March 19, 2004
Durango - by L. David Grooms
Bugs on the
Animas trout menu
Many fly fishers
fish the Animas with big flies (size 16 and larger), as they do on most
un-dammed Freestone rivers -- no doubt because of presumption and not
Entomology and its
ridiculously complex Latin nomenclature associated with trout foods can be
a traumatizing experience for fly fishers!
Many of us would
rather spend our time fishing or doing almost anything rather than
learning to "match the hatch" with a repertoire of such words as trico (tricorythodes),
PMD (ephemerellidae) and midge (dipteral). So, not being an entomology
expert is very understandable. Fly fishers usually buy and fish with flies
that are suggested to be appropriate for the water at a given time.
Learning about the
primary aquatic insect food groups that trout eat (stoneflies, mayflies,
caddis flies and midges) and their life cycles does not have to become a
complicated academic exercise. But knowing the basics is a key component
of fly fishing.
You do not even
have to know what the thing is called -- if you can select an artificial
that looks like it. Leave the verbosity of entomological taxonomy to
If you can find a
bug on, near or in the water -- or by pumping a fish -- you should examine
it closely. Go to your fly box or area fly shop and find close
The two paramount
aspects of fly fishing are selection and presentation.
The colder months
usually result in hatches of smaller mayflies and midges. Currently in the
Animas, the diet is predominately those species in sizes 18 (up to almost
½ inch), down to size 32 (scarcely 1/8 inch). Larger midges as well as
smaller midges in both emergent and adult phases represent the primary
food source for most trout.
Most mayflies on
the menu are small, pale green semi-translucent nymphs that are drifting
in currents. Baetis hatches have been reported in certain areas of the
Animas, which means that emerger patterns with a wing case and adult
patterns may be effective.
Certain fish will
feed predominately on specific phases like adult midges or small mayflies
on the surface, depending on their holding lies (type of water zones).
Also, be aware that trout that share the same zones of water may have
significantly different diets.
If you can catch,
pump, release a trout and examine the bugs, this is logically the most
fool-proof method of making the correct fly choice.
If Animas trout
won't accept your offering, then they are either not eating (unlikely), do
not identify with what you are trying to feed them or just don't like the
way you are presenting the fly. Numerous experienced fly fishers have told
me they can catch trout on about any water in America -- but Animas trout
frequently will just "not cooperate."
Our trout are
frequently not tuned-in on big stuff. Periodic stomach pumping of 14- to
20-inch fish throughout the year often reveals a diet of extremely small
bugs in sizes 18 to 26 and even smaller. Imitating the little bugs on the
current menu with such midge and mayfly patterns as Brassies, Barr's
Emergers, Zebra Midges, Griffith Gnats, RS-2s, WD 40s, Flash Wing Johnnies
and small adult Duns can payoff with big trout. Most importantly, always
be mindful of universal fly selection criterion, which is size,
shape/silhouette and color -- in that order.
Is the Animas
really a midge or tiny fly fishery? Surprise -- sometimes it is!
L. David Grooms is
senior partner of
He can be reached