What is it about big bugs that never fails to get the blood flowing? Sometimes all it takes is the sight of a big golden stone or grasshopper struggling on the surface, and suddenly your palms go sweaty, you feel lightheaded, and images of liquid explosions start dancing across the eyes. More often than not, fly fishing is a matter of sight and feel. You see the fish rise, or you feel the take. When you’re fishing big bugs, you get to hear it too. The thwack of the fly on the water; the spaloosh of a big fish taking it. Sight, feel, sound—big bugs are a fly fishing feast for the senses. And let’s be honest: when a big ’bow takes one six inches from a grassy bank as if it’s the last meal it may ever eat, it’s hard not to wonder if they actually taste that good too.
On the best days, they come on thick, thwacking into drift boat gunwales, sunglass lenses, and bankside brush, and filling every seam, bubble line and back eddy with a moveable invertebrate feast. Stoneflies are the inhabitants of our deepest, darkest winter dreams—the first big bugs to show in spring, with a healthy smattering emerging throughout the season and nymphs that are on the menu year-round. In any other context, a proper stone hatch would probably be called a plague. But you know what? It’s okay: there’s probably something we need to atone for.
PERFECT SETUP | STONEFLY
Whether fishing Salmonflies, Golden Stones, or even Mutant Stones, a rod setup that can effectively turn over these bushy dry flies is imperative to success. Paired with a heavier RIO Grand WF5F line and SPECTRUM LT 5/6, the R8 CORE 590-4 makes a perfect all-around tool for fishing stoneflies.
Summer’s final trick, when the olives and the drakes and the caddis have come and gone, is the real showstopper, the one time of year an angler might actually wish for a little bit more wind because more wind means more hoppers on the water. It’s a dangerous calculation, of course, but dangerous calculations are kind of the point. Hopper fishing is the very definition of throwing caution to the wind. Calm days with a light drizzle and some cloud cover may have been great a few months ago, but it’s hopper season. Bring on the heat, bring on the wind, bring on the fields crawling with the chirping trout treats. The trout need to eat, and at some point we need to make peace with the W.
PERFECT SETUP | HOPPERS
Hopper season is much sought after by trout anglers everywhere – and for good reason. One of our favorite go-to sticks for hopper fishing is the TROUT LL 690-4 – it loads easily making it great for shorter presentations and a sensitive tip allows for great line control and tippet protection when a big fish hits the foam. Paired with a TROUT 4/5/6 Reel and RIO Gold WF6F line, you’ll be dialed when hoppers start hitting the water.
ANT & BEETLE
They’re often tossed in the fly box as an afterthought, a plan B, a last resort to be taken up if and when the flying bugs don’t work. But let’s give these little assemblages of black foam and hackle and rubber legs their due—for all their simplicity and unpredictability as trout fare, beetles and ants are the unsung heroes of many a trip. Sometimes it takes a bit to make the connection: we sit down streamside to reassess a string of refusals, maybe try again and sit back down for another time out. What the heck are they eating? Then you glance at that branch hanging over the water nearby and it hits you: that thing is crawling with life. Black and red and cinnamon-colored life. Life that flies sometimes, but more importantly, life that is clumsy and really good at tumbling off said branch right into the feeding lanes of hungry fish.
PERFECT SETUP | ANT & BEETLE
Fishing beetles and ants can be a delicate game – you may find a rising trout feeding consistently, but you just can’t figure out exactly what – more often than not a small beetle or ant may just do the trick. For this technical work, we really like the R8 CORE 490-4 paired with a SPECTRUM LT 4/5 and RIO Perception WF4F line. It’s light and crisp enough to present your flies with precision and stealth, but strong enough to land the trophy brown you’ve been working for the last two hours.