Bugs, insects, and critters are all an integral part of the fly fishing process. If it wasn’t for the insects, fly fishers would be casting giant imitations of frogs or worms, in other words they would be bass fishermen. Its not that I don’t like bass fishermen, its just that they scare me in those giant boats. I do fish for bass but with a fly rod and tied flies. The literature of fly fishing without references and comments on insects is just- literature. John Gierach’s book “Sex, Death and Fly Fishing” sums up much about our activities. We look for insects, wait for them to be “born”, get together, have sex and die. Recently while fishing a 13-year old floored me by pointing out that the Gray Drakes (Siphlonurus quebecensis to the initiated) were copulating in the air. What are they teaching in schools these days and where did he learn that word? My ears were burning as he pointed out the numerous mating activities going on everywhere. At least he used a fine two dollar word.
Trying to figure out he whole cycle of insect life and trying to catch a fish can provide even the most experienced fly fisherman many frustrating and rewarding periods of existence. A recent fishing trip to the Muskegon River in Michigan is a prime example. It was evening and we were experiencing a flight of gray drakes which literally cast a shadow. The bugs were so thick that we actually were waving our hats in the air to keep them out of our mouths.
Any normal fisherman would have reached for his fly box and tied on a Swimming Mayfly Nymph, a Gray Drake Parachute or a Gray Drake Spinner pattern. There were three of us in the boat so we each tied on a different pattern. In the midst of this epic flight of mayflies, what did we get—zip, nada, nothing. Yogi Berra once said “you can learn a lot by watching”.
When the eureka moment arrived, the observant 13 year old pointed out to the combined 45+ years of experience in the boat that “no fish are rising” . Well, once that was brought to our attention, we really felt foolish. I can recall a number of times where insects were all around me in the air and absolutely nothing was happening on the water. I’m sure that there are at least a thousand magazine articles and dozens of books that would explain what was going on. Unfortunately I did not have them in the boat at that time.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this? Yes there is. The bugs will do what the bugs will do. The fish are just passive and only reacts when the bugs finish doing whatever they must do before the fish can do what it must do. A good fisherman has to wait on the bugs and the fish before we can do what we do. Fly fishing success is a combination of the right place, the right time and use of your past experience to successfully enjoy the sport we have chosen. In the end knowledge and using that knowledge is what will make you a successful fly fisherman. Oh, and take a kid fishing. Who know what you might learn.
La Pêche est ma Folie