The unmistakable sound of a male cicada calling or singing for a female. MP3 by Allan Burgess. Different species make a different sound.
If ever there is a sight to savour for fly fishermen it is when trout are rising to large terrestrial insects. In most other countries there is a time, generally at the height of summer, when large terrestrial insects play an important role in a trout’s diet.
In Australia, they are blessed with “hopper time” when large ungainly grasshoppers tumble off bankside vegetation and literally crash land into the water where they are eagerly gulped by waiting trout.
In New Zealand, whilst not having such a spectacular “hopper time;” we are blessed with an abundance of cicadas. Chirping cicadas are a familiar sound on our backcountry rivers and streams during our summer months. Trout will often take up position under or a little downstream from overhanging bank side vegetation – likely spots for cicadas to drop into the water. At times fish will lift through quite some depth of water to intercept such a large morsel. On bright breezy days, a good number of cicadas can end up stranded in the water where they become easy prey to trout.
This is particularly evident here on the lakes and streams of the high tussock ranges of Central Otago. When I was first introduced to Lake Onslow I had heard much about February cicada time but never really witnessed it to any great extent on other waters.
This first morning, three of us arrived at around 8:30 a.m. to find a number of fellow anglers. Mike suggested we go for a brisk march to escape them and after half an hour we descended down to the water’s edge.
A fish rose, Mike covered, landed and released it in a flash. In no time at all the water was literally boiling with fish – in 45 minutes we landed and released 15 fish – then it was all over! The offshore wind died and turned to onshore, the sun disappeared behind the increasing cloud – the rest of the day was a hard slog! Mike assured me that given the right conditions they can go all day – although I have since discovered that one’s arms can ache!
Fortunately for most of us, the presentation of cicadas does not have to be as delicate as so many other artificials. Invariably it helps to make a decided plop when the fly hits the surface. Furthermore, it helps to impart life by giving the fly a “tweak” so it gives off the telltale surface rings of a struggling cicada
Cicada fly tyings are quite varied and some quite exotic, using an array of bought materials like foam and deer hair with hackle point wings and some with realistic plastic ones. A muddler minnow can be used as a good cicada imitation.
One of the nicest cicada imitations I have seen was given to me by an American friend. It had a clipped deer hair body, ribbed with black thread, a flared deer hair collar, peacock herl head and had reversed hackle wonder wings. It looked extremely realistic but unfortunately, the wings lacked durability.
The tying I use most often is an extremely simple impressionistic one involving several bunches of lightly coloured deer hair spun on a hook (I use a Tiemco TMC 2312 size 10) and clipped to a cicada shape. Occasionally I tie in a peacock herl head and sometimes colour the underbody with a Pantone marker pen to suit the naturals of a local area – yellows, browns and greens being the most common.
As well as being easy to tie it is extremely resilient – you can catch fish after fish on one tying.
Whichever pattern you prefer it would be quite foolhardy to venture out on a hot summer day without at least a couple of cicada imitations in the fly box. Another good Cicada Imitation in Song of Cicadas with John Hey.
This post was last modified on 07/04/2019 6:09 pm
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