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17-Year Cicadas: The Periodical Hatch Explained

Photo by: Renee Grayson (Flickr Creative Commons)

Picture this, it’s late May in the green hills of the Appalachians, you’ve got your trusty 5 WT in hand and as the late afternoon sun hits the trees, you hear it: The screams of thousands and thousands of cicadas. The air feels like it’s vibrating as you wade into the creek and watch as nearly every fish in the water looks up, waiting for those little morsels of free protein to slap down onto the water. This is it, this is the big one – Brood X, the largest of the 17-year Cicada broods in the US both in number and size, and they’re here for a comeback tour almost 20 years in the making.

What are 17-Year Cicadas?

The previous emergence of Brood-X in 2004. Photo by: Brian McConnell (Flickr Creative Commons)

Periodical cicadas are members of the genus Magicicada, which consists of 7 unique species with either 13 or 17 year periods between emergences. This year’s BROOD X falls into the 17-year group, which means their parents (shown in the above photograph) emerged in the summer of 2004.

Cicadas are known for their sometimes deafening mating calls, which can reach an excess of 100 decibels when they’re gathered en masse. You’ll often hear these bugs miles before you’ll see them.

Once hatched, they’ll hang around for a few weeks (usually around a month) before mating, laying their eggs, and dying. And, while they’re active, they can be some of the most fun you can have with a fly rod in your hand.

What are Other Types of Cicadas?

Dead cicada
Photo by Dmitry Barsky (Flickr Creative Commons)

There are around 3,000 different species of cicadas on Earth distributed worldwide. They tend to prefer the tropics and temperate climates. The main difference between species is when they emerge. Annual cicadas can wait anywhere from 1-9 years to emerge, but their emergence is not synchronized like the 17-year variety, which is why you’ll tend to see the annual bugs buzzing in the trees every summer.

The 17-Year Cicada Lifecycle Explained

Periodical cicadas are truly fascinating bugs from an entomological perspective. No other bug has quite the elongated life cycle that these guys do. There is much debate as to why this particular variety stays underground for nearly two decades, but one prominent school of thought is that emerging simultaneously in huge numbers allows the most individuals to survive and mate.

The 17-year cicadas’ lifecycle breaks down into two major parts: nymph and adult.

Nymph Stage

Cicada nymph climbing before hatching from its casing.
Cicada nymph climbing before hatching from its casing. Photo by: Ryosuke Yagi (Flickr Creative Commons)

The nymph phase is the longest part of a cicadas’ lifecycle. For instance, this year’s Brood X has been living and growing underground for the past 17 years, meaning they’re older than most kids in high school right now. While underground they feed on sap slurped up from the roots of vegetation above. The only time you’ll likely see one of these nymphs is when they’re crawling up every tree in sight as they begin their emergence.

Emergence

Cicada Casing on a fence
Cicada Casing on a fence. Photo by: Yamanaka Tamaki (Flickr Creative Commons)

Once they’re wrapped up their underground prison sentence, 17-year cicadas will crawl out from the dirt and being their ascension of just about any vertical woody surface they can find until they break out of their shell, freeing their wings and take flight.

Adult Stage

Adult periodical cicada
Photo by: Renee Grayson (Flickr Creative Commons)

Having spent the last 17 years underground, once cicadas emerge, they’re hellbent on making sure you, and every other cicada in a 20-mile radius knows it. The mating call of the cicada is almost synonymous with long summer nights, a soft droning somewhere in the woods. But with this year’s brood, the sound will be deafening as billions of these buggers emerge within weeks of each other along the Appalachian Mountains. Once they’ve found a mate, the female will use her sharp mouthparts to carve out a hole in woody vegetation and lay her eggs before dying herself. Depending on the brood and the species of cicada, they can remain in their adult form for up to 6 weeks.

Where Will This Year’s 17-Year Cicadas Emerge?

Brood X Cicada Map
Brood X Cicada Map – AccuWeather

This is the big one. Brood X is the largest emergence of cicadas in number, geographic range, and size. These bugs are here to make an impact. From the southern Appalachians in Northern Georgia, all the way north to southern New York, this year’s hatch will span some of the east’s finest trout waters. Regions that are home to the cicada’s favorite trees: oaks, maples, willows, and ash species, will probably experience denser emergences.

How Do Cicadas Impact the Environment? What do they eat? What eats them?

Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs
Photo by: Carl Mueller (Flickr Creative Commons)

Cicadas have existed on Planet Earth for at least 150–145 million years and have spread all over the world as a result. While there are cicada species out there that can be detrimental to agriculture, the 17-year individuals that will rise from the ground will only likely have light impacts on farming and other forms of vegetation. This happens because these plant species have evolved along with cicadas. For the most part, you’ll just find their casings stuck on trees everywhere, and a few large SPLATS on your windshield.

Cicada diet can vary depending on what stage in their lifecycle they are, but it mostly involves sucking something out of a plant’s root or stem.

Cicada Nymph Diet:

When cicadas are in the longest part of their lifecycle, they feed on the roots of plants where their parents deposited them so many years ago. This has little to no negative effects on the host plant other than a little bit of lost sap.

Adult Cicada Diet

As adults, they use their pointy mouthparts to suck the sap out of young twigs and woody shrubs, doing little to no damage to the plants they’re feeding on.

How to Fly Fish the 17-Year Cicada Hatch

Quite possibly the best and most exciting aspect of the cicada hatch for fly anglers is the fact that there really isn’t a game fish swimming that won’t take a crack at a chunky, struggling cicada on the surface. On a perfect day, you could land anything from trout to 20lb carp on cicada dry flies, meaning it’s really up to you to decide what fish you want to be fighting on the other end of your leader. All you’ll need to do is match your rod & reel setup with the species you intend to target, grab a handful of cicada flies, a leader, and some tippet, and you’re in for an epic (and deafening) day of dry fly action.

Tactics

Luckily for all fly anglers out there, cicadas are notoriously bad flyers, which results in bugs hitting the surface hard, often putting up decent splashes. What does that mean for you? Well, it just means your casts don’t have to be perfect, and you can often size up tippet depending on the fish your casting to.

