If you’re a trout fisherperson, you know that spring is that magical time of year when the bugs come out.
Bugs? Yuck. I admit that sometimes I’m not wildly fond of the insect explosion that spring and summer always brings.
But I’m not talking here about those annoying critters like redbugs and ticks and yellow jackets and mosquitoes. Instead, I’m talking about bugs (flyfishers call them “aquatic insects”) that trout like to eat – and that’s good news if you like to fish for trout.
I was up in the mountains last week working on an upcoming book, and as it happened I finished my assigned tasks in time to spend an hour right at dusk on one of my favorite trout streams. This particular stream is really not much more than a creek. With an average width of about six feet, it’s small and shallow, except for the occasional deeper pool every now and then. I know from previous trips to this creek that those pools often hold wild trout, and it’s one of my favorite places to go when I need a quick trout-fishing fix.
On this particular trip, I guessed right away that it might be a good day. As soon as I got out of the car, I could see insects dancing in the sun down by the water. What were they? Small! The little bugs I was seeing were no more than about three-eighths of an inch long. I know, because when I walked down to the creek a few minutes later one of themlanded on the back of my hand and sat there long enough for me to get a good look. I just wish I’d been quick enough to get a picture.
One of the tricks to fly fishing for trout in north Georgia’s many wild trout streams is to match the size of the bugs that you see flying. It happened that I had several good size matches in my fly box, so I decided to go with a perpetual favorite and tied on a little size 14 Elk Hair Caddis fly. This little gem is made out of a pinch of fuzz and a little bit of feather and a small bundle of hair from the hide of an elk, and it does a great job of imitating many of the insects you’ll see flying around trout streams this time of year. It does a great job of selling the sizzle, so to speak, and though it may not look exactly like the bugs on the stream it appears to be close enough.
Or so I was hoping as I approached to the water. Crouching low lest the trout spot me and run for cover, I eased up to within casting range and pulled out a little line and made what was (if I say so myself) a pretty decent cast and hit my target on the first try. Yes, once in a while it happens that way!
The tiny Elk Hair Caddis fly drifted for perhaps 12 inches and then disappeared in a sudden splash. I lifted the little fly rod’s tip – fish on!
The fish, a small wild brook trout, was not large. It had a length of perhaps six inches – just right for the little creek in which it lived. Besides, as my daughter is fond of reminding me, it’s not the size of the fish but rather the size of the heart. It was a beautiful fish, and after admiring it for a few seconds I eased it back into the water.
That little brookie was the first of several more that I landed over the next hour, every one of them on that little Elk Hair Caddis.
When I finally left to return to the car and home, the bugs were still dancing in the bright air above the stream.
“I’ll be back soon,” I said, to no one in particular, and I will. You should get out there too and enjoy this fishing while you can, before it gets too hot and the creeks get too low in the heat of summer.
Yes, it’s bug time! The scenery is beautiful, and the fish are willing, and you’ll find that sometimes bugs aren’t so bad after all.