Living and fishing in Utah is a delight. This state provides so many different and unusual types of fishing, whether it be hunting for stripers on Lake Powell or sneaking up on bluegills at Pelican Lake, that it would truly take an angler a lifetime to experience all the possible areas and moods of fishing in this part of the country.
One of the most exciting, yet unique fishing experiences in the state is flyfishing on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Reservoir during the spring Cicada hatch.
From approximately the beginning of May to the end of June the trout go completely bananas over these large and vulnerable insects. The fish seem to come out of every nook and cranny of the river to snatch these floating three course meals off the surface.
When fishing the Cicada hatch, special attention needs to be made to the rod, line and leader, and the reel. First of all one must decide which type of rod is going to present the patterns in the proper fashion given the weather conditions. The Cicada patterns are on the large side in relation to most of the flies used in the West. Plan on casting a bushy, size 10 dry fly all day into gusty winds. The actual patterns are large wind resistant flies, much like the patterns which imitate stonefly adults or grasshoppers, which it seems, must always be cast into strong canyon winds.
During a float down the Green last season most of the day went by with relatively low winds, but as the day advanced I found that the 5 weight rod I had decided to fish could not punch the patterns through the gusty wind. My father, on the other hand, was casting a 6 weight rod and seemed to have faired much better. In general, I would suggest a rod in the 9 foot range and able to handle a five, six, or seven weight floating line. The line should be of a high quality so that it will, even after hours of time in the water, float consistently.
The second important factor is the leader. Since the imitations will be tied on approximately size 10 hooks, the tippet should be no larger than about 3x. Depending upon your skill in landing fish you can decide to go smaller, but it is not necessary under most conditions. Length can vary from about 7 to 9 feet depending upon the wind and the fish. If the fish seem selective you might consider dropping the tippet size down one and lengthening it by two feet.
Unfortunately the weather conditions may make casting such a large fly with a long thin tippet very frustrating indeed and you might need to make the inevitable trade off between delicacy and getting the fly to the fish. Simply look for leaders which have a tippet in the 3x to 5x size and from 8 to 9 feet in length.
The last bit of important equipment is the reel. The views concerning the proper considerations to make when picking out a reel could very well fit into a good-sized book. Personally, I see reels as more than a storeage device for your line when you are not fishing. In circumstances where you must use the reel to fight a particularly strong fish, it is often disappointing to find that the drag system on your reel is either not smooth enough to protect the tippet in a strong run or that the reel has little or no drag at all.
This does not necessarily mean that you need to set down a paycheck for a reel. There are many moderately priced reels which have relatively smooth drags and offer a wide range of settings. Remember that when the food organism is large the bigger fish will see them as worth their effort which results in a squealing reel if that once in a lifetime fish takes your dry fly.
Okay, so now you know what type of equipment is suited to the fishing of this hatch. The next step is to understand how the Cicada becomes food for the trout and their behavior while on the water. If we understand the movements of the fly on the water, we can, in turn, make the artificial display the behavior that attracts trout.
First, remember that the Cicada is not an aquatic insect. That is, it does not hatch from the water and does not lay eggs into the water. Since the insect is a terrestrial, it is not adapted to life on water. As a result when the insect comes into contact with the water, whether it be because of wind or exhaustion, it thrashes and wiggles ackwardly as if vying to regain flight, often with a distinct splash and commotion.
Fishing the Cicada pattern ought to imitate this behavior on the water. One of the common reactions to this is that careful casting is no longer necessary. On the contrary, it is imperative that the casts be just as delicate, but one must also attempt to cast so that the fly hits the water hard without sending a pile of line over the fly and the fish. Once the fly is on the water, let it drift naturally with the current. If you don't encounter any fish, try to twitch the fly as if it were attempting to regain flight.
Most selective fish will rise if the fly is given some imitation of live action. Remember that fishing the Cicada is almost identical to fishing hopper patterns, so if you remember back to the dog days of summer and the presentations you used to entice trout to hopper patterns you should be able to fish Cicada patterns with little difficulty.
