Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

(NOTE: You can find Part 1 of this post here.) When fish are feeding selectively on floating insects, whether aquatic or terrestrial, you will see many fish rising simultaneously. Individual fish will hold near the surface. They tend to establish a feeding rhythm, coming to the surface to take an insect at regular and usually frequent intervals. This kind of behavior is a tip-off that selectivity may be going on. It’s time to wade out into a line of drift and see what’s there to trigger this activity. A pocket-size nymph seine is very helpful; surface tension makes it difficult to pluck a specimen from the water with your fingers. Being lazy, I often just put my nose a foot or so from the water for a minute or two and observe the flotsam.

Red_Ants_(1214176165)The most common situation creating selective feeding to a terrestrial insect is a mating flight of ants. Ants are colonial insects. When a colony grows to a certain size and produces an excess of queens, the surplus queens disperse to start new colonies. The worker ants are flightless, but the queens and male drones that accompany them are winged. Incredible numbers of them can wind up on the water. Sometimes it looks like someone wielded a giant pepper shaker over the stream. This phenomenon occurs most often in late-summer to early fall. Among other terrestrial insects that can be present in sufficient numbers to produce selective feeding are some species of moths, periodical cicadas, and leaf hoppers.

Even short of true selective feeding, you can increase your chances of triggering a feeding response by offering flies that look comfortable and familiar to the fish. Observation is always a key skill for the fly fisher, and this applies to terrestrials as much as it does to aquatic insects. If you see hoppers in the grass as you walk through a field toward the water, it’s the most elemental kind of common sense to tie on a hopper pattern, trying to match the size and color of the naturals you’ve seen. Catch one if you can and look at the belly—that’s what the fish sees. If you have a lot of Japanese Beetles eating the rose bushes in your garden, why not offer something similar to the fish in your local stream?

After fishing a fantastic emergence of periodical cicadas in central Pennsylvania in 2008, I was inspired to try fishing annual cicada patterns closer to home. Even though they do not appear in the sheer numbers of the periodicals, annual cicadas are around for an extended length of time every summer. It would stand to reason that the fish see them with some regularity, even if not with great frequency, and would recognize them as a large and toothsome morsel of food. Experience seems to be bearing out this theory; I have done very well with my MK Cicada pattern ever since. As soon as I hear the cicadas singing, I start fishing this fly. Unfortunately, this is too late in the season for good trout fishing near my home in Pennsylvania, but the fly is deadly on smallmouth bass and big panfish.

Note from J. Stockard: Part 3 of this post will follow later this week.

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