Fishing the Hatch, Lost Art of Insect Identification


Scouring the fly bins you will find the latest hot

flies filling many slots in local shops. These slots are packed ensuring that each angler has a chance to pick up a couple before hitting the many waterways in our area. These flies have the latest shiny materials sparkling in the daylight guaranteed to catch fisherman and maybe some trout along the way. Stuck in the back like a forgotten toy after Christmas is where you will find the not so popular traditional dry flies and nymphs that imitate the lifecycle of the local insects that trout find a mainstay of their diet all year long.

As a fly tier, guide, and shop employee it is easy to get mesmerized by new flies that are catching trout, lets face it our job is to sell flies and help people catch trout regardless of skill sets and experience. The problem is that when you offer a March Brown, Blue Winged Olive, or an Egg Laying Caddis most snarl their nose as if we have offended them in someway. Do we not have an obligation as fly fishermen and fisherwomen to understand the insects that make up the diet of the trout we chase or have we fallen prey to the catching trout numbers game for bragging rights at our local club meeting.

I dare to say that if you quiz ten anglers on what hatches are currently taking place most would not know. Regardless if you only fish nymphs, the matching insects stage is important. Being able to properly identify insects allow for better fly selections and can increase your success on the water and it may even eliminate those junk fly selections in your box. I don’t know the Latin names and I would not expect you to as well but isn’t fly fishing about fly selection and proper presentation?

Excellent resources exist that help with hatches and most even suggest what patterns you should consider having in your box. Spring brings some great top water activity and we should take advantage of trout looking upwards and feeding on dries and emerging insects. Quill Gordon, Yellow Sallies, and March Browns are just few names you should know and be able to identify on the stream. Caddis fly imitations are great for our local area and the late Gary LaFontaine is well known for understanding caddis flies as he has invented many caddis patterns that do a great job imitating the lifecycle of the caddis fly that anglers from all over the world use successfully each day.

Stimulators, Royal Wulffs, and Royal Coachmans are great attractor flies that work well for many anglers. However these flies are not exact imitations but they are subjective and get the attention of opportunistic trout looking for a good meal. Local patterns such as the Thunderhead and Charlie Whoppers do a great job bringing even the wariest trout up to the top when drifted well and not spooked by offensive clothing and poor wading abilities.

I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try focusing on insect identification and fishing a fly that best matches the hatch. The numbers of fish landed and successfully released may not be a great at first but the satisfaction of knowing that you just fooled one of the hardest fish to catch with a hook, dubbing, and hackle feathers should be worth more than catching and releasing 42 freshly stocked trout as the stock truck drives off.


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