The air is cold, you pull out the heater, sit in your favorite chair, and begin to tie yet another supply of fishy arsenal. Synapses fire rapidly and you smile smugly, pondering next year’s goals and the big ones that won’t get away.  You take a bite out of your half-cold reuben. Sauerkraut slops down the corner of your mouth.   It’s the perfect time to ask yourself, “How geeky am I?”  I would consider myself one of the geeky-est peeps out there.  Let me explain…

For those of you that don’t know, I’m an aquatics biologist.  With that title comes some eccentric, even peculiar attributes.  One of which is not only a passion for fish, but rather, for entire aquatic ecosystems.  When the typical angler is thinking, “Bro, is that a stonefly?!..” I’m thinking, “That is a sexy, late instar Hesperoperla pacifica…. BOOYA!”  Ha ha.  Psycho right?  Well, I argue that to reach your full potential as an angler, a little “WEIRDO”  is necessary.  In a vague, roundabout way, I’m getting at bugs. Creepy, crawly, tasty, and yes…RAD bugs.  Do I have an aquatic bug collection of 100+ specimens? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Ok… yes I do.

Here at OSF, we wanted to start coughing up some easier ways to learn entomology as it relates to fly fishing.  I remember when I was a novice angler, the “art of bugs and hatch matching” seemed nearly impossible. Now, looking back, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  A few tips came to mind that helped me grab the knowledge that  led to exponentially more fish in the net and thinking about fly fishing entomology the right way. First off, don’t believe that being able to ID every bug is impossible.  There actually aren’t as many bugs (that relate to flyfishing) as you would initially think.  Trust me.

The main point I want to get across however, is this: if you aren’t already, START LOOKING for bugs!  The first thing I do when I arrive at a waterbody is see what food sources are available to the fish I so desperately need.  Flip some rocks, pull up some vege, drag a log out of the river, or use an insect seine or stomach pump.  Examine your findings CLOSELY. ( I even have a magnifying glass the size of Derek’s net in my pack).  The bottom line is this:  If you know what is in the drift, you are going to be able to better match what the fish sees AND you will catch more fish in the end.  Identification is the next step… and we’ll definitely get to that, but it’s all about finding bugs first.

Here are a couple tips to get started:

  1. Even if you can’t ID a bug species, looking at it up close will give you an idea of shape, size, and color of what’s in the drift. Savvy?
  2. Buy a stomach pump.  Cheap, small learning curve, but then 100% surety of what the fish are eating NOW.
  3. Stay tuned for more entomology posts! We promise to keep it fresh so that you don’t fall asleep in class.

Have any questions or buggy tips you have leaned in your experiences?  Post em’ up in the comments section! We get plenty of inquiries in the inbox and we’d love to hear more of the questions you have and things you’d like to hear more about.

About The Author

The Professor

Phil Tuttle is a Fisheries Biologist, a Guide, Loop Global Team Pro Staff Member, Fly Innovator, and a skilled Videographer/Video Editor. His passion for conservation, travel, youth fishing programs, and fly fishing drive his desire to promote the sport in diverse and out-of-the-box ways.

9 Responses

  1. Kyle

    Love it guys. I think this is a great addition to the site. Phil is the man! Geeky as he may be.

  2. Ross aka "flytyinfreak" Slayton

    Its nice to get the perspective of a credentialed trout enthusiast where bugs benthic macro-invertebrates are concerned. I too take a keen interest in whats crawlin’ around the bottom of the rivers I fish, and identifying what they actually are. MY favorites are the bigger bugs, the bigger stones and my all time favorite hatch the dicosmoecus gilvipes/ atripes aka October caddis. With the turning of rocks and veg comes great joy and utter despair. The joy is in the identifying and hatch matching, the despair is in the fact that there’s no way in the world I am going to be able to tye a nymph as small as what I see crawling around the substrate. I’m looking forward to your future posts and will throw in my two cents wherever I see some juicy observational nugget will help the cause.

  3. Spencer

    I can’t wait to learn more about bugs. I like having my bug collection just to creep my wife out Jk. I think the most important thing to know about bugs is how to figure out which ones are in the drift! It is important though not to get to over zealous with the throat pump it can be hard on trout if not done properly. Check out this video:

    I will definitely be staying tuned for the up coming posts.

    • Brandon Scott

      Dude thank you for the video. I started fly fishing last spring so these OSF Entomology and bug geek posts have been revelatory but even though i’m always hearing “buy a throat pump buy a throat pump” I haven’t because I don’t know how to use it and I am not going to do anything to damage an animal i’m not going to eat. So that video was awesome man thanks for sharing.

  4. Phil

    Thanks for the comments guys! Kyle, I am definitely a geek bro. You know you are in trouble when fish noses are up and you are chasing around adults for a collection. LOL.

    I’ve never got into a stellar Dicos hatch… I saw an epic hatch once in MT, but was on a family vacation without my gear. WHAT? I know, I’m ashamed…

    I am a huge fan of the stomach pump Spencer. The Chan-ster is king. Never seen that vid before, but I have always used a similar technique. Thanks for sharing!

  5. morgan ford

    very cool, i am super pumped to see some real invert-advice. a great intermediate tip for some less biologically inclined is to think about the type of water you are fishing, and particularly what the substrate looks like, and what type of carbon is in the stream… think River Continuum… sandy bottom big rivers arent going to contain any plecoptera, streams with big terrestrial carbon inputs wont have an abundance of tiny filterers… thanks for the post. i look forward to more.

    • Phil

      Morgan definitely knows his stuff boys!! River Continuum = yes! Thanks for the tips and input. We will keep it coming.


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