How important is entomology?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Entomology' started by Tinker, Nov 19, 2015.

  1. Tinker

    Tinker Active Member

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    Not being a butt. Fly-fishing isn't new to me, but I didn't live where trout live until the past few years, and that makes fishing for trout new for me.

    For the past few years, I've been living by the quote attributed to Allison Moir: "'Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long." It's worked to a point, but the rainbows I catch are never very large, and I've had to look closely at more than a few to be certain they were, in fact, fish and not tadpoles...

    There are good-sized rainbows in my local rivers, and I've landed several on spinners using conventional gear, but not yet with my fly gear.

    So I'm curious about how important it is to match the hatch and can it lead to catching larger fish?
     
  2. Taxon

    Taxon Moderator Staff Member

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    Am not particularly enamored with the expression "match the hatch", as trout don't necessarily feed on something which is "hatching" at the moment. However, there is no denying value of attempting to determine what the most available food source for trout is, and presenting an appropriate imitation (of it) where trout are most likely to be looking for it.

    As a general rule, smaller trout are less picky than larger trout; therefore larger trout are more difficult to fool. Hope this helps. ;)
     
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  3. tkww

    tkww Member

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    I would also add that the more pressured/educated the fish are, the more picky they can be. Knowing what they're feeding on can help.
     
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  4. Rock Creek Fan

    Rock Creek Fan Active Member

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    Size of the fly is very important. I have seen larger fish follow my fly but not take it. One size smaller and ---> nice fish on.
     
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  5. rory

    rory Go Outside

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    Just use a prince nymph.
     
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  6. SquatchinSince86

    SquatchinSince86 Totally Unprofessional

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    If you have had success using spinners I think the logical answer is the larger fish are more keyed in on other fish for meals not bugs. Thats for the kids' table. Throw a flashy bugger into your pools, give it a couple strips and see what happens.

    But if you are nymphing you may not be getting deep enough.

    Cory
     
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  7. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    To me, entomology is primarily important for offering an understanding of the life cycles of aquatic insects. Having some knowledge of these changes and their timing can't help but make you a better and more effective fisherman. A case in point is the seemingly woeful ignorance of most anglers of the nymph/dun/spinner stages of the mayfly's life and its relevance to availability of these forms to the trout.
     
  8. Tinker

    Tinker Active Member

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    Thank you. I defer to your greater knowledge and shall banish "match the hatch" from my book of fishing phrases.

    It does help. Every little hint helps.
     
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  9. Tinker

    Tinker Active Member

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    Thank you, Cory. I don't typically use nymphs except on a dropper. Nothing against nymphs, I simply don't understand how to use them effectively. I'll put some time and effort into learning how to nymph over the next few weeks. It's obvious, even to me, that I need move moves in my repertoire.

    Kevin
     
  10. Tinker

    Tinker Active Member

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    Preston, I'd have to be much smarter about mayflies than I am to be considered pathetically ignorant. Woefully ignorant would be a pretty big step up for me. Could you suggest some reading material that might help me learn?
     
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  11. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    For our area, the best currently available work is Rick Hafele and Dave Hughes' Western Mayfly Hatches (Frank Amato Publications, 2004), covering, as it does, mayfly species "from the Rockies to the Pacific" in great detail, with hatch timing charts and suggested patterns. A more general work is Knopp and Cormier's Mayflies: An Angler's Study of Trout Water Ephemeroptera. For more general information on bugs other than mayflies, Hafele and Hughes' Complete Book of Western Hatches (I'm not sure if this is still in print but used copies are probably still available from Amazon) is pretty good and Ralph and Lisa Cutter have produced a book, Fishfood; An Angler's Guide to Bugs & Bait and a DVD, Bugs of the Underworld, both of which are worth a look.
     
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  12. Tinker

    Tinker Active Member

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    Thank you, I appreciate this.
     
  13. speyfisher

    speyfisher Active Member

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    When fishing moving water for trout, keen observation combined with enough knowledge to decipher what you are seeing helps a lot. Learning to recognize feeding lanes, holding spots, rise types or knowing fish are there, the absence of rises. Books help, but having a mentor, or two, sure shortens the learning curve. Join a fly fishing club, take a fly tying course, find some local water & fish it every chance you get. Retire the spinning rod.
     
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  14. GAT

    GAT Dumbfounded

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    The answer is: yes and no. You can catch fish without knowing much about entomology... I knew zippo when I started and I caught trout. I bought my flies at a Payless and picked ones that looked interesting. I figured the ones with hackles that stuck up were probably dry flies but I didn't buy them with any bug in mind. As I originally spin fished with my family and one of the first articles I read in regards to flyfishing indicated 80% of what a fish eats is subsurface so I didn't start with a dry line... I bought a sink-tip instead.