Once your fly hits the surface, you can give it some movement simulating one of these red-eyed buggers writhing on the surface, often a trigger for and fish looking up to come have a go at the insect nugget splashing overhead.

If you want to get really technical with your fishing spot selection look for the cicadas’ favorite trees to plant their eggs in. Trees like maples, oaks, willows, and ash are all favorites. If you find those, you’ll likely find these bugs in numbers as they gather to spawn and plant the foundation of the next 17-year brood.

The Best Cicada Fly Patterns

Cicada flies, like all fly patterns, come in countless sizes, forms, and variations, but what remains the same, is that they all feature heavy usage of foam. Since the periodical cicadas have orange and black bodies and wings, that will be your go-to color combo. Below we’ve featured some of our favorite fly patterns and how-to videos so you can get your dry fly box ready for the summer of Brood X. Just remember the Brood X bugs are going to be big, to make sure to tie these on big hooks!

George Daniel’s Must-Have Cicada Flies

The Pine Cone Cicada – Fly Fish Food

You can buy everything you need to tie the Pine Cone Cicada, here, from Fly Fish Food!

Curtis Fry’s Sickada

Project Cicada – Fly Fish Food

Buy them, here!

5 Fun Facts About Brood X

  1. When Brood X was last seen in May and June of 2004, “Yeah” by Usher feat. Lil John, “This Love” by Maroon 5, and “The Reason” by Hoobastank all topped the charts.
  2. Right before the first of brood x emerged in mid-May 2004, the final episode of Friends aired.
  3. Brood X will emerge this summer in 14 states.
  4. Cicadas are a popular delicacy in many countries, served dried or fried.
  5. 17-Year periodical cicadas are one of more than 3,000 species of cicada found on Earth.

If you’re looking for more information about cicadas than you probably need to know, give the website Cicada Mania a look. Although it looks like it was built when Brood X was last flying around in 2004, it has a wealth of fun facts and information about this year’s brood and the history of the bug itself!

Key West Doesn’t Need More Cruise Ship Traffic

April 14, 2021 – Florida Keys Fishing Guide Association:

“Want bigger cruise ships to muck up Keys waters? Nope, we don’t either. But the city is being heavily pressured by state government to accept them. In fact, House and Senate bills are in place to override local policy to reduce ship size and quantity.

TODAY, let Governor Ron DeSantis know you oppose the House and Senate bills that would permit them, and HE SHOULD TOO!”

You can make your voice heard and tell Gov DeSantis to stop SB 426 and HB 267!

Call Florida Governor DiSantis: 850-717-9337

Email Gov DiSantis: GovernorRon.DeSantis@EOG.MyFlorida.com

5 Striped Bass Baitfish Fly Patterns to Stock Up On

Baitfish are a staple food source for Striped Bass of all sizes up-and-down the East Coast. Species such as Silversides, Menhaden, Peanut Bunker (juvenile Menhaden), Herring, Bay Anchovies, and Shad make up a significant part of a Striper’s diet. Because these baitfish are so common, it is important for fly anglers to always have plenty of imitations in their box while targeting these Bass. These 5 flies will have you covered on the water, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught without the necessary files for any given situation.

Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Minnow is probably the most widely used baitfish pattern in fly fishing. The Clouser is so simple, only really containing a few materials, but that simplicity is what makes it so effective. You can fish light ones over sand flats, and big heavy ones down around deep rocks. This fly is incredibly versatile and should have a place in every Striper anglers’ fly box.

Materials: 

Lefty’s Deceiver 

Lefty’s Deceiver is another classic. Just like the Clouser, the Deceiver is clean, simple, and super effective. Whenever I find myself in new water or just can’t decide on what to throw, the deceiver comes out of its not-so-deep hiding.

Materials:

Gurgler 

You can’t have a list of baitfish flies for any species without including the Gurgler. Whenever Striped Bass are actively feeding on baitfish, especially near the surface, Gurglers really shine. Just a simple “strip, strip, pause” retrieve gets the fly gurgling and the Bass happy enough to slurp it down. Marshes are my favorite places to use gurglers but just like every other fly on this list, they will get the job done anywhere.

Materials:

GameChanger

There is no doubting the fact that Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer lives up to its name. This fly has arguably the best profile and action in the baitfish fly category. This fly has the ability to imitate the smallest rain bait to the biggest Herring and even Menhaden, just depending on the size and color of the fly.

Materials:

Surf Candy

To finish off this list, the Surf Candy is a total Striped Bass classic. It is another super-realistic imitation of some of the Stripers’ favorite snacks such as Sandeels, Silversides, and Bay Anchovies. When Bass are being picky on small to medium-sized bait, I will almost always look for a Surf Candy.

Materials:

Stocked with these 5 flies, you will always be prepared for that last-minute, golden hour blitz that we all dream about, and just about any other situation you might find yourself in while fly fishing for Striped Bass. Make sure to check out past and future installments of this Striped Bass fly series.

Snake River Tops American Rivers’ 2021 Endangered Rivers Report

For nearly 40 years, American Rivers has published the “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report to save imperiled rivers through advocacy and education. This year’s report highlights rivers that are currently “at a tipping point, facing an urgent decision in the coming months.” The river conservation organization has a long history of restoring river systems and waterways all around the country. At nearly 300,000 supporters strong, American Rivers is a powerful voice for clean and healthy rivers. Many of our favorite fisheries depend on healthy rivers, and just many, unfortunately, are being held back by poor river health.

American Rivers selected rivers for this year’s report based on the degree to which the public can influence action, the river’s significance to communities, and the magnitude of the threat facing the river and community. Below, you’ll see this year’s most endangered rivers. Did your home river, unfortunately, make the list?

America’s Most Endangered River: The Snake River

The Snake River flows more than 1,000 miles through Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This river once produced millions of salmon and steelhead, but that was when it was, well, a river. Today, the Snake River suffers the effects of a fractured river. Four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington have promoted a strong barging industry but at the cost of the region’s once prolific runs of wild salmon and steelhead. The extinction of these fish is imminent unless the river can be reconnected.

