Ed Gilbert: Fly fishing bugs a bit early this year


By Ed Gilbert • Last Updated 9:38 am on Monday, May 14, 2012

Depending upon your fishing location in the state, you may find that some flies are early, on time, or even late.

Of course, I make reference to Mayflies and caddisflies, which emerge over the trout streams or lakes about this time of year.

Now, perhaps I should clarify what I’m getting into here. As most of you who read this column already know, I’m mostly a fly fisherman. However, many times during the various fishing seasons I do resort to live bait or hardware, so don’t give up on me.

It’s just that I, like many who fly fish, look forward to the May fly or caddis hatches, when I can tie on some of those awful imitations I tie up and whip the waters on some stream to a froth.

Now, Mayflies are in the dragonfly group of insects, while caddisflies are smaller, moth-like insects. Both can drive trout wild when they hatch and emerge on and over the water.

Both also have a life cycle based on time and heat, and when their bodies contain enough heat and the weather is warm, they emerge from the water. Both insects lay their eggs on the water during the previous fall or summer, and the eggs sink to the bottom. Larva growth normally takes place during the winter, and emergence takes place when it warms up.

The actual emergence of the insects is hard to predict. Most fly fishermen stay in touch with one another and also keep a watchful eye on the waters so they can be ready for a hatch. But as said, you can’t really predict when that will be. Or even how big the hatch will be.

For example, I was fishing the Pere Marquette River one warm evening in late April, and all was peaceful on the water until something came out of the water near me and flew smack into my forehead!  I got the message real quick, and stood there to suddenly find the air so full of Mayflies that I was almost afraid to breathe!

And trout were suddenly rising all around me, fish that a few minutes earlier were nowhere in sight. If I recall correctly, I quickly tied on a No.16 Mahogany Dun and went fishing. The problem was that there were so many Mayflies in the air and on the water the fish could almost care less about my imitation! But I caught a few, and that was good enough.

Again, you can’t predict where and when a Mayfly hatch will occur. While on vacation at a cabin along Crooked Lake north of Petoskey, I awoke one morning to find the outside of the cabin actually plastered with Mayflies! It was mostly on the side of the cabin that was toward the lake, and an inspection of the lake itself proved that it would make no sense to fish there now. Any fish in that area had to be plumb full already, as the bugs were all over the water.

Well, so far I’ve not hit a big bug hatch, but I’m planning to hit a trout stream tomorrow, and I believe the time is right.

Yes, there were some flies around earlier, while in some areas of the state they may be coming out later on. One thing is for sure, when the do emerge there will be many fly fishermen waiting.Yep. Me too!

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