THE TROUT, THE ANGLER, AND THE BUGS (MAYFLIES)
In this column I shall endeavor to pass along some of the intimate knowledge about Mayflies that I have acquired. You might say that this information is straight from the trout's mouth! My friend the Yellowstone Fly Tyer will also be explaining the technical side of the fly tying. He might also comment on various presentation methods. However we will try to limit his rambling. Anyhow, who understands presentation methods better than "Bugzy"? Oh the stories I could tell you! I have seen it all!
Many centuries have passed since man first noticed that trout rose to the surface of the water to eat mayflies and even though that event was recorded in 200 A.D. It was many more centuries before the facts of that discovery would become reasonably acceptable in the historical circles of fly fishing. Of course some anglers who don't read or maybe can't read are still unaware of the early discovery of these facts.
Of course Trout have been eating mayflies since the beginning of trout and mayflies. However we trout have been given to understand that only a select group of individuals in those early years could read or write. We trout noticed that mankind suffered a long period of wars, plague; I believe the period was called the Dark Ages, but I digress.
Around 1440 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press prior to this the publication of a book was a long process and the printing press swept across Europe and by 1496 the first book dealing with fly fishing was published.
This famous book was written by Dame Juliana Berners and was entitled A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle and appeared as part of a larger work and after that there has been a steady progression of book appearing on a regular basis which has lead to fly fishing and its related subjects being the literary sport in the world.
What we trout are so amazed by is that with all the written work that is available to the anglers, why are so many lost in the fog of reality when it comes to the angler, the trout and the bugs that they eat and in this particular case the mayflies.
The trout have been watching the anglers for centuries and we couldn't figure out how so many missed the observations of the few keen humans even though these observations were written down. We asked our favorite Fly Tyer how this was possible and he brought his computer streamside and showed something called "Jay-walking" with Jay Leno after seeing this we completely understand the lack of knowledge among a certain segment of the fly anglers. Now that I have rambled on I will now address the information that I have obtained as an active feeding trout as it relates to mayflies.
If the question were asked what came first the Mayfly or the Trout, I can tell you that the Mayflies came first and date back some 350 million years ago and the trout appeared around 40 million years ago. I will tell you we found that mayflies were very tasty almost at once and have been eating them ever since. There are approximately 2,500 species of Mayflies worldwide and presently there are 649 species listed for North America.
Now there some scientists who are always trying to confuse you angler's but changing the names, switching the families or lumping together or splitting apart the various groups of mayflies. We trout have found this dance very amusing and are further amused by how all this name changing seems to throw many anglers off their game and cause others to spurn the knowledge of the insects that we feed on simply due to a name change.
Consider this; the Western Green Drake is the same insect regardless of what name changes have occurred within the scientific community. The knowledge of the life cycle, emergence time, how it emerges and what type of nymph it is are still important to the success of the angler.
Most mayflies have a once year life cycle however there are a few species that have a two year life cycle and there are a few species which are classed as Multi-brood species meaning they can hatch more than one time during the year and the emergence can go on for an extended period of time. However as adults mayflies have a very short life span as their primary mission is to breed and lay eggs and this time period can vary from 12 to 72 hours and once the mission is accomplished they die.
There is no doubt that the adult mayflies are the most popular and most alluring stage of the fly anglers to fish and dry fly fishing has developed into the most popular segment of the sport. However, I can tell you that we trout feed on the nymphal stage of the mayfly more consistently than we ever feed on the dry flies.
We trout watched the progression of the fly anglers as the methods changed and the tackle improvde as the anglers became more proficient in capturing my ancestors. However in those days the captured trout seldom returned to tell us the story of the capture as most when to the table but as the years marched on more and more of those captured were returned to us with a sore jaw and a story to tell and we became more knowledgeable in the ways of the fly anglers.
Through the waterweed vine we heard about the land called North America and how the silly Brook Trout fell as easy prey to the fly anglers as a matter of fact the fishing pressure and the changes in the habitat caused the fly anglers to transport the members of Bugzy family to North America and introduced them in the local rivers and streams and there we thrived and found a rich bounty to feast upon.
I believe this introduction happened during the late 19th century as you human mark time. Once again we watched the progression of the fly anglers as they improved their tackle, modified and create new patterns and we watch the numbers of fly angler grow. We also watched with interest the growth and acceptance of the Catch & Release Creed, which we were great supporters.
Frankly we trout are amazed by the quality of the tackle, the overwhelming amount of written information in the form of books and magazine articles and creation of wonderful imitations that could fool even the most knowledgeable trout. We were afraid that no trout would be safe from the fly angler, but we soon found out that only modest percentage of the anglers were all that accomplished and the rest of them often were of little danger to the feeding trout.
The single greatest failing of most fly angler is the lack of observation and the second greatest failing is the total lack of patience's.
These two items also leads to lack of common sense and when you couple that with the modern day approach of catch them all and catch them quick, we trout feel fairly safe and we do enjoy the humor of the situation.
