Warmwater Tips

Dog Day Cicada Time

By Mary Kuss

During June 2008 I had the good fortune to be the invited guest of a friend who has a cottage on a private stretch of central Pennsylvania's Spruce Creek. This is one of the state's most storied trout fisheries, the stomping grounds of several U. S. Presidents. Except for a small stretch of public water under the ownership of Pennsylvania State University and named for legendary Penn State fly fishing professor George Harvey, all of Spruce is in private hands.

The date of my visit had been chosen months before, and at the time no one was thinking about the specifics of the hatch schedule. But quite by accident, our timing perfectly coincided with the emergence of Brood XIV of the periodical cicada or "17-year locust." This rendered aquatic insect hatches almost entirely irrelevant to the fishing. As the date of the trip neared I asked Ann what was hatching and she had a one-word answer: "Cicadas."

This trip gave me three of the most extraordinary days of dry fly fishing for trout I'd ever experienced. Never before had I landed so many large trout on dry flies. Now this was not your usual dry fly fishing, it was more like bass bugging for trout. The cicadas began singing and flying about each morning as soon as the sun hit the tree canopy. Their song went on all day, rising and falling in waves. Thank heaven they quieted once the sun went down, or we would not have been able to sleep! They were everywhere, crawling over the trees and bushes. In some places you could pick them like berries. Every once in a while I'd feel one crawling up the back of my neck-not an experience for the easily-creeped-out. A fair number of them flew sorties out over the stream, and if they ran out of gas and fell to the water they did not float far before disappearing into a riseform, often a rather impressive one.

Our artificials were bulky foam patterns tied on size 6, 3XL hooks and fished on 3X tippet. The fish rose to them all day long, and this feast brought the largest fish to the surface to feed. We did very well, of course, on the private water on Spruce Creek. But we actually spent more of our time fishing the public water on the Little Juniata. I've always been skeptical about fly fishing magazine articles talking about rises that sound like a flushing toilet, but some of the ones I saw and heard on the Little J during the cicada hatch really did. A hole would open in the water accompanied by a deep "schlug." I can not tell you how many trout in the 12 to 20-inch class I caught, I didn't count. But I do remember the deep-bodied 24-inch rainbow I landed in Spruce Creek, and the much larger brown trout that pulled a cute maneuver involving a chunk of waterlogged pole timber and give me the slip. The entire experience was absolutely unforgettable.

I came home from the trip determined to seek out the periodical cicadas again whenever possible. But we won't see them again in central or eastern Pennsylvania again until 2011 or 2012. I got to thinking, however, about the annual or Dog-Day Cicada. These are around every summer, and although they don't appear in the same numbers as the periodical cicadas I figured that ever fish must see a few of them each day and would probably recognize them as a nice chunk of protein. By the time these insects appear in southeastern Pennsylvania the trout fishing in most of our streams is over for the season. So I decided to conduct my little experiment with the annual cicada on my favorite warmwater streams.

The periodical cicadas are remarkable-looking insects with big blood-red eyes, a chunky black body, a prominent orange vein on the leading edge of the wings and also touches of orange in the legs and sometimes on the body. The annual cicada looks fairly similar, but minus the red eyes. And wherever the periodical cicada has orange, the annual cicada has olive. So it was a very simple matter to modify the pattern accordingly.
To my delight, the new fly worked beautifully. I used it to very good effect for smallmouth bass and panfish on our local creeks and rivers, as did my guiding clients. You don't catch small fish with this fly, they can't get it into their mouths. But the neat thing is that the larger fish often beat the smaller ones to the fly, and if the smaller fish start pecking at it the larger fish will shoulder them aside to take it. I've never seen any other fly pattern perform in quite this way.

Soon after I developed the pattern, I had one of my regular clients out on the Perkiomen Creek in Montgomery County, PA. We fished poppers up through a slow stretch of stream and did well with the bass and panfish. I said to Chris, "When we get up to that faster water I have a fly I want you to try out." Within three casts he was fast to a 17-inch smallmouth

Special thanks to Greg Hoover at Pennsylvania State University for allowing me to use his copy written picture of a Dog Day Cicada.

MK's Dog-Day Cicada Instructions

(Hopefully with in the next two two weks or so I will put up a step by step with pictures & instructions.)

Hook: #8 Dai-Riki #730 (Nymph Hook, 1X Strong, 2X Long), or #6 Mustad 94831 or equivalent

Thread: 3/0 black Uni-Thread or equivalent

Back/Head: 1/8" black foam strip, about 1/4 inch by 1-1/2 inch

Belly strip: 3/32" foam strip, black or white, about 1/4 inch by 1-inch

Wing: 5 strands olive Krystal Flash, 4 strands Gray Ghost or pearl, 3 strands black.
Legs/Wing vein: Olive Flexi-Floss

1) De-barb and mount hook in vise

2) Lay a thread base from the head position to slightly around the hook bend. Return to 2/3 mark. Apply a coat of Flexament to thread base.

3) Catch in the back/head strip by one end at the 2/3 mark and wrap working thread back over the foam to the end of the thread base. Make a firm spiral wrap of thread forward to the front of the foam on the hook shank and back again to near the tail position.

4) Invert hook and catch in the belly strip at the end of the thread base. Advance the working thread a few turns then catch down the belly strip with three or four soft thread turns to form a sternite segment. Repeat until the front of the foam underbody is reached, forming four segments. Do not trim excess foam yet.

5) Turn hook right-side-up and pull the back strip over the top of the hook and catch down at the 2/3 mark. Wrap working thread forward, binding the back strip to the hook, all the way to the hook eye. Take some thread wraps immediately behind the hook eye to close any gap there.

6) Invert hook and catch down the belly strip at the hook eye, and trim excess closely. Invert again.

7) Take one wide diagonal turn of thread over the top of the hook, returning the working thread to the 2/3 mark, and one full turn of thread at that point.

8) Prepare the Krystal Flash strands by stacking them all together then cutting this clump in half and stacking again, effectively doubling it.

9) Fold the doubled clump of Krystal Flash strands over the working thread and catch down at the 2/3 mark. (This multiplies the original number of strands by a factor of 4.)

10) Fold the foam body strip back and bind down well at the 2/3 mark.

11) Cut a strand of Flexi-Floss in half. Fold one of the half-strands in half over the working thread, convex sides facing. Tension the strand against the working thread and guide into position on the far