“The four lower Snake dams turned 140 miles of cool, flowing river into a series of stagnant reservoirs. The dams disrupt and slow natural river flows, create lethally high reservoir temperatures which allow non-native predators to thrive, impede migration of salmon to and from the Pacific Ocean, and kill young salmon attempting to pass through the dams.”

Lower Granite Dam, Army Corps of Engineers

Chances are you’ve heard of the plan spearheaded by Congressman Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho. Over hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, he developed a concept to remove the four lower Snake River Dams, save the salmon and steelhead, and help the affected industries. This innovative and bipartisan approach might be the best–and last–chance to save these fish and the communities that depend on them.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to save rivers in need of urgent action,” said Tom Kiernan, President of American Rivers. “We’re facing a critical choice on the Snake River. We can either stay with the status quo, which means failing salmon runs, more costly ligitation, increasing energy insecurity and broken promises to tribes. Or we can choose to invest in salmon recovery and infrastructure solutions that create a future of abundance and prosperity for the region. We think the choice is clear and we’re calling on the Northwest congressional delegation to take action now.”

Missouri River flooding, courtesy of Brandon Knoblauch

#2: Lower Missouri River

America’s longest river also shares the title of America’s most altered river. The Missouri River flows more than 2,300 miles and has a watershed encompassing one-sixth of the United States. The Lower Missouri River, which stretches from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Louis, plays a vital role for the economies of the Plains states and the Nation. Decades of development on the lower Missouri–dams, channel dredging, and hundreds of miles of levees–has created a very different river, and one that threatens public safety and and is less hospitable to native species. Recent floods, which are intensifying  due to climate change, destroyed communities in the Missouri River Basin. This issue compounds with the fact that the river is far too constrained with its extensive levee system–during floods, the river has nowhere to go but into these riverside communities.

“In order to address the issues associated with outdated floodplain management in the lower Missouri River basin, states and local governments located in areas where catastrophic flooding has occurred must commit to non-structural and nature-based solutions, including setting back levees to give the river room, preventing development in the Missouri River floodplain that contributes to rising flood waters and increased flood risk, and funding relocation and flood mitigation projects for communities already located in flood-prone areas.”

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, courtesy of Brad Carlson

#3: Boundary Waters

Much like the efforts to restore the Snake River, if you’ve been following us for the last year or so, you’re familiar with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This wilderness area in Minnesota is the most visited wilderness area in the country and enjoys 1,200 miles of rivers and streams and more than 1,000 lakes. Yet a proposed sulfide-copper ore mine threatens the tourism and recreation economic benefits of the Boundary Waters and its clean water.

“Hydrologists say that pollution from mining in this area is inevitable. Hardrock mining is the most toxic industry in America, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Sulfide-ore copper mine contamination harms water, aquatic and terrestrial species, forests and soils, and poses a serious risk to human health.” The coalition working to save the Boundary Waters is strong and is now lobbying Congress to permanently protect the Boundary Waters.

#4: South River

Georgia’s South River begins in metropolitan Atlanta and suffers from extensive pollution, much of which stems from defective raw sewage systems. Just outside of Atlanta, thousands of recreationists enjoy what appears to be a beautiful river. However, the pollution coming from the river’s headwaters has not been addressed, and violations of the Clean Water Act persist.

“It is critical for the health of South River communities and the river that they take immediate action to ensure that the river and all impacted communities are afforded all clean water protections required by law.”

The Pecos River, courtesy of Jim O’Donnell

#5: Pecos River

The Pecos River represents a beacon of New Mexico’s culture and rich indigenous heritage. Originating in northern New Mexico at nearly 12,000 feet, the Pecos flows 926 miles all the way to Texas’ Rio Grande River. In its high elevation stretches, the Pecos provides essential habitat for the imperiled native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Unfortunately, a proposed hard rock mine threatens to affect over 5,000 acres of essential subalpine habitat and the river’s clean water.

“The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division must deny the exploratory mining application, the U.S. Forest Service must adequately assess the environmental impacts of the mining proposal, and Congress must pass legislation to permanently protect this special place for communities today and for generations to come.”

Water sampling at Tar Creek

#6: Tar Creek

Home to what was once the world’s largest lead and zinc mine, Tar Creek is also one of the largest superfund sites in the country. Superfund sites are areas that the EPA identifies as contaminated by hazardous substances, initiating cleanup efforts. “The Tar Creek Superfund Site’s epicenter contains forty square miles of abandoned mines with more than 30 major tailings piles as high as 200 feet tall with lead-contaminated soils throughout much of the county. For forty years, one million gallons of contaminated water has discharged daily into Tar Creek, killing most of the Creek’s aquatic life and turning the water orange due to oxidation.”

Cleanup efforts at Tar Creek continue to be inadequate, and pollution continues to taint the creek orange and poison adjacent communities. Efforts by the EPA, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, State of Oklahoma, and local Tribes to clean up the pollution and protect the public through a landscape-scale solution are immensely needed.

The McCloud River, courtesy of Tracey Diaz

#7: McCloud River

California’s McCloud River once flowed free and gave life to tribes and the connected ecosystems. However, construction of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River in 1945 disrupted the entire watershed. Impacts included complete blockage of habitat for migrating salmon and flooded culturally important lands. Today, an effort to raise the already 600-foot dam another 18.5 feet to provide more water for the Central Valley Project would further degrade this region. In 1989, the McCloud was protected as Wild and Scenic River to prevent this exact scenario, and raising the dam’s height is illegal under California Law.

“Under the direction of Secretary Haaland, Department of Interior staff must complete a swift review of the proposed Shasta Dam raise, fully consider and expose its injustice and illegality, and issue a public determination that the project is infeasible (in part because it is illegal in California under the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act). The Secretary must then kill the project for good by publishing a Record of Decision that rejects the dam-raise alternatives.”

