by on the water current.

Castwell and I put some caddis nymphs in an aquarium with the glass sand that you use with tropical fish. The caddis made glass see-through houses out of it, underwater. A really neat adventure for us and the children. But then I've been known to watch a spider spin a web.

A very effective caddis pattern is the Lady's Fish Finder. It works particularly well because the fluttering nature of the fly. It produces the same action as a caddis does on the water, especially if a breeze moves it. You can tie the Fish Finder in any color to match the hatch where you are fishing.

Try fishing with a caddis dry fly. It is a great fly for beginners. Since it bounces and skitters on the water, precise presentation is not as important as when presenting a mayfly to a rising fish.

You can usually tell when trout are taking caddis. The "take" is a spashy, noisy, sometimes even leaping grab for the insect. If you get lucky, the trout will take your fly the same way. After all, part of the fun is fooling the fish into thinking your fly is just like the others he is chomping down.

For more information on this very important trout food, check out our review of Richards and Braendel's, Caddis Super Hatches. More on caddis next time.

Stop by the Chat Room and meet some fellow anglers. It is a nice bunch of people - always willing to lend a hand! Or just share your fishing adventures. Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB

Have a question? Email me!

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