Insider Info: Bug Basics

Fly Fishing Tackle Box_credit Ches Bay Prog
Notice what’s floating by to determine the right fly.

The scenario is all too common and puzzling. You can see the fish. You cast just above them. Your fly drifts past their noses, but no bite. Must be the wrong fly… or maybe not.
“Fish tend to eat things they recognize as food,” says Tom Rosenbauer, marketing manager for Orvis Rod & Tackle and the author of more than 20 books on fly fishing, including The Orvis Guide to Hatch Strategies: Successful Fly Fishing for Trout Without Always Matching the Hatch (Rizzoli, 2017). “Everything else is simply debris to them.”
Rosenbauer preaches five principals to entice trout to take your fly when they are feeding on the surface of the water:

1. Simplify the entomology. According to Rosenbauer, you only need to identify four key bugs: mayfly, stonefly, caddisfly, and midge. No matter what water you’re on, if the fish are rising, at least one of these are likely hatching.
2. Don’t assume the type of fly is incorrect. “Trout are opportunists,” says Rosenbauer. “If they’re not taking a fly, something else might be wrong, like your presentation or the size of the fly.”
3. Size is more important than color. Rosenbauer points to recent research findings that trout see color in rough shades, not exact hues. He believes size matters more than color when it comes to matching a hatch.
4. When in doubt, use a Parachute Adams. There’s a reason Parachute Adams is the most popular dry fly in the world. It catches fish. “It just plain works universally, in any water, when fish are rising – and sometimes where they’re not,” says Rosenbauer.
5. Or use an emerger. “Trout select toward easier prey,” explains Rosenbauer. “Trout know instinctively that emergers – flies in mid- hatch, half in and half out of the water –can’t fly away. Helplessness trumps size. That’s why trout will select small olive flies, which take longer to get out of their shucks than large mayflies.”

The most important consideration, says Rosenbauer, is that the drift of the fly happens naturally, without drag.

Avoid water and cover up to keep bug bites at bay.

Mosquito_credit Stephen Ausmus_credit USDAMore than 150 species of mosquitos hatch across the United States each year. At a minimum, they suck your blood, leaving behind an itchy welt.

At worst, they can kill you if they carry Zika, West Nile, encephalitis, or another deadly virus. But is the risk high enough to give up fishing, hiking, or camping?

“The risk is low, but it changes year to year,” says Jonathan Day, PhD, professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida and a national expert on mosquitos. People who spend time outdoors are going to get bitten, he says, but unless you hear warnings of a specific virus outbreak, “don’t worry about it.”

Day, who has spent hours outdoors doing research in mosquito-infested areas, uses the following techniques to lessening his exposure to the buzzing swarm:

Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk. Although mosquitos are always around, they are most active around sunrise and sunset. “Mosquitos like high humidity,” says Day. “That’s why they are summer organisms and why so many are in tropical and subtropical areas. At dawn and dusk, the temperature rises or drops, passing briefly through the dew point or 100-percent humidity. Mosquitos are fragile and dry out quickly, so they don’t like direct sun. The higher the humidity, the less water loss they have.”

Cover up. Day recommends wearing tightly woven, breathable fabrics, including high-tech athletic wear or fishing shirts and pants with a sun-protection rating. Mosquitos can’t bite through it.

Use an insect repellent containing DEET. Day applies bug spray to the backs of his hands, back of his neck, forehead, and other exposed skin. “I use a low 5-percent concentration of DEET and reapply it every 90 minutes,” he says. “Hikers, campers, anglers, and hunters who need to sit still in a tree stand need to go with a higher concentration, 30-percent DEET… Tuck your pants into your socks and spray from your boots to your knees. Mosquitos are generally low to the ground.”

Find a breeze. Mosquitos are not active when the wind blows.

It’s easy to hate mosquitos, but they do serve a role in an ecosystem. Mosquito larvae are an important food source for fish, dragonflies, tadpoles, and other small animals. Birds and bats also eat them. Some adult mosquitos feed on flower nectar and act as pollinators. If you cover up, use DEET, and wait for a breezy day, you’ll keep them from feeding on you, too!

An IWLA member based in Red Lodge, Montana, Lisa Densmore Ballard is an award-winning writer and photographer who spends much of the spring fishing.