#8: Ipswich River

New England’s largest salt marsh, source of drinking water for 350,000 people, and a multi-million-dollar shellfish industry are all made possible because of Massachusetts’ Ipswich River. The relatively short river, 45 miles, is located just north of Boston and provides great opportunities for outdoor recreation and wild ecosystems to thrive. The river is being starved, however. Today, its greatest threat comes from excessive water withdrawals.

“The Ipswich River is the poster child for the state’s outdated water system. An astounding 80 percent of Ipswich water is exported out of the watershed. Worse, more than 90 percent of withdrawals are exempt from any water use conditions like conservation measures. Even in non-drought years, stretches of river are pumped dry. Dry riverbeds result in fish kills, ecological damage, loss of recreation and threats to the quality and security of the water supply. The climate crisis has made things worse.”

Two critical water registrations and permits are up for renewal this year, opening the door for much needed improvements to how Massachusetts manages its water. The goal is to establish new water use rules that will strike a balance across a range of uses and users but leave enough water for communities and the river.

#9: Raccoon River

Crippled by industrial agriculture pollution, Iowa’s Raccoon River needs major help–notwithstanding the 500,000 people that depend on the river for drinking water and thousands of others that use the rivers for recreation. More than 750 factory farms pollute the river through high levels of nutrient (animal waste) runoff. Iowa’s voluntary system to reduce agricultural runoff has proved completely inadequate and contributed to   toxic algal outbreaks and decades of unsafe drinking water for the local communities.

“The EPA must conduct a study of factory farm runoff from fields in Iowa. The agency has previously acknowledged that such runoff is the biggest source of factory farm pollution by far, but it is not monitored at all by Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources. EPA must also immediately ramp up its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) inspections and enforcement actions in the Raccoon River watershed. Factory farms should be required to invest in state-of-the-art technology to treat animal waste, instead of relying on antiquated techniques that hide the problem (e.g., spreading waste on fields).”

#10 Turkey Creek

Located in Coastal Mississippi, Turkey Creek is a freshwater stream and brackish estuary that has supported culturally diverse fisheries, communities, and habitats for decades. More recently, development of wetlands and flooding (intertwined issues) are having significant impacts on Turkey Creek Communities. Additionally, more development is in the planning stage, which would further exasperate the ongoing issues at Turkey Creek.

“Economic development must not come at the cost of human and ecological health, or environmental justice. Decision-makers must ensure that any economic development proposals in the Turkey Creek area are supported by the local community and protect the health of the community and environment. To this end, they must refer to the neighborhood’s Community Plan and Watershed Plan.”

As you can see, these ten waterways all face serious threats. Further, no matter how prolific their fisheries are–if even at all–the fact remains that clean water and healthy aquatic ecosystems are essential to human life and have many more uses than previously understood. Further, in most of these locations, underpinning the river’s threats is a human attempt to modify a waterway. Whether it is a dam, levee, injecting unnatural nutrients, or just taking too much water out, we continue to have an outsized role in river degradation. This is exactly why restoration and advocacy efforts, much like with the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, are needed. For more on the report and individual rivers, be sure to check out the full report here.

How to Tie: The Lightning Bug Nymph

In this week’s “How to Tie” video feature, Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions gives us a great tutorial on how to tie the Lightning Bug Nymph.

Learn About This Fly:

Difficulty: Novice

The Lightning Bug nymph pattern was spawned by Larry Graham in the early 90’s and has lead to a multitude of variations over the years. This flashy little attractor has always been a go to in the summer time but is now proving to be quite effective in the late Spring and early Fall months as well. That being said, the Lightning Bug Nymph should always have a place in your fly box.

This fly is very similar to the Rainbow warrior in that the body of the fly is tied with tinsel. Although in most cases the rainbow warrior is tied using flash-a-bou which can be equally as effective on the lightning bug. This fly works great as a lead attractor fly on a nymph rig and can also be fished on a dead drift to entice trout movement. The tungsten bead on this fly will ensure that your nymphs venture deep into the water column.

Traditionally, the Lightning Bug Nymph is tied with silver colored material. As mentioned, the fly fishing world has taken to breaking tradition and creating a multitude of variations over the years. The good thing with this fly is that it allows the angler to be creative. Test this fly out using a variety of colors and materials until you find the hot combination.

Ingredients:

  • Hook: Fulling Mill FM50 85 Black Nickel 2X Long Nymph Hook Size 14
  • Bead: 7/64 Inch Nickel Tungsten Bead
  • Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier – White
  • Lead: Lead Free Wire Spool – .015
  • Wire: Small Silver Ultra Wire
  • Tail: Natural Pheasant Tail Fibers
  • Legs: Natural Pheasant Tail Fibers
  • Body: Medium Silver Hollow Tinsel
  • Wing Case: Large Opal Mirage Tinsel
  • Thorax: Peacock Hearl

Now you know how to tie the Lightning Bug Nymph.

Video and Ingredients courtesy of Tightline Productions.

April Fly Fishing Forecast

Its hard to believe that we are mid way through April already but that is music to our ears. We are gearing up for arguably the best time of year for trout fishing and it is important to be aware of what to expect. In this weeks tips and tricks video, Trouts Fly Fishing gives us a Fly Fishing forecast for the month of April. Flies to use, weather patterns, and what to expect on the water.

Productive Bugs for April

April is a great time to take advantage of a fresh run of hatches for the year. Trout are likely more excited than we are. Below we will highlight the top flies to use this month.

1. The Frenchie

 

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Arguably one of the best flies to use year-round for trout.
  • A great lead fly for a nymphing rig.
  • The jig approach gets your flies down and the flash adds attraction for hungry trout.

2. The Electric Caddis

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Chartreuse/olive colored caddis nymphs are super effective this time of year.
  • The added flash provides an attractor for trout.
  • Caddis are hatching heavily in the spring, switch up variants and select what works best.

3. The Shotglass Baetis

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • A great fly to drop off of your caddis nymph as baetis are also very active this time of year.
  • Great during sunny or cloudy conditions.
  • Very present in the water column at all times and work well when paired with other active nymphs during this time.

4. The Rojo Midge

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Very effective during this month as midges are filling up the water columns.
  • Works really well with the electric caddis and the shotglass baetis for a 3 nymph rig.
  • Red is a great trigger point for fish to pick off emerging midges.