When it comes to tying and selecting fly patterns there are two basic camps, those who own and/or tie flies which impress other fishermen and those who own and/or tie flies that catch trout. I think that all of us, at one time or another, fall into the first camp. No matter which camp you fall into, though, there seem to be three important characteristics that ought to be imitated in a Cicada pattern.
First the fly should have an abdomen which rides right in the surface film. The reason for this is that the actual insect is not able to float on top of the water and, thus, is not able to hold most of its body above the surface. The flies should be made so that the body lies in the surface film or just flush with the surface.
The insect's body itself is stout and very short and has a black sheen. The pattern should imitate these characteristics.
One fly that imitates the Cicada very well is a size 10 black LaFontaine dancing caddis. One of the interesting characteristics of this pattern is that the body is slung lower than the rest of the fly and rests in the water while the wing rides high above like the natural.
The dancing caddis floats well and since it is tied on the unusual Swedish dry fly hook, can be twitched and skated without the hinderance of the hook's curling down into the water. The slanted hackle acts like the bow of a boat and also helps keep the fly floating on the surface.
The second characteristic is the wing. The Cicada's wings are much like those of the common house fly. The wings themselves look a lot like shiny waxpaper and when the sun shines through them they refract the light which results in a shiny and irredecent impression to the trout. One very good material that reproduces this effect is called either Crystal Hair or Crystal Flash.
When tied as an underwing it gives the impression of the thin leathery wing of the natural. If that seems extravagant try simply tying an underwing out of a light deer hair. Though deer hair does not shine, it does give the impression of the lightly colored waxy wings.
The third, and possibly most important, characteristic is that of floatability. The hardest thing to do is create a fly that floats in, or at least very close to the surface of the water, but still floats like a cork all day long.
Traditionally, the use of good stiff dry fly hackles help keep the flies from sinking under the water. Nowadays materials such as thin foam, synthetic dubbing, and deer hair can help create flies that float consistently all day long with little maintenance.
Here are three popular cicada patterns which illustrate the three important charateristics of a good Cicada imitation:
Hook: Swedish dry fly hook, Partridge K3A.
Size: 10 to 12
Thread: Black - 6/0
Body: Natural or synthetic black fur.
Underwing: Gray deer hair with crystal hair.
Overwing: Black deer hair.
Hackle: Black, dark dun, chocolate dun.
Hook: Mustad 96720, Tiemco TMC 2312
Thread: Black - 3/0
Rib: Dark dun and Grizzly hackle palmered through body and clipped flush with bottom of body.
Body: Synthetic black fur, black foam, black deer hair tied back and pulled forward to form body.
Wing and head: Black or chocolate brown deer hair spun to form wing and clipped to form head.
Hook: Mustad 9672, Tiemco TMC 2312
Thread: 3/0 black.
Rib: Dark dun or chocolate dun hackle palmered through body and clipped flush with bottom of body.
Body: Back synthetic fur, black foam, black deer hair pulled forward to form segmented body.
Wing: Crystal hair or light gray deer hair.
Head: Black deer hair tied forward then pulled back to form bullet shaped head.
With this information you should be able to fish what is probably one of the most prolific hatches on the Green River and one of the most enjoyable fishing experiences the state has to offer. There are numerous places to camp near the river and there is a lodge nearby. The rooms book-up very early so make your reservations well in advance.
Fishing the river can be done in several ways. First, one can wade down stream from the boat ramp at the dam or up from the boat ramp at Little Hole. There are well developed trails which run along the river bank so access is not a problem. Secondly, one can partake in the services of a guide and fish the river from the luxury of a mackenzie drift boat. This method allows the fisher to cover unproductive water more quickly and fish the hot spots more effectively.
No matter which method you choose, fishing the Cicada hatch can produce that once in a lifetime angling experience and memories that you will never forget.