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Fisherman not bugged by flies

Post Indepenent/Kara K. Pearson
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It’s never pretty when bugs and windshields meet.Undoubtedly one of the most annoying things about spring here in the Colorado and Roaring Fork river valleys is those clouds of flies that stick to your windshield. Even after a short trip down the interstate along the Colorado River vehicles get a coating of squashed bugs. And don’t, whatever you do, try to flick them off with the windshield wipers. The result is too ugly to mention.Although most of us think them as the usual spring mayfly invasion they are something else entirely. And while they’re the bane of our auto existence, they are truly beloved by fly fishermen.Those squashed bugs on our windshields that seem to hatch in the thousands around Mother’s Day every year are actually caddis flies, said Dave York, owner of Roaring Fork Outfitters, a fishing guide service in Glenwood Springs. And when the caddis flies hatch it’s time to grab the fishing gear and head to the river.

York has a little trick to tell the difference between caddis and mayflies. Mayflies, he said “are up-wing,” that is their wings sit up above their backs. Caddis “are tent-winged.” Their wings cover their bodies like a pup tent. It’s caddis flies we see during the traditional Mother’s Day hatch every year, he said. In fact, “they were a little earlier this year.”Every spring, fly fishermen like York look forward eagerly to the spring water insect hatch, with caddis flies in late April and early May followed like clockwork by the green drake and pale morning dun mayflies hatches beginning in June. We’ve already seen the blue winged olive mayflies hatching in early March and the stoneflies are coming on now as well. Earlier still are the midges, which begin to fly free of their eggs in January, York said.The fly hatches will continue on throughout the spring and summer, providing the chief source of food for hungry trout. In fact, the plentiful insects make for big fish, and contribute to the Roaring Fork’s designation as Gold Medal Water from its confluence with the Fryingpan River in Basalt downstream to the Colorado.

York, like many avid fly fishermen, takes close notice of flies squishing against his windshield. When he sees them it’s safe to say he’s also thinking about how to imitate them in a fly he’ll tie in his fishing shop on Grand Avenue, with elk hair and rooster hackles and tinted thread. He has fly patterns for every stage of their life cycle, from larvae to pupa to adult.”The pupa can be a very effective way to fish,” he said. Some people fish both the encased pupa and the adult on one line because that’s how they’re occurring in the river and what the fish are used to seeing and eating.Gradual hatching of flies along the river are a good barometer of rising water temperatures.”The hatches always move from the lower river to the upper river,” York said. The submerged eggs hatch the larvae only at the right water temperature and in early spring the water warms up faster at the lower elevations.



York pores over his racks of flies, noting which ones he’ll use as spring turns to summer. In late June and early July the “big mayfly hatch” will take place, with the green drakes, the largest of the mayflies.So if you’re tempted to curse the icky bugs lathering your windshield, just remember they’re a welcome sight to fly fishermen.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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