Spruce moth patterns

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Richard Olmstead, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. I'm headed over to Rock Creek in a couple of weeks. The last two times I was there (09, 11) at about the same time there was a flight of spruce moths, which have been having a major outbreak in that part of Montana for several years.

    Spruce moths are the adult form of Spruce budworm, which is a major insect pest on a variety of conifers, not just spruce. There are places on the east side of the Cascades where they have been a problem in recent years, including part of the Cle Elum river drainage (e.g., the slopes above Cooper lake). Historically, they will have an outbreak that lasts one or two years and dies back, browning the tips of a patch of trees here and there, but not causing much mortality. Unfortunately, the milder winters in the last couple of decades have led to prolonged outbreaks that are now starting to cause forest dieback. They are probably less well known than pine bark beetles, but the concept is the same.

    Since they are terrestrials, the only stage available to fish are the adults, which emerge by the tens of thousands and are pretty weak flyers, so a lot of 'em end up in the water, where they are gulped by hungry trouts.

    The first time I encountered them, in 2009, I didn't have anything specific to cast to them, but a light bodied EHC in about a #12, with the hackle trimmed underneath worked okay. I probably could have continued to use them, but for my next visit I tied up a series of patterns for the purpose. I've been tying some more for this trip. Most are dries, but one is a softhackle for a drowned moth.

    For the forest's sake, I'd be happy if there aren't any spruce moths out this year. But, if they are there, I'll be ready.


    spruce moth live.JPG.jpg Spruce moth & flies 3.JPG.jpg Spruce Moth BR Flies.JPG.jpg Spruce Moth UG Bug 2.JPG.jpg Spent Antron Spruce Moth 1.JPG.jpg partridge & flymph spruce moth.jpg
    plaegreid and McNasty like this.
  2. Nice soft hackle for the bottom picture. Looks like you have the surface and sunken spruce flies covered.
  3. nice job Richard, looks like you got it covered.
  4. Hi Richard,

    I am heading over there at the end of August with a buddy of mine for our first time. I hear there is lots of camping available on rock creek river rd ? Not sure if you have ever camped down there, but if so, is it easy to get to and are there locations right on the river ? Also, have you ever fished it toward the end of August ? Any specific areas you would recommend for a Dry Fly guy ? thanks.
  5. First 11 miles of the lower road are paved; after that it can be a bit rough.

  6. When you say rough, do you mean like a bumpy dirt road or like a dirt road with huge pot holes...I drive an escape, so not a very powerful SUV but has some clearance, would it be able to handle it ?
  7. Richard,
    That top one looks deadly. I think the Spruce Moths are just starting now. It's a great hatch.
    I may hit the creek Thursday and will let you know. Cooler weather on the way and man I hope it rains.
  8. The road was TERRIBLE last week but I heard they were going to grade it soon. Miles of washboard in the middle section but certainly drivable at very low speeds. I think the road kept the pressure down and the fish up. ;)
  9. I dig that tan foam and rubber leg pattern..
  10. Michael, As Scott said, you shouldn't have any problem with Rock Cr road. It is rough and narrow in places, but just take it slow and you won't have any problem. There is plenty of camping both in formal campgrounds and in primitive, but designated, sites along the river. It is all good dry fly fishing in late August and there is plenty of access, although there are some private land along the river, so be respectful. This year the water will be very low and wading easy.

  11. Derek, that is a variation on a fly by Montana guide, John Stannish, called the Ug Bug. Easy to tie and floats like a cork. It is bulkier than naturals, so I fish it in faster water.

    On calmer water, I use something like the first one above, which is a variation on an X-caddis, but with an antron underwing and no trailing shuck.

    Derek Young likes this.
  12. I just use a cream colored elk hair caddis and crush the wing down with my thumbnail until it splays out moth-like. It's been working like a champ here on the Madison.

  13. The couple of times I was up there and made the mistake of driving that whole road we called it the brain rattler... it literally felt like my brain was rattling around. To get to the upper river I go around which is a nice drive anyways. I like the upper river a lot. There is good camping right by or on the river. Your escape will be fine, but if it's not graded by then have fun with that!
  14. We just got back from Rock Creek on Sunday. The road was in the worst shape I've ever seen it, but they were doing some grading on the lower road on Sunday morning as we were driving out, so maybe it will be better now.

    I was pleased to see that the forests around Rock Creek looked better than I have seen them in years. The down side was that there were virtually no spruce moths out. There was the occasional moth that fluttered through camp in the evening, but I think they must be back to background levels in that part of Montana, which is good for the forests, but made fly selection trickier on the river!

    Water levels also are quite low and the fishing was a little tougher than recent years. The best fishing was right at dusk when the fish would venture out of the deeper pools into the tailouts and could be found rising to emerging mayflies most evenings.

  15. How far up the road is considered the upper river to which you were mentioning good camping right by the river ? I am leaving next friday, and would love to find a spot like what you were describing. Thanks for the info, ill plan on taking it nice and slow on that part of the drive.
  16. How far down on the road were you ? Also, any hoppers out ? I am heading over next friday for the weekend. Hoping the fishing is pretty good, but sounds like it will be tough with the warmer weather and shallower water. YOu run into any decent browns at all ? Was hoping to chuck some large hoppers, anything else hitting beside mayflies ? you throw any stimmys out there ?
  17. Michael -

    There are about 5 formal US Forest Service campgrounds and another 15-20 authorized/numbered 'primitive' campsites spread out along Rock Creek in the stretch between I-90 and where the paved road comes in from Philipsburg. If you want to have a picnic table and a campfire, stay in one of the USFS campgrounds (fires are permitted only in the steel fire rings in the formal campgrounds right now). They have shut down the water pumps in all of the campgrounds, except the one lowest on the river, so bring water or plan to boil stream water. Campgrounds are busiest on weekends, but we we arrived on a Saturday and got a prime spot in one of the campgrounds; you won't have a problem getting a spot.

    The river is now primarily a brown trout fishery, due to the impact of whirling disease on the rainbow population. The state would like to reduce brown trout and help restore rainbow/cutthroat populations, so the regulations now permit killing up to 3 browns a day, but C&R only on bows and cutts. You won't have any trouble finding browns, although the farther up river you go, the fewer browns you will encounter.

    Use big flies in smaller, faster runs and in headwater tribs; smaller flies in the smoother runs and at dusk (especially for the larger fish - hint, hint). Be sure to eat dinner early so you can be back out on the water for the last hour of light. All of my best fish came as light was fading.

  18. Thanks for all the info Richard much appreciated. Super excited for the trip next week, can't come soon enough.
  19. Funny thing about washboards and potholes - the faster you go, the smoother the road seems. I drove down Rock Creek last Wednesday and except for when I got behind a slow poke trying to pick his way through the potholes and washboards, it was no problem (darn male drivers, lol!). It was a weekday though so I am not sure I'd go that fast on a weekend.

Share This Page