Some of you have visited the shop inquiring about fishing and the “ant” hatch currently happening on local Trinity waters. So no time is better than now to crack the bug code. Anyone desiring to catch a slab- learn how to say Hymenoptera and read on.
Hymenoptera, Latin order for aquatic diving wasp. Sounds like something out of the prehistoric age. Maybe so, however, diving wasp is a major aquatic insect (terrestrial) that hatches each spring, triggered by the first hot (80 degree) windy heat ups of April-May in many north state waters. Locally they hatch on Trinity-Lewiston-Grass Valley Lakes and the lower Trinity River. Wasp hatches are a main event, the meat and potatoes to hunk bows-browns, smallmouth even squawfish, inspiring feeding sprees and creating some of the most exciting wet and dry fly opportunities of the season. According to Patrick McCafferty’s book (Angling Entomology) the diving wasp undergo a complete metamorphosis; emerging from their host, and float to the surface before drifting to shore. The adults dry and take flight to the top of the evergreens, mate and afterward, the females dive to the bottom of the river or lake, planting their eggs on another aquatic, often caddis. Sounds like a Stephen King thriller – but a key aquatic every sillwater and tailwater angler should be well in tune with and inventory.
At first glance, it is easy to understand why wasps are often mistaken for flying ants. Close observations reveal they look similar; you can touch’em, they don’t sting, stink or bite. A mouthful, wasps are generally large critters (#8-#14 with the larger representing first generations) dwarfing most spring aquatics, sporting black bodies with a pronounced translucent wing set. You almost never see them in flight and their low floating in-the-film profile is well disguised. Wasp hatches, referred to as float-ups, often coincide with other aquatics such as Callibaetis mayflies and early season caddis and often overshadowed or mistaken for other aquatics; leading the unaware filtering thru fly boxes and baffled.
Fish target both float-ups and the drifting adults in the film. Depending upon conditions, early season float-ups are generally sparse, lasting an hour or two. Despite scant bug activity fish readily key and crunch; opening the door for quality wet fly opportunities. Fishing float-ups, target slow weedy habitats and favorite fishy waters with intermediate sink lines, such as clear-camo, or type 2-3 full sink lines fished with slow steady retrieves, mimicking active wasps. Count down presentations seeking desired water columns fish are zoning- in and munching. Wet patterns should be sparsely dressed and match the size of the naturals. Size matters, trumping color shades. Takes are deliberate, there is nothing subtle, beef tippits (generally 4X) whenever possible to accept contact and deter loose ends.
When wasps are observed in the surface film and fish actively on them, naturally follow suit with floating lines and properly sized wasp patterns to compliment naturals and conditions. Dry wasp patterns are somewhat generic, looking similar to ants with pronounced abdomens and wing set. I favor a black Deer Hair wasp pattern (always available Trinity Fly shop); reflecting sparse body- Dun wing-Brn. hackle and black deer hair tied over the back of the abdomen for desired flotation. If windy, choppy conditions prevail it helps to have optional patterns tied with dense foam bodies complimented with a Hi-Vis wing post for optimum float and visibility. For additional effective wasp patterns check out (Stillwater Fly Fishing Secrets by Hal Janssen); Hal also includes tying instructions. Early season fish can be eager, often moving 2-3 ft. to inhale your fly. Days like this are fairly common and if you are one that falls into the category, “better to be lucky than good,” cast and fish wherever your gut instincts dictate; sometimes you can do no wrong. Unfortunately there is the flip side. As the season progresses, overlapping wasp generations intensify and fish become porked and extremely selective; some situations you might be better off fishing Roll-Aids. Bright side of the flip side, the first few weeks after generation float-ups expire, wasps are still on the taste buds and you can effectively fish them, often yielding solid success, without a trace of a natural.
Head hunting, casting to specific targets, rather than random casting, has proved to be most successful, especially for larger quarry. Take time to observe active fish and their feeding patterns. Lead targets 3-4 ft. with clean presentations; which can be achieved by a forceful Bounce Cast or simply overshooting your target a couple feet and lifting the rod tip straight up, dragging your fly back into the feed zone; ultimately straightening your line-leader-tippit. Be patient; don’t try to catch them all. Leave your pattern in an active feed zone, a minute or two, they will find it; either inhaling it or rejection. If fish are unwilling to accept a dead drifted presentation, try slow steady retrieves. We reference this— the “come’n-get it” approach; can be deadly when fish are sensitive. Seasonal float up durations generally last two-three weeks; possibly longer depending upon conditions. Keep in mind; cool weather suppresses generation float-ups, prolonging season duration while unseasonably warm weather accelerates generation float-ups and duration. In any case fish crave and inhale them. Be aware, be prepared—never leave home without them!
Straight From the Line-ups – Trinity-Lewiston Grass Valley Lakes—Its Hymenopteria time- Happening NOW! Get Out There!!!