5. The Wedgehead Streamer

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Rain is very common during the early spring months and so cloudy water calls for streamers.
  • You might be surprised by this but it can be very effective to throw in a streamer to mix it up mid-day.
  • A go big or go home type of fly for variable water conditions.

Flows for April

The common saying “April showers bring May flowers” often remains true. Water levels can be variable during the early spring months and so it is important to be aware of the levels before you make the trip. Freestone streams are fed by surrounding streams and flows from high mountain ranges. It is important to remember that if the levels are too low, avoid fishing freestone streams to avoid stressing out trout. Usually we encounter enough rain during this time that its not a worry, but its nice to keep in mind.

Spring creeks are regulated year round most of the time but are susceptible to increasing and decreasing in flows. During or after rain storms are the perfect time to break out streamers in spring creeks. The water usually has that nice greyish tint and larger trout tend to move around searching for food. Take advantage of these conditions. Spring creeks are a great option as well if the flows of freestone streams aren’t quite high enough.

As mentioned previously, April is a great month to hit the water. Do your research and plan accordingly and you will find success. Monitor the flows closely. If you can dial in the flows, you will likely enjoy your time on the water more often than not.

For more information, check out Trouts Fly Fishing for gear and more forecasts for the coming months.

Flylords x Benchmade Camp Cocktail Giveaway

Want to win a custom Flylords Benchmade Knife? Find out how below.

benchmade knife

With Spring well underway and summer right around the corner, the perfect camping and fishing weather has officially begun. Whether you’re loading up for a weekend-long float trip, or just taking a walk to your favorite riverside tent spot, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a refreshing cocktail by the fire after a day spent on the water. Whether it’s an old-time classic, or one of your buddy’s signature “franken-tinis”: everyone’s most likely got a favorite, and we want to know yours.

So, to kick off the first coming of our favorite time of the year, we’re partnering with Benchmade Knives to give away 3 custom Flylords knives to 3 lucky anglers.

Here’s all you have to do to enter:

  1. Go tag 2 friends and comment your favorite camp cocktail/ beverage in the comments of this post HERE. Each comment counts as 1 entry (limited to 3 entries per participant).
  2. Make sure you’re following @Flylords and @Benchmade on Instagram.

That’s it!

3 different winners will be chosen by random out of the comments to win a Custom Benchmade x Flylords Bug Out knife.

Hurry up, because the entry period closes Saturday, April 17th, 2021. 

camp cocktail

Terms and conditions: 
  • Winners will be announced Sunday, 4/11/21
  • Winner must provide a valid shipping address.
  • No entries received after 11:59PM MT, 4/17/21 will be counted
  • One knife per winner.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older to win. Winner may be asked to show valid proof of ID.

A Look Into the New Benchmade x Casey Underwood Knives

FORGED TO FISH: Exploring the Obsession of a Species

 

Airflo Behind the Lines: Reservation Steelhead with Matt Mendes

The morning started with a 4:30 am departure from Portland, Oregon to head west to fish for summer steelhead with Matt Mendes, a Native American Fly Fishing Guide located on the Deschutes River. The three-hour drive started with heavy rain in Portland and transitioned into a snowstorm along the Mount Hood corridor. As we reached the Warm Springs Reservation the air was warm, balmy, and no wind. It was late November, any sort of warmer air temperatures might mean that if there were steelhead around they would be more willing to take a swung fly.

The Deschutes River.

Fly fishing for summer steelhead in Oregon is not for the faint of heart, it typically means waking up before the sunrise, fishing hard all morning, taking a nap midday, and then fishing the afternoon until dark. The less time you spend on the water the less chance you have to catch a steelhead. The populations of steelhead in Oregon have been on the decline since the early 1900s when the dams were built on the Columbia River, there was the introduction of hatchery steelhead, and there was an onslaught of commercial harvest of these fish.

Tribal Guide Matt Mendes, prepared for another day of steelhead fishing on the Warm Springs Reservation.

Steelhead are a species of pursuit, it’s not at all a numbers game. Fly fishing for steelhead is a way to connect to the outdoors at a greater level. You can spend hours and hours, days upon days without catching one. You can learn more about yourself in this time spent on the water and connect with the environment around you at a whole different level. It is a very intimate experience, to say the least. And when you do finally come in contact with a fish, it is a memory you will cherish forever.

Beams of sunlight began radiating to the East as we pulled up to Matt’s house and I knew that the clock was ticking and we needed to get on the water. Matt was patiently waiting for us with the rods rigged on his gigantic F-250 Truck. He told us to grab our gear and get into the truck and we would wader up down at the river. The day would be spent wade fishing the Warm Springs Reservation side of the Deschutes River. We would be using Matt’s truck to move from spot to spot along the 4-wheel drive road. Matt has exclusive access to guide on 22 miles of the Deschutes River’s west bank, per an 1855 treaty with the United States government.

When I asked Matt about how he got into fishing and guiding he explained, “My grandfather Al Bagley got me into fly fishing when I was 12 years old. He was the first Indian guide on the Deschutes River and owner of Riverbend Guide Service. He started his company in 1997. I started shuttle driving at 12 years old and slowly started getting familiar with the guide business during that time.”

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“By my Sophomore year in High school, I was guiding every summer and fall for both trout and steelhead until I graduated. I ended up working 11 years with his outfit. He retired in 2016 and I bought him out and started my own company Spin The Handle.” It became pretty clear through our conservations that Matt has devoted his life to fishing, specifically guiding fly fishing and protecting the native fish and habitat along the Deschutes River.

The road began to wind down the canyon, the mighty Deschutes River came into view. The defined oxbows of water pierced the rugged land and the steep cliffs glistened a red and gold color contrasting the dark blue reflection of the river below. For those who have never stepped foot near the Deschutes River, a picture doesn’t do it justice. The sheer power of the river is astonishing and the land around it looks like you might be walking on some faraway planet. It is a mysterious place, underneath the rugged landscape is a world teeming with life.

