Trout fishing is about to get very interesting in southern and southeastern West Virginia.
Brood IX of the periodical cicada is getting ready to emerge in Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Pocahontas and Summers counties. When the big black-and-orange bugs come out of their burrows and begin crawling about, some of them inevitably fall into streams. That’s when the fun starts.
Trout don’t often see such big chunks of protein dropping onto their proverbial dinner table, and once they get used to eating them, they can’t seem to get enough.
From late May through late June, the time of year when cicadas emerge, mayfly and caddis fly hatches are starting to wind down. A lot of fly fishermen put away their rods and wait for fall’s cooler water temperatures.
This would be a good year to fish through the end of June.
It would also be a good time to mail-order some cicada patterns, or, if you happen to be a fly tier, to sit down at the ol’ tying bench and whip up a dozen or so.
Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
I’ve only gotten to fish a cicada hatch once — in Utah, of all places. I had a float trip scheduled on the Green River downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam, and the outfitter I floated with recommended picking up a few cicada patterns at his shop.
It was good advice.
Even before the guide launched the drift boat, I tied on a heavier tippet and one of the size 8, 2X-long cicada flies.
“When we hit the first set of riffles, cast out to the sides of the boat and make sure your fly hits the water with a splat,” the guide advised.
Sure enough, in the very first riffle, one of my casts drew an enthusiastic rise from a fat 14-inch rainbow. My fishing partner, Jackie Knight, hooked one at about the same time.
The Green in that section is a riffle-pool stream, and the water is ultra-clear. The cicadas worked wonders in riffles, where the trout had only fractions of a second to react as the fly drifted by. In quiet pools, the big bugs didn’t seem to work at all.
We could see nice fish lying on the bottom, 8 to 10 feet down. When we cast our cicada patterns into the pools, one or two would swim up from the bottom, drift backward under the flies, then sink back to the bottom.
The water was just too clear. The trout in the pools had oodles of time to inspect the fly and identify it as bogus.
After several such refusals, I tied an 18-inch piece of fine tippet material to the eye of the cicada fly and tied a size 20 Brassie nymph to the other end. It worked like a charm. The trout in the pools would come up, refuse the cicada, and take the little nymph as they descended back toward the bottom.
Such fussy tactics won’t be necessary to fish cicadas here in the Mountain State. One, our streams aren’t as clear. Two, most of our streams don’t have long pools. Three, our streams have more broken-water stretches. And finally, our streams tend to have trees and bushes that extend right up to their banks.
Trees and bushes are where cicadas congregate. Trout will hold in the shade of overhanging trees, waiting eagerly for the next unfortunate cicada to drop into the water. Anglers capable of casting into such tight quarters will have a ball.
Enjoy the fun.