Get ready, they’re coming!

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

Who are they?  Why, Brood X of the 17-year Periodical Cicadas of course.  This is the big one, the Great Eastern Brood. Last seen in 2004 (do the math), this brood is scattered across 15 states. Of greatest interest to me, however, is the dense cluster around my home near Philadelphia. It takes in southeastern Pennsylvania, central New Jersey, and parts of Maryland and Delaware. The Periodicals typically start emerging in mid-May, and by the end of June they are gone. So if you want to experience this hatch there’s a very limited window of opportunity.

These insects are not to be confused with Annual Cicadas, also know as Dog Day Cidadas, which are present almost everywhere, every summer. Annual Cicadas have green wing veins, and their eyes are unremarkable. They are most abundant in August, which gives them their nickname. Periodical Cicadas emerge earlier in the year, are a tad smaller, and have orange wing veins and prominent, bright red eyes. They emerge in much greater densities than Annual Cicadas do.

I first learned about Periodical Cicadas in 2004, when I read an article in Fly Fisherman Magazine focused on the impending emergence of Brood X.  I was quite intrigued. They were supposed to be present in southeastern Pennsylvania, so I tied up a few flies and waited for them to show up in my yard. But they didn’t.  I heard no loud Cicada chorus, and didn’t see a single one of them in my neighborhood. Later, too late, I found out that they had been so thick in a nearby town that people were crunching them under their feet on the sidewalks.

Continue reading → Get ready, they’re coming!

Tough Bugs

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

“Stream channelization, pollution, and insecticides have taken their toll on the mayfly life that, according to trouting literature, once flourished in our waters. The eager rise of trout to emerging insects, that magical event for which many trout fishermen live, is unfortunately rare. Many of the classic hatches have all but disappeared from public waters in the Poconos. If one were to follow a source such as Schwiebert’s Matching the Hatch in preparing patterns for use in our area, he might find a considerable number of them can be eliminated because so few of the naturals now exist in major streams.”

Don Baylor
Pocono Hatches
Pocono Hatches was published in 1980, and as you can imagine this situation has for the most part only gotten worse during the forty years since. Even so, the Poconos still have much better and more diverse hatches than the waters nearer my home in the Philadelphia suburbs. The best thing I can say is that there isn’t much channelizing of streams going on anymore.

Those of us who love fly fishing, of course, have adapted to the decline of the classic hatches. Attractor patterns have become increasingly important in our pursuit of trout and other gamefish. Yet there are still hatch-matching opportunities. We simply have to turn our attention to the insects that have also been able to adapt. There are a handful of aquatic insects that still live, and sometimes even thrive, in our altered streams. Here are some of my favorites.

Midges

Chironomids are by far the most significant hatch in the streams I fish. They are ubiquitous, abundant, and a frequent trigger for selective feeding. Midges are very important during the winter, when they are usually the only hatch available. A relatively warm day in January or February often brings on an emergence.

I like to keep my workhorse fly patterns simple and easy to tie. Although I believe firmly that a wise fly fisher always carries some change-ups, I rely on two midge patterns. For the pupa, which is often the most important, I use an Al’s Rat. This pattern could not be simpler. On a standard dry fly hook, form a double layer of brown size 3/0 Danville Monocord. Add a small ball of Muskrat dubbing as a thorax. Done. I once saw a photograph of a real midge pupa next to a wet Al’s Rat and the likeness was uncanny. For the adults, I like a Griffith’s Gnat. I tie both in sizes 20, 22, and 24.

Continue reading → Tough Bugs