So, here's the secret...
If you want a crash course in the entomology of a particular stream it may be as simple as making a nocturnal pit stop in a lighted outhouse near the water.
Let me explain...
Kelly and I made a trip to the Spring River in Arkansas during Easter weekend. It was a brief, but good trip. We caught lots of fish... Kelly more than I... as usual. We had the river pretty much to ourselves. The bad weather in the area kept the people away I suppose... or maybe they just weren't as foolish as us to be out there. We fished under looming storm clouds with lightning ever present in the distance. We also fished straight through a few brief showers.
On Friday night after we set up our tent, we made our rounds to the campground bathhouse (really just a glorified outhouse). As we took care of our business, we were literally surrounded by a host of stream dwelling insects. We pretty much got to see the full diversity of what's on the menu for the fish. We made a few pretty cool discoveries, and I even saw a few that I did not know inhabited the Spring. The insects were drawn to the lights, and were both outside and inside the building... somebody left the doors open.
|Mystery brown mayfly, size 14|
|Blue-winged Olive (Baetis vagans), size 16|
|Mystery white mayfly at right, size 14|
|Light Cahill (Stenacron canadense) at left, size 14|
|Mystery brown stonefly, size 12|
|Salmonfly (Pteronarcys sp.), size 8|
There were also a fair number of small (size 18 to 16) black and tan Caddisflies, but I didn't get any photos of them.
We all know that insects are drawn to lights, so this may be something that everybody out there already knows... and it certainly isn't a secret, but I felt that maybe I should share this idea. Of course, if your accommodations on the river are a little fancier than a campground with a lighted outhouse, you could probably spend a little time on the porch of the lodge and obtain similar results. If you don't get to routinely sample the hatches on a particular stream, it might give you some ideas about what to expect. On a river like the Spring (and others in Arkansas) hatches are sparse (and never heavy), and it's difficult to learn much from watching what's flying around the river.
I know I'll be adding a few new mayfly emergers and Salmonfly nymph patterns to my Spring River arsenal.
We also found this cool looking critter...
|White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)... maybe a size 2|
Not all that interesting from a fly fishing perspective, but pretty awesome for two Lepidoptera loving naturalists.
I still don't really understand why insects are drawn to the lights, but it sure makes it easy to find out what the fish are eating in the waters nearby.