    I was more interested in catching fish than catching fish with specific flies so it was many months later before I bought a dry line.

    I had no idea what I was doing but picked patterns that looked buggy to me -- and I figured they probably sunk. The tactic of buying flies at Payless worked because they only stocked the most common flies that caught fish. One in particular worked quite well and it was many moons before I discovered it was a Gold Ribbed Hares Ear.

    Once I finally bought a dry line, I picked flies that I thought would float and again, went with what looked good to me. It turns out I picked a Royal Coachman and an Adams... yup, they worked.

    Then I joined a fly club and started fishing with guys who had knowledge of entomology -- fact is, one (Rocky) was a micro biologist who at one time decided between entomology and microbiology as what he wanted as a career. He was attending the same entomology classes at OSU as did Hughes and Hafele.

    Turns out that the guys I met at the fly club ended up lifelong fishing buddies. Rocky was our bug guy. As he took the same classes as Dave and Rick, he knew as much as they did when they wrote their book -- which I highly recommend.

    Rocky was responsible for my interest in bugs. I was fascinated by the critters. Once I had a basic knowledge of what bugs trout were eating, this changed my flyfishing strategies considerably. One thing lead to another and I started writing articles in regards to flyfishing... it helped to have Rocky explain the different stages of aquatic insects. I set up an aquarium in my garage and Rocky and I started collecting nymphs from the same little creek where the entomology students collected bugs for the classes. The longer I lived the life of a fly angler, the more I learned about bugs.

    Did this knowledge help me catch larger trout on our home waters of the Metolius? No, but the knowledge did help our gang catch trout when others caught nothing.

    So, I did get into the world of aquatic insects fairly heavily but primarily for my articles.

    Then it got complicated. As I was in the sport to catch fish and not any specific method for catching those fish, I started venturing away from "matching the hatch" or even matching a bug. I used my knowledge of entomology to deviate from bugs and start using baitfish patterns (streamers) for larger trout. Plus, the fact that some patterns do not look like any real bug -- attractors-- sometimes worked much better than those that did represent specific bugs. Some of the largest trout I caught were with patterns that didn't really represent a genuine bug or even a baitfish.

    I started venturing away from just catching trout in rivers and this meant I had to learn additional bugs that fish eat in stillwaters. But I found that using "lures" such as Woolly Buggers worked damned well and they didn't look like anything on this planet. Then I got into bass and the bug approach was tossed out the window. I started chasing steelhead, salmon, shad and SRC and again, the bug approach was not the best way to go. I took up saltwater fishing and obviously the knowledge of entomology will do you know good when fishing in saltwater.

    So, that's the reason I answered "yes and no". It depends on where you are fishing and what you're fishing for. Sometimes a basic knowledge of the life and times of aquatic insects is important... sometimes it doesn't matter in the least.

    I study what different species of fish want to eat. Like I said, my goal is to fool fish into eating whatever I've tied at the end up my tippet material. Sometimes this means using a bug pattern that represents what the fish are accustomed to eating and sometimes it may be something completely different.

    That said, I love the knowledge I have of entomology but it really is just enough to get me by. I've never found it necessary to know the exact dead language name of a bug but it helps me choose a pattern if I at least know the stage of life, the size, the color and if it's a mayfly, caddis, stonefly, terrestrial, midge, damsel, ect, for picking a pattern. I leave the dead language stuff to Rocky :)

    You really don't need to become an ACE at aquatic entomology to catch fish or even catch larger fish with fly gear, but the bug knowledge is an addition to flyfishing that I and many others enjoy... which explains why I have so many aquatic entomology books in my bookcase. If nothing else, knowledge of aquatic entomology certainly won't hurt you with your flyfishing endeavors so there's no reason not to have a basic knowledge of the life and times of bugs that many fish eat. :)

    Oh, in addition to the books mentioned above, you may want to pick up a copy of Bug Water by Arlen Thomason from Springfield, Oregon. It's a fairly new book (published in 2010) and the macro photography of the insects is fantastic!
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  15. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

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    If I may interject here, in addition to the list Preston provided you with, I would add another great reference : "Hatches II", by Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi. (Nick Lyons Books, I think). This is one of the most widespread books on mayflies available. Though it is written with fly fishermen in mind, the book has made it onto every significant list for entomologists across America.

    You don't have to memorize every bug, or learn all of the latin taxonomy. But the more that you understand about aquatic insect life, their habitats and life stages, the better fly fisherman you will become. I find it fascinating.
     
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