We turned onto a burley 4-wheel drive road, Matt put the truck into 4-wheel to climb through the deep mud. Wild horses grazed the hills, the bright sun warmed the cold desert ground.

We approached the first run, Matt stopped the truck and muttered some swear words under his breath, he began banging on the roof of the truck. The noise echoed through the canyon and a flock of geese took flight from the river. Matt mentioned the geese can spook the fish from taking a swung fly. These geese were sitting right on the tailout of the run we were planning to fish. He also mentioned it was probably just his superstition and we should still fish the run. Steelhead anglers are notorious for being superstitious.

Emily waded out to the top of the run, she was accompanied by Matt who helped her find rhythm with her spey cast. She began the two-step spey routine, cast, swing, take two steps downstream and repeat the process. It was the most efficient way to cover water to search out a steelhead that may be lurking below. I followed behind thinking that she had maybe perked up a fish that may take the second fly it had seen. I was wrong this time around.

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The Gear:

The gear that we were using for this specific late-November day was 13-foot 7-weight spey rods, a fly reel with a good amount of backing, Airflo Super-Dri Ridge Running Line, a Skagit head (Aiflo Skagit Driver line or Airflo Rage Compact Float) with an Airflo T-10 Flo Tip, 4 feet of 12-pound tippet, and an unweighted black and blue spey fly (Matt had tied some up in the car).

Matt expressed he likes to normally fish “dry lines” for summer steelhead, but the water temperatures were a little too cold to fish the full floating setup. From September through early November is when Matt will typically run a full floating line setup. The steelhead will rise from where they are holding to take the fly on the surface. But with water temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit our chances of getting a fish on floating setup were not as good as using a sink tip like the T-10 Flo Tip.

Emily was fishing the new Aiflo Skagit Driver. A spey line designed by Tom Larimer a retired Deschutes fly fishing guide and line designer. The Driver is an all-purpose Skagit style spey head that can throw heavy tips and flies while still cast lighter-weight setups with accuracy. It is a great all-around spey line for two-handed anglers, especially anglers who might be new to spey casting.

I was fishing the Airflo Rage Compact Float. This specific line is considered a “Scandi Compact” line. Scandi is the style of spey fishing with light lines and light flies. Sort of like the dry fly fishing of spey fishing. The Rage Compact is ultimately a hybrid between a Scandi and Skagit making it perform better in high wind and with a lightweight tip and fly. It is another all-around spey line and commonly used amongst the spey anglers on the Deschutes River. It is a blast to cast as you can accurately control your cast and fly.

We finished fishing the first run, hopped back into the truck to head to the next run. The air temperature was rising and so was the sun. Accessing the water on the Warm Springs Reservation is a very intimate experience, there are no other vehicles, people, or industrial disturbance. The land feels wild and unchanged. Unlike many other public access points along the river.

Matt discussed being a Tribal fly fishing guide as “a very unique opportunity, being able to fish so much sacred trout and steelhead water that our people have utilized for substantial necessities for many years. As guides, we try to persevere the water and land as best we can to keep it as pristine as it has been for hundreds of years.

“The water along the reservation is very crucial for the life cycle of returning salmon, steelhead, and all aquatic life as a safe sanctuary with limited pressure from anglers. The fish that make it up this far are very special after all they have gone through to get here.”

The river along the reservation is a sanctuary for life. There isn’t pressure from the outside world to disturb the natural being of it. As the morning went on, we began picking up our pace and covering a lot of water. This was in hope of searching out a steelhead. Matt made it pretty clear that the more time you have your flies in the water the better chance you have to catch a steelhead.

At each and every run Matt gave us the confidence that there should be a fish and we were going to catch it. A trait that only true steelhead guides have. It keeps your mental state from getting in the way and keeps you focused on grinding away to find that elusive fish.

I started fishing a run that Matt called the “Pitchers Mound,” where the normal cast, swing, two-step routine was impossible due to deep water, trees, and other obstacles. Instead, I was standing on a tiny rock and trying to control my swing by letting out more line with each cast.

I made an awkward upstream snake roll cast off my right shoulder, and my fly landed 30 feet directly across from me. I didn’t mend the line as the river current was slow. The line straightened out and the fly began to pick up speed as it crossed the current. Near the end of the swing, I felt a small tug. I waited for a second and then lifted my tip out of instinct. “F**k” I yelled as I knew that a steelhead had just grabbed my fly and I had pulled it out of its mouth. You only get so many chances when a steelhead decides to take your fly and I trout set. Bummer….I kept fishing in hopes that fish would still be there and willing to take my fly again, but I was wrong.

We kept fishing and covering a lot of water. Matt demonstrated various spey casts, making the casting looking effortless. He explained, “If I had to give any advice to an angler wanting to swing for steelhead it is to take your time with your casting, relax, and of course be very patient. Your moment will come when your fly swims in front of a fish’s face. Keep stepping and casting with confidence!!” This resonated as you can easily lose confidence when swinging flies.

It was beginning to get late, the sunlight would be gone in about an hour. Emily was eager to find a fish, but her energy levels were fading as we had been up since 3:30 am. We split the next run in half, she took the bottom and I took the top. I fished long and hard, about 20 swings later, I stepped out and started walking back to the truck. Emily stayed put and covered more water, casting the Skagit Driver effortlessly with a nice fluid Snap T cast.

She bombed a 40-foot cast, threw a big mend upstream, and waited for the current to begin to swing the line. As the line came tight in the current, her fly began swinging across the water column. About halfway through the swing, the fly line began ripping out of the reel.

“Fish on!” Matt screamed as Emily held on for dear life. The steelhead ripped downstream with large bursts of reel peeling power. The fish just kept going, Matt instructed Emily to begin walking downstream to try to get control of the fish.  As Emily cautiously navigated the riverbed, the water became deeper and Matt picked her up to carry her through the deep water to get closer to the fish.

At last, the fish seemed to have tired out. Emily reeled down and gained on it. She was able to get control of the fish and steered it in the direction of the net. She lifted the 13-foot spey rod, it flexed with the weight of the fish, and Matt scooped the fish into the large net. Success!!