I will say that we trout do find the fly anglers to be the strangest breed of anglers who pursue us, we have never heard a bait angler refuse to use a worm if their minnows proved ineffective nor have ever witnessed a spin fisherman refuse to use a spoon when a bucktail jig wasn't effective.
However I have personally listened to a guide beg the angler to drop a nymph off his dry fly and have heard the angler proclaim "I don't fish anything but dry flies!" even when the guide pointed out that the trout were ravenously feeding on mayfly nymphs twenty inches beneath the surface of the water. Yes indeed we trout do find some fly anglers to be very strange indeed.
It would be like us saying I don't care how many mayflies are available we are only going to eat caddisflies today, especially when no caddisflies are available. If we pulled a stunt like that, we would starve! But the Fly Tyer tells us that some human do set limits, but we still think that this is indeed strange behavior.
Now here the truth on the truth about the mayfly and the trout and it all begins with the angler's willingness to observe the situation encounter on the water being fished. Now a small bit of knowledge and old fashion curiosity will help the angler fill in the blanks and contribute greatly to improved angler success.
Now as to that old fashion curiosity simply stated put your rod down on the bank and turn over a few rocks, rake a bug net through a few weeds and along the shoreline and even conduct a kick screen in water to be fished. Now take the samples you have collected and place them in a small clear glass dish or jar, look at the general coloration of the mayfly nymphs and take note of the shape and sized of the insect. Also watch how they swim and then release them back into the stream and observe how the swim and where they swim to, do they go into the weedbeds or did they head for the gravel.
Then you can select an imitation from your fly box that closely resembles the nymphs that you collected. Then you can figure out how to present the fly to zone in the water column where you believe the trout to be holding and feeding.
The next step is to wait for an emergence of the mayflies and when this happens don't grab your rod and rush to do battle with us wary trout instead take a few minutes to learn and know your prey. The time spent in this endeavor will pay vast dividends in the future.
As the hatch begins approach the feeding fish and carefully watch the trout and see how we feed and at what depth we begin feeding, follow the progression of how we move up in the water column as the mayfly nymphs go through the emergence process.
By watching this hatching process you should learn that we begin our feeding at the bottom and slowly move up in the water column as the nymphs begin to rise to emerge on the surface. Now you may be able to place the nymphs in the proper position by the uses of strike indicators however after studying the various methods used by anglers I suggest that you use a dry fly and then a dropper of the require length to place the nymph at the proper depth.
As the nymphs rise in the water column simply shorten the dropper to accommodate the situation. Even when the nymphs reach the surface we are often still feeding on the nymphs struggling in the surface film as they are easy to capture. Once the adult break free of the nymphal shuck they often quickly fly off the surface of the water and then are unavailable to us.
Now there are cool or moist days when we find the mayflies sitting on the water for extended periods of time then of course we feed on the adults. We will also feed on adults after the intensity of the main emergence has faded, as the overwhelming number of nymphal food forms decrease their availability for the day then many of us trout who are still looking for a snack will key in on the scattered and occasional adults that we find on the surface of the water.
During the time period of the mating flights or spinner fall as they are often referred to by you anglers we trout may feed on adults on the film, in the surface film and beneath the surface film again the key to success is the anglers ability to observe the actions of how we feed.
Oftentimes during periods of heavy mayfly emergences using dry flies during the hours of early morning or during other time periods when the number of actual insect is low is an effective method for luring us trout into taking your imitations.
Now given the choice most anglers would use an up-winged mayfly adult imitation as a searching pattern. Whoever old Bugzy has a special tip for you, try using an old fashion full hackle spent wing adult as your searching pattern!
We trout see the spent adult profile during the hatches when a insect is flatten by wind, rain or currents, we see the spent profile during spinner fall and throughout the time period following the spinner falls and in the opinion of Bugzy Brown trout the spent mayfly profile is the number one searching mayfly adult imitation.
The original Adams was tied in the spent profile and you may want to modify the colors but the pattern style is an extremely successful in fooling us trout.
Now you anglers in your rush to improve and rush to the next great fly pattern stopped using this style of pattern and actually we trout were glad that you did, however please remember that the trout are the final judge of any fly pattern, not the Fly Shop, or the Mail Order Catalog or even the writers who has their own special patterns to push.
All of this was primarily figured out years ago by anglers who didn't necessarily had any scientific training but did have the ability and willingness to observe and the common sense to turn those observations into positive and effective techniques.
Now we trout are not belittling the scientific knowledge of the trout or the food forms they feed on, however we are saying that the knowledge is sought for the personal desires of the individual angler and it is not critical to the overall success of any angler who is willing to be observant and patience.
Who taught Venables in 1662 or Stewart in 1857 or Leisenring in the 1930's, oh they may have read the literature of the day but their success was due to their willingness to observe the actions of the trout and put into practice those observation!
If you follow this procedure soon you will be consistently taking trout. Please remember to carefully release us so we can brighten your day on future outings!
Now in Part two of this selection I will turn you over to the Fly Tyer and his patterns however remember we will be the final judges of their effectiveness.
Enjoy and hope you miss a lot
Bugzy the Brown Trout