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Going buggy

Notes from the North Woods

This football shaped, brook trout measured only 6 1/2 inches in length, but it weighed nearly the same as the much longer fish above it.

This football shaped, brook trout measured only 6 1/2 inches in length, but it weighed nearly the same as the much longer fish above it. Photo by Joe Hackett.

Success is often achieved by making an artificial offering look as natural as possible. Often, this means attempting to make the insect look like it is trying to escape. Instinctively, insects recognize they are in danger while struggling to get off the water’s surface. As a result, they will attempt to dry their wings and fly to safety.

I remember watching the late Rev. John Hatt of Elizabethtown, while he cast to a pod of finicky trout along the Boquet River, many years ago. Casting a large, elk wing caddis fly, the Reverend solved the mystery of raising the hesitant fish by presenting his fly with a series of repeated roll casts.

The consecutive roll casts caused the fly to drag along the still surface waters, in a manner that would have been considered blasphemy among the dedicated ‘dead drift’ dry fly fanatics. However, the action of his retrieve neatly duplicated the natural emergence of a caddis fly, which rises to the surface on a small bubble of air that it produces after eating the organic materials used in constructing its case.

Caddis flies, also known as “nature’s masons,” are the bug of choice for teenage boys. A caddis worm morphs from the pupa stage into an adult caddis fly by consuming its protective case, which it constructs from bark, wood, sand and small stones. Caddis eat the organic matter from the case surrounding the pupa, and they do what all big eaters do; they experience some flatulence. In a word, they ‘fart,’ and they use the tiny bubble of air to rise to the water’s surface where they flutter and bumble along in efforts to dry their wings and escape. A teenage boy that doesn’t laugh at flatulence isn’t really a teenager.

The Reverend's roll casting method assimilated the natural bounce and bumble of an emerging caddis fly so closely, the trout simply couldn’t resist it. Although trout may be hesitant to feed on the surface, the urge to pursue an escaping insect will often override such instincts.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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