The fish glistened its red, pink, and green scales in the fading sunlight, the large tail protruding from the net. It was a beautiful late-season hen (female) summer steelhead.

Emily was speechless and we could all feel a sense of accomplishment. It was a team effort.

We took a couple of photos, gave praise to the fish, and sent her back to where she came from. Being able to shake hands with a steelhead is always a humbling experience.

We felt fortunate to have been able to come in contact with such an elusive fish. A fish that is born in the desert, lived in the ocean and returned back to the desert where it will either die after spawning or go back to the ocean to only return again to keep the lifecycle going. A resilient fish, with the odds stacked against it.

Matt explained how “Life does not get any better than swinging a spey rod in a river somewhere and being in tune with Mother Earth.” I don’t think anyone could say he is wrong about that.

If you want to experience a day on the water with Matt Mendes, check out his website here and be sure to follow him on Instagram at @deschutesnative

All photos are taken by Toby Nolan, for more of Toby’s work check him out online here or on Instagram at @t.nolan.imagery

Article by Patrick Perry @patperry.

For more information on finding the right Airflo fly line, check out https://airflousa.com/ and be sure to follow them on Instagram at @airflofishing.

Airflo’s American Aspirations from Fly Fisherman Magazine

Understanding Steelhead and How to Fly Fish For Them [An Angler’s Guide]

 

 

2021 F3T Behind the Lens: Rewa Rodeo

Rewa Rodeo is a film focused on the arapaima fishery of the Rewa Valley in Guayana. Arapaima are jungle fish capable of breathing air like tarpon and pack a punch when they suck down flies. These fish are capable of reaching lengths around 30 feet and are aggressive jungle carnivores. We had the chance to sit down with the filmmaker behind the project, Johann DuPreez, to learn more about the film and these incredible fish.

Flylords: Can you give us a little background about the Rewa Eco Lodge? When was it started and how it’s been built around the community of the Rewa valley?

Johann: Rewa initially was constructed as a birdwatching eco-lodge. They got funding from Conservation International in 2005, and the lodge was built. A couple of years down the line, the word got out that these massive jungle fish were in the ponds around the Rewa system. Oliver and Matt put a crew together and they went looking for these fish. Once they finally started to identify the potential as a fishery, that’s when Indifly got involved. They start working with the local Makushi community and it’s grown into a massive, beautiful operation. The revenue from the fishing is tenfold what they make with birding or wildlife photography. So, it’s been really good for the village, it’s been good for the people of Rewa. Almost 90% of the locals are employed directly or benefit directly from the lodge.

The village and the loge are very well integrated. They’re a hundred meters apart, just down the road from the lodge, you’ll walk into the village. There’s a village council and then you’ve got the lodge board of directors. Rovin, who’s the head of one of those, is the lodge manager and the head guide. He’s essentially the go-to guy in that village. 

Flylords: Describe the Makushi people’s relationship with the arapaima.

Johann: It’s almost like in Bolivia where the Dorado also very spiritual animals. I think arapaima used to be a victim of the fact that they’re confined to the ponds and they’re easy to kill because they have to come up for air. So, a hunter could potentially sit in a tree with a bow, and wait for this arapaima to roll, and then just shoot it. The fish were very easy targets. So, the fish became victims and their numbers were reduced. 

Then all of a sudden, I don’t know what it was, but something shifted and the locals realized that these fish are worth way more when they’re alive than dead, and they stopped killing them. They started protecting the fish and the numbers have risen and risen, and now the arapaima is a protected species.

The fish have come a long way and it’s been a 180-degree shift in ideals. You’ll see in the film when I speak to Winston, the head researcher. He speaks about it, he says he used to kill fish, and he used to like killing arapaima. However, now he’s the guy who cares for these fish more than anybody else. 

Flylords: What is Winston’s research focused on? 

Johann: It’s mainly data collection. The initial big chunk of information about arapaima’s survival was done by Andy Danylchuk. He’s an American guy, who’s also involved in the fly fishing industry. He worked closely with local researchers to try and figure out how to release the fish. Initially, you would just take arapaima and you let it go, he’ll swim away, but he won’t be strong enough to come up and breathe air, and then the fish would just drown. So, they attached accelerometers to the fish, and they started recording release data while giving them plenty of time to recover. Once they figured that out, they had a system. The big fish gets cradled, given time to take a number of breaths, maybe four depending on the size of the fish. 

We’ve also begun embedding PIT tags in the fish to record recapture data. Essentially, each fish essentially gets a unique code, and if you recapture the fish, it tells you a few things, where it’s been or where it’s moved to, whether it stayed in the same pond, whether it moved to another pond, or how much it grew in the last season. 

Flylords: What is this “Bobber Release Method” mentioned in the film?

 

Johann: Basically, it’s like two elastic bands that get loosely clipped together around the fish, and attached to that is a long tether line, and at the end, there’s a big wooden bobber.

When the fish is released, it will swim away and they can track the bobber seeing where the fish goes and how many breaths that that fish takes post-release. The research team will sit there and wait for the fish to come up taking the time between those breathes to see if the fish is healthy, if it needs help, or if needs intervention. If they see a black caiman come towards the fish, trying to eat it, and they’ll just paddle over, and whack the caiman to spook it off.

It’s cool, they’re literally protecting this fish until it’s strong enough. Usually, within 45 minutes, they’ll grab the bobber, it slides off the fish, freeing them to hunt baitfish in the murky waters once again.

Flylords: In the film, there are four or five different sound effects people make describing what it’s like fish when eats the fly. What is that sensation like when you’ve got the fly line in your hand?

Johann: It’s tense, to say the least. I absolutely love arapaima because of this. It’s not the most explosive fish. Okay, look, they erupt from the water, it’s like a Tarpon, but they’re no way as strong as a Tarpon, they’re not as aggressive as a GT. They’ve got a lot of shortcomings in where they fight. But what’s really amazing is when they eat the fly and how much fly line they’ll rip out of your hands.

