Understanding the Rocky Mountain West’s late-season emerging insects can help make fall outings the highlight of your year.
[by Boots Allen]
If you are fishing the rivers of the Rocky Mountain West, the months of September through November are recognized by many as the best time to be on water. Crowds have dissipated from the summer onslaught, air temperatures are cool, streams are low and clear, wade fishing is generally easy, and trout are hungry as they feed in preparation for the approaching winter.
Part of what makes this time of year so enjoyable is the appearance of an entirely new set of bugs on which trout can feast. Gone for the most part are summer’s pale morning duns, Isoperla stoneflies, golden stones, drakes, and terrestrials. Instead, we see the reemergence of blue-winged olives, chironomids become the bread-and-butter insects on many western trout streams, and big bugs like October caddis dominate the scene on some waters.
Nonetheless, there are certain times and certain waters where these standby bugs play second fiddle to other invertebrates—insects that are far more crucial as trout foods. These include the mutant, or short-winged, stonefly (Claassenia sabulosa); the great blue-winged red quill, or hecuba (Timpanoga hecuba); and the big mahogany duns (Paraleptophlebia temporalis and bicornuta).
On the streams I regularly fish in the greater Yellowstone area, these aquatic insects are well known by the resident fly fisher. They are certainly favorites of mine. Yet despite the relatively strong documentation in fly fishing literature (both print and online) of their presence, these bugs are often ignored by visiting anglers. That’s a mistake. Knowing their behavior, when they emerge, and the best tactics for fishing their imitations can make the difference between consistent action and a potential shutout.
Willy’s Winged Chernobyl
HOOK: Dai Riki 700 or equivalent, sizes 4 to 10.
THREAD: Black 3/0 monocord.
UNDERBODY: Red, gold, purple, or tan Senyo Laser Dub.
BODY: Double layer of black 2 mm open cell foam.
LEGS: Black speckled Sili Legs.
WING: White antron.
Hare’s Ear Parawulff
HOOK: Tiemco 100, sizes 10 to 14.
THREAD: Black or brown 6/0.
TAIL: Moose mane hair.
BODY: Muskrat or squirrel dubbing.
RIB: Brown nylon flat wax thread.
WING: White calf tail or Silky Fibers, tied upright and divided.
HACKLE: Brown and grizzly.
HOOK: Standard dry fly hook, size 8.
THREAD: Tan Danville 210 denier.
BELLY: Orange or gold Ice Dubbing.
UNDERBODY: Tan 2 mm closed cell foam.
OVERBODY: Brown 2 mm closed cell foam.
LEGS: Olive spackled Sili Legs or Barred Centipede legs.
WING: Light tan Razor Foam.
EYES: White 3 mm doll eyes.
ANTENNAE: Olive spackled Sili Legs or Barred Centipede legs.
Dornan’s Circus Peanut
HOOK: Tiemco 300, sizes 6 to 10.
THREAD: UTC Dirty gold or brown or Danville 3/0 Dirt gold or brown
BODY: Double layer of yellow 2 mm closed cell foam.
LEGS: Medium brown round rubber, barred or spackled with black magic marker.
BELLY: Spirit River Mottled Brown Stonefly Nymph Blend.
INDICATOR: White 2mm closed cell foam.
Carlson’s Purple Haze
HOOK: Tiemco 100, sizes 12 to 14.
THREAD: Black Danville 6/0.
TAIL: Natural brown elk hair.
BODY: Purple Flex Floss.
HACKLE: Brown and grizzly hackle.
WING: White calf tail.