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  • Monday, September 22, 2014

    Of Wayward Moths

    NOT HOPPERS  . . .  BUT
    In The Trees & In The Water
    wise fishers know the difference

    .. Now that the hoards of heroes and headhunters are in conclave along the Madison River it's time to gather up the friendly fish of the Gallatin River.
    .. The Western Spruce Budworm gives birth to the Spruce Moth. Fly fishers call it a hatch. Silviculturists call it a blight. Our recent spate of warm winters and infrequent Fall "Hard Frosts" have combined to allow the worms to proliferate and so too the moths.
    -- 'Fire exclusion' and "natural management" of forests encourage woody debris and duff along the forest floor - the perfect habitat for the little wigglers. They are on the rise.
    .. Along the rivers of our neighborhood there are many stands of host trees and dense duff on the forest's floor. Fish eat the critters - both the bud worm and the winged form.
    .. The bud worm is not in the vocabulary of many fly fishers: the moth is increasingly a topic of conversation. The fishers and feather merchants today are scurrying about in search of the perfect pattern to imitate the fluttering pest.
    .. There are numerous varieties of bud worms and moths. There are nearly forty Choristoneura species, and even more subspecies, or forms across the United states. They love conifers. They eat conifers and breed in and around them.They eat the flowers and pollen of this years growth. They eat the tender needles as they emerge. They will even eat last years needles on occasion.
    .. They can ruin the appearance of the perfect Christmas tree that you have watched for two years. Fish eat them.
    .. The life cycle of the critter is an annual event. From it's egg to the moth it traverses several stages, (6 instars,) then a pupae, then a moth. Caterpillars weave a cocoon-like shelter composed of their own excrement and needle debris mixed with silk threads. They travel by air at the ends of silk strands. Fish eat them.
    .. The moths appear over a long period from late July to early September for their egg-laying tasks. They then persist until they run out of gas at the end of their life cycle. They are running out of gas right now. Fish are eating them.
    .. Despite the common name, the critter is hosted primarily by Douglas-fir, with other tree species such as the true firs, larch and to a lesser degree, spruce, also impacted by the western spruce budworm.
    .. The moths are not good aviators. They have erratic and brief flight paths. When they run out of gas they plummet to the earth in a death spiral. Fish eat them. Infestations can reach over 400,000 per acre. That's a lot of trout food.
    .. If the river you fish flows thorough a blighted forest - fish a moth right now. There are a few blighted trees on the Firehole River. There are isolated stands along the Madison River. There are brown trees all along the Gallatin River.
    .. Death spirals occur in the warm part of the day: over water if the hungry fish are lucky. Fish eat them. They float for a long time. Fish eat them.
    .. A white caddis pattern will work just fine. A normal caddis or stimulator will also work. The lighter the better. Mash them up and splay the wings. Ruin the beauty that came from the vise and you'll do better in the catching department. Better yet, have the neighbors kids tie a few.
    .. Damn the runners  --  full moth ahead.