Our Man In Canada
February 4th, 2002

Waterboatmen

By Carl Bruhn
From Fly Fishing British Columbia, Published by Interactive Broadcasting Corporations, distributed by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

Publisher's Note: Here's one to start tying for spring and ice-out on Canadian lakes! Fly photo and recipe below.

Although available year-round, waterboatmen only slip onto the menu of stillwater trout immeidately after ice-off and again in the late fall. These stillwater beetles are common inhabitants of the shallows in productive lakes throughout British Columbia. Breathing through a process known as plastron respiration, waterboatmen are air-breathing insects, making them prisoners of the shallows. Trapping a bubble of air against their bodies, boatmen have a distinct silvery shine which often masks their true body color. Radiant patterns featuring mylar, Flashabou or Krystal Flash are required to mimic this sheen and are essential when trout feed selectively.

Boatmen are often mistaken for their larger cousins, the backswimmers. Characterized by dark backs and light bellies the color of masking tape, waterboatmen seldom exceed half an inch in length. Backswimmers have light backs and dark bellies and grow as long as three quarters of an inch. The prominent oar-like legs common to both insects should be a primary feature on any pattern.

Prime time to fish boatmen imitations is in the late fall after the first frosts of the season. Capable of flight, mature boatmen mate and disperse, crashing headlong into lakes all over the south-central interior of the province. These cascading boatmen give the illusion of rainfall. Slamming onto the surface of the water, boatmen spin wildly, as though knocked senseless by the impact. After breaking through the surface film, boatmen scoot down to the bottom, depositing their eggs on weeds and other subsurface debris. Trout sometimes become fixated on the surface-spinning boatmen. Traditional patterns will not tempt these selective fish, but anglers lucky enough to have buoyant boatmen patterns in their fly boxes can reap huge rewards at this time.

The key to successful presentation is duplicating the U-shaped path boatmen follow as they travel to and from the bottom to replenish their oxygen supply. In shallow water, weighted patterns fished on floating lines are effective, provided the front portion of the hook is weighted, achieving the nose-down attituge of diving boatmen. In water deeper than 10 feet, a high-density, full-sinking line works well. The heavy belly section of traditional full-sinking lines pulls the fly down to the bottom as it sinks. A brisk, choppy strip retrieve back to the surface completes the U-shaped travel path.

No matter what presentation technique is used, strikes are invariably savage. The rapid sculling swim of the waterboatmen causes trout to strike quickly and agressively.

Krystal Boatman

Krystal Boatman
Tied by Phil Rowley

    Hook: TMC 3769, #10 - 14.

    Thread: Black. 6/0 or 8/0.

    Tag: Silver Flashabou.

    Shell Back: Black Krystal Flash.

    Body: Yellow to tan dubbing spun in a loop of pearl, and silver Krystal Flash.

    Legs: Brown or olive Super Floss.

    Our Man In Canada Archives


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