Well, I’m sure I know what your thinking on this one! You’re probably thinking another lame Entomology class that some clown is trying to show you how smart he is, with his fancy words and complicated diagrams! Did I get it right? I bet for most of you I did! If you have ever read my blog before you know I’m a simple guy with simple principles and I don’t claim to be an expert. I do know what has worked for me over the years and I try to share my experiences and do it in a way you can understand. Over the years I have seen so many people try and overcomplicate matching bug life in our water ways. To the point I want to pull my damn hair out and cuss a lot! Example – Here is a Trichoptera it has three transformations of life! WTF, is that? Just tell me its a damn Caddis and what size and color should I be using! I’m going to show you what I do to match bug life in a body of water this includes rivers and still waters. I could literally spend hours talking about this crap but I’m going to try and keep it as simple as possible without boring the shit out of you.
Trust me, you don’t have to be a damn biologist to match bug life. I get so many questions on guided trips from clients about bug life in the water and how I keep it all straight. I will tell you three words to remember that have helped me match bug life and you can never go wrong! SIZE, SHAPE and COLOR are the three words you need to remember! If you can only have two, size and color are the most important. I will give you a quick explanation of each one but I want you to remember to not over think all this, it’s basic but it works!
SIZE – Is just that, the size of bugs you are seeing in the water. You want to match your flies to those bug sizes you are seeing weather they are up in the water column or crawling under rocks. I guide places in Colorado that can be very tough on anglers and I will tell you they are not successful a lot of the times because they are using the wrong size bugs on their rigs. The key thing is to get as close to the size of the naturals as possible, if you do that you will be successful.
SHAPE – This is the most complicated one and it can be a pain in the ass! If you just arm yourself with a little basic knowledge you can get by on this one. Shape, is the class of bug like Midge, Mayfly and Caddis. Now do you need to know all the different types of bugs? My answer is no, but it helps if you know some basics of the different flies. I pick out keys on each bug for instance the Midge. No tail and small. Mayflies have tails and Caddis have no tails but they have distinct legs towards their heads. These are just examples of how I remember them, I know it might sound funny but its a great way to remember the different bugs. I will suggest that you carry a bunch of cross over flies. Flies that can look like many different bugs, they are always good in a pinch when you don’t know what the exact bug is. A great example of a cross over fly is the pheasant tail nymph. Another thing I do for shape if I’m unsure of the bug type, I will take a picture of it and look it up on the internet later and figure out what it is. So in conclusion on shape, just get as close as you can with your flies. This is the least important of the three but I will tell you, the more bug life you know in your river system the better off you will be at matching whats going on in the water system and you can arm yourself with the right flies. Here is a quick list of bug types you should know and recognize in your body of water; Midges, Mayflies, Caddis, Stone Flies and Terrestrials (Aquatic Worms, Scuds, Sow Bugs Etc.)
COLOR – This one is just as important as size in my book. Color isn’t just matching the color of the naturals, Although important in some cases in others that may not work. For example, you get to the river and it is off colored and you matched the color of the naturals. Lets say it was brown, and you’re just not getting hits on your flies. If you change fly color say, to black or florescent colors that show up better in off colored water you just might start triggering strikes. This is a hint! Many fancy people say trout don’t see color and I’m not going to be the guy that tells you they do. I do believe fish see shades of color. I use the analogy of the soft white light bulb compared to the bright white light bulb. Same light bulb but they are two different shades, one has a softer light and one has bright light coming through. If I’m a fish, would I be more attracted to the bright white light bulb shining brightly coming down the river or the soft white light bulb I can barely see? So all this to tell you in off colored water I tend to go with more vibrant colored flies such as reds, pinks and black. In clear water I tend to stay with the colors of the naturals. I will always tell you that you cant go wrong with the natural colors of bugs in your water system.
Now you’re armed with what you need to match the bug life. You may be asking how I take bug samples and that would be a very good question. I take samples three ways and my favorite is the Seine. I can take samples of bugs in the upper, middle and lower parts of the water column with this handy tool. You can get really good samples of size, shape and color with this method. The stomach pump is my least favorite way to check out bug life. I think this method is only effective for size of bugs and shape. You can’t get accurate color samples from this method due to digestion in the fish stomach. Just make sure you do the stomach pump properly so you don’t hurt the fish. The last way I check for bug life is simple and effective and covers all three well. Pick up some rocks on the bottom of the river or lake and turn them over. I know it sounds so simple but I have found some great bugs by doing this simple thing. One last thing I want to add is take your samples a couple times throughout the day on the water. Different bugs get more active at different times of the day. Make sure your taking samples at different times of year as well so you know what is going on in your water system year around.
I hope this has helped you make a clearer picture of how to match bug life. Of course there is a million things to learn in the entomology world but if you keep it simple and stick to SIZE, SHAPE and COLOR you will be successful. If you follow these simple three words you will also build a vast knowledge of the water system you fish and that will make you a better fly fisherman. You won’t have to rely on some over educated biologist anymore you will be your own biologist and learn a lot more in the process.
As always please leave me any questions or comments. Please share with your friends. Thanks for checking out the blog and take care!