Welcome to Not Quite Entomology

Welcome to Not Quite Entomology! This is a different approach to matching the hatch, or learning which insect the fish are really eating. The flies and methods to make it all work will be here as well. We hope this series will inspire you to go out, look on top of and under rocks, check the stream-side vegetation, really investigate your favorite water and learn which are your local trout's favorite foods!

Tricos-The Late Season Bonanza

Old Rupe!
By Old Rupe

This may be my year. If the wife doesn't get her way and completely break me on that spring Paris trip she wants to do, I want to fish Tricos once more. I'll need new glasses and 12 foot leaders tapered to 7 - 8X for my 2 weight. I have some special hooks I only save for this hatch. Geoffrey Bucknall dry fly hooks. A super wide gapped, short shanked, turned up eye, light wire hook, size 18. I think I'll have them buried with me. I've timed my vacation for the second and third week of July, and with the warmer winter this year I may just hit it right.

I first fished this hatch years ago, in the early seventies, after Vince Mariano's 1969 Field & Stream article paved the way for us all. Those who have never read his A Modern Dry Fly Code and In The Ring of the Rise might just as well fish with golf clubs. His thoughts are still as valid today as they were then. He was head and shoulders above everyone else. I never had the opportunity to meet him. It was my loss.

There are several species of Tricorythodes, but in general they can all be treated the same. The western fly is a size 16-18 while the eastern ones are a 20-26.

There is a definite cadence to the hatch. The males emerge the night before and the females in the early morning. Shortly after the female emergence occurs the spinner fall takes place, the premier event of the day. An especially cold evening can delay the male emergence until the following morning. Then you have a real mess. Male and female emergence and a spinner fall all within a two hour time limit. During these times I have seen trout feed with their noses completely out of the water, making a clicking sound that reminded me of ducks feeding. It takes a strong man to fish a hatch at times like these. Once the hatch starts in mid July or so it will continue daily until the first really good frost.

I have read that only the females drop to lie spent on the water. I don't believe it as I have seen both the male (black Abdomen) and the female (white abdomen) lying spent during a spinner fall, although I will admit I have generally noticed more females than males.

These nymphs are clingers and only swim poorly. The hatch is generally confined to silty, sandy, slow to medium water, while I fish the spinner fall at the glide below the riffles. My observations suggest the egg laying occurs in the riffle, where a spinner imitation is impossible to fish. The fish don't seem to feed on them much in the fast water, preferring to wait on the spinners to collect in the slower back waters and whirlpools where mats of spent flies collect like algae on the surface of a summer pond. Trout seem to feed on the dun in similar places.

I have never fished this hatch well. I have watched my betters fish it with some success and have returned for lunch to reflect on the error of my ways over a single malt or two. I was never enlightened. Rusty, another single malt, please.

The trick seems to be to catch the event on a day with little wind, casting to individual fish and timing the cast to that trouts feeding rhythm. Always your fly melts into the rest of the hatch and becomes one grain of sand along a beach. I've tried indicators, hot butt leaders, greased leaders, the whole works. Multiple flies tied on size 14-16 hooks and prayer don't appear to resolve the issue. I used to fish a cast of three nymphs after the spinner fall and before the evening male hatch. It was always to small fish. All my good fish came to spinners.

Each morning the spinner fall would happen. Some days I would wait in the prime area for two hours or so for the spinner fall to occur. I had to get there early so I wouldn't miss it. It never lasted more than two hours. I fished the spinner fall hard for ten years or so, day after day. We all knew where it would happen the only trick was when. Year after year I noticed this one individual who never seemed to wait, was never late and consistently seemed to be in the right place at the right time. A well dressed somewhat heavy-set gentleman we called the 'banker.' He would arrive, fish two hours at the peak time and depart. We never did understand how he managed to hit it right every time. He never talked to anyone, he just caught his trout and left to return to a suit and tie job. A two hour break to maintain his sanity. It took me thirty years to solve the puzzle.

We now know that the spinner fall happens at an air temperature of 68 degrees F. The bank clock showed the time and temperature. Maybe our nick-name 'the banker' wasn't too far off. That one simple fact would have saved me hundreds of wasted hours.

I fish the dun as a size 18-20 fly with 3 long Micro Fibett tails, a thread wrapped body and a few wraps of grizzly hackle or a few snow-shoe rabbit foot hairs to represent the wing.

I tie the spinner the same except that I use Float-Vis for the wing.

The nymph is done with natural brown wild turkey tail tied with very fine wire instead of thread, like Sawyer did his pheasant tailed nymph. I tie a couple of tail fibers on each side to represent legs. The copper wire weights the size 18 fly. A small indicator helps.

The floating nymph works during this hatch. It may be that its taken for the spinner, but whatever, it works.

I fish upstream during this hatch, but on my river the old-timers fished down and across with super long leaders. I've seen 24 foot leaders although I generally never fished one over 18 feet. A down-stream and across presentation with a leader with an eight foot tippet and the proper mend would drop the fly right down a trout's snout with no drag. A tough act to follow.

One should always remember that other flies are present at this time also. In the mid-west it's the Little Slate-Winged Olives (Baetis punctiventris) and the Small Blue-Winged Olives (Drunella lata) and more caddis species than a person can count. I'm not familiar with the western hatches but I have seen tons of Pale Morning Duns come off the water then. Watch what the trout are eating. There can be localized intense hatches which are not tricos, and all spinner falls at this time of the year don't happen in the morning. Many of the other flies present lay their eggs late into the evening. Dark might herald the emergence of more than just the male tricos. An aware bear returns to his den with a smug look on his face. A rare event at this time of the year.

Sometimes when I face this hatch (The White Curse) I feel like Indiana Jones. One against many, trying to persevere against the odds, undaunted, ready to try it again tomorrow. Old Rupe

P.S. Try tying the abdomen of the spinner and dun with a bright chartreuse color. I have had a lot of success fishing a small black ant during the emergence and spinner fall. I don't know why but it works. A 16-18 dry which looks like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. When all else fails try these two old tricks and hang on. Old Rupe

Special credits: Spent wing photo and nymph drawing courtesy of Malcolm Knopp and Robert Cormier, from their book Maylies published by Greycliff. Trico fly-in-hand from Hatches II by Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi, published by Lyons Press; remaining photos by James Birkholm.

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