The strip is extremely slow – long, slow strips. If a fish is eating while your hand’s off the line, it’ll just shoot out of your head and you’ll lose the fish. So, you literally have to strip and grip the line with your fingers as hard as you can on the cork, let go, and then strip. You have to be in contact with your fly the whole time.

Flylords: Describe the fight angler’s experience when hooked into an Arapaima. 

Johann: It’s a short fight. You shouldn’t be fighting and arapaima for more than 10 minutes or you’re probably going to kill it. So, we put in everything we can. And you’ll hear in the film, “Strip, strip, strip. Hit him, hit him, hit him.” And that’s number one, if that fish eats, you got to set the hook as hard as you fucking can. I mean that hook’s got to go in somewhere. It’s like sitting at like a wooden or bony mouth, it’s so hard, you know? So, that’s step number one, just keeps setting the hook. Even if you think you’re going to pop a fly line or open a hook, it doesn’t matter. You set, set, set until the fish starts pulling off. It will shake the fly if you don’t do that.

And then, what’s always cool is, you know, you’ll see sort of where the fish ate, where the bubbles come up, and then just see the line sort of slowly peeling off and rising to the surface. And as it comes up, the water will literally bulge up and then just this fucking giant head will come out. I think that’s when everybody, they realize like, “Whoa. Holy shit, what did I just plug myself into?” And that’s when arapaima fishing gets really awesome. Massive head shakes. And on the bigger fish, you’ll often see them spray baitfish. They’ll just regurgitate a whole bunch of baitfish. 

And then once that’s done, a fish will jump maybe four or five times and you’ll get him into the boat, but that’s when the Rewa Rodeo begins. That’s when things get really exciting is when the guide gets into the water with the fish. Because you can’t lip it, you can’t land it like a Tarpon. You can’t just pick it up, or pull it onto the boat. It’s too big and it’s too aggressive. So, the guides will get in and try and wrestle this fish, grab a leader and try and sort of… They’ll put a hand across and try and grab the pec fins. They’ve got really hard, big fins, and try and grab onto that. But yeah, it’s actually bizarre, to watch these men jump in to fight a fish that’s twice their size. It’s awesome.

“Behind the Seams” – A Look Into SIMMS’ Flyweight Collection

There is no greater pride a manufacturer in the outdoor industry can possess that is greater than being, truly, “American Made”. In the fast-paced industrial world of today, profit possesses priority in the eyes of many who produce their goods in the pursuit of monetary return. Cutting corners, pinching pennies, and outsourcing their jobs to unnamed factories across the world has somehow taken a new normal in the United States, and no one seems to really be asking why. However, this is not the case for all. There are still a few proud companies that dare to sacrifice dollars for quality. Those who, instead of building sweatshops, build communities; and who take inspiration from the work their own peers implement every day and use it to push the envelope to ask: “What’s Next?”.

sewing flyweight

It’s companies like SIMMS, whose factory and offices share one home in the heart of Bozeman, Montana, who embody what it means to be a truly American company. Because in the same place the individuals who make SIMMS’ gear practice their craft, they make their homes, raise their families, and fish the great waters around them. This is why, as will be noticed in the new Flyweight series, one can locate the remnants of inspiration bedded under every stitch, lined with every cut, and located behind every seam…

waders hanging

About SIMMS Flyweight:

The mission of the SIMMS Flyweight collection is to provide gear to anglers who, simply put, want to go further for longer. With the growing pressure our favorite waters are experiencing, the need to get craftier, and explore new fishing opportunities has never been greater. It’s this athlete-inspired mentality to push yourself to step outside the drift boat, and blaze a new trail, that is behind every part of the unique design of Flyweight.

“This is such a versatile line of products from head to toe. You can really use it however you like on a sliding scale of intensity. What benefits the angler that is willing to go the extra mile still translates down to the angler who just fishes locally or isn’t pushing the boundaries. It’s nice to see how well this kit of gear works across the whole breadth of angling types out there today”.

Connor Flanagan, SIMMS Product Marketing Manager 

simms flyweight
Flyweight in action

About “Behind the Seams”:

When we first heard rumors of the new Flyweight collection last Spring, we were eager to investigate. We wanted to dive into the creative process behind each design element of the waders and gear to see where the thought met the sewing machine. It was in searching for that that “Behind the Seams” was born. Not only were we heading to Montana to get a behind-the-scenes look at the wader manufacturing itself, but a look into what inspired the design.

simms flyweight

To go behind the seams, literally, would take you to just that, the inspiration, AKA: the angler in the waders. See, the folks who stand in the waders, are also the folks whose feedback and demands constitute what the next line of products will often look like (this is true for most brands – or at least any worth mentioning). If there are holdbacks, technical malfunctions, or any performance issues whatsoever: they’re going to be discovered by an angler first. This is where we come back to why it’s so important to have the SIMMS factory IN Bozeman. Employees, such as the ones shown in the “Behind the Seams” video can actually take waders hot off the presses, and go field test them miles outside of the office. Not only do these people stand by the product they make, they literally stand in them.

putting on boots

“Behind the Seams” is capturing the adventure of 2 athletes, whose lifestyle and eagerness to explore don’t parallel their fly-fishing endeavors, but instead intersect with them. The same people who design, sell, and manage the SIMMS products are also aiding in contributing feedback based on THEIR needs as anglers. Call it a pat on the back for SIMMS creating a company culture of actively involved individuals, but by keeping an open ear to the FF community, they’re building and utilizing an internal team that can act as representatives of the fly-fishing world.

running

We really had such a blast having the privilege of watching Ben and Nick work in the field. It was amazing to see the full life cycle of the waders as they moved from the factory floor to the backcountry trout streams, all while never having to leave the state lines of Montana. In creating this film, we were reminded of the opportunities fishing lends when you really decide to push yourself to new heights. We were also reminded of just how important it is to remember (and this is a bit of a cliche at this point) that it’s not just about catching a big fish, but also having an adventure with the people you love.

To see it for yourself, check out the full film HERE:

Also, make sure to check out the new SIMMS Flyweight Collection HERE.

Simms Releases New Flyweight Collection

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