Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My #phenology has some flies on it

Over the past decade or so, I'd drifted away from my involvement in fly-fishing. I'm getting back into it because I miss "messing around" in the streams I used to fish. They're where I started to learn about  phenology before I knew there was such a thing as phenology.

Northern Minnesota stream
Northern Minnesota stream
Photo by J. Harrington

Many fly-fishers try their best to "match the hatch." Different aquatic insects hatch from underwater nymphs to flighted insects during different times of the year. Some, like midges, are available pretty much year round. Others have a limited hatching season of several weeks. Here's an example:

Minnesota hatch charts
Minnesota hatch charts

So, I've been trying to figure out a better way to organize my flies by season/month, but not all streams have the same species living in them. Plus, when I was rereading one of the books by one of my favorite fly-fishing authors, he wrote that he organizes his dry flies by size.
I spent the better part of ten years and went through dozens of different fly boxes trying to figure out how to organize my flies in a way that made sense, not scientifically or aesthetically, but in a way that would work in failing light when the river was trying to push me off my gravel bar and I was fumbling for the box that held what I thought would be the right fly.

I ended up dividing mayflies into three categories that fit into three separate fly boxes: little ones (Size 18 and smaller), big ones (Size 12 and larger), and middle-sized ones (Sizes 14 and 16)...
[Good Flies ~ John Gierach]
Rereading that passage made me wonder if I was making things more complicated than necessary, or if I was trying to over organize my basic approach. But then I noted that it took Gierach the better part of ten years to "simplify" his organization. I believe than answer for me, for now, will be to spend more time in the water on sand and gravel bars and let most of the reading and thinking and organizing wait until Winter, generally a better season for indoor pursuits.

While we consider hatches, any of you are bird watchers, you might want to check out River Webs. Both the book and the movie do a fascinating job of sharing insights into the linkages between stream and streamside forest ecosystems, especially insect hatches and nonfish critters that feed on them.

 The River


By Raymond Carver


I waded, deepening, into the dark water.
Evening, and the push
and swirl of the river as it closed
around my legs and held on.
Young grilse broke water.
Parr darted one way, smolt another.
Gravel turned under my boots as I edged out.
Watched by the furious eyes of king salmon.
Their immense heads turned slowly,
eyes burning with fury, as they hung
in the deep current.
They were there. I fel them there,
and my skin prickled. But
there was something else.
I braced with the wind on my neck.
Felt the hair rise
as something touched my boot.
Grew afraid at what I couldn't see.
Then of everything that filled my eyes—
that other shore heavy with branches,
the dark lip of the mountain range behind.
And this river that had suddenly
grown black and swift.
I drew breath and cast anyway.
Prayed nothing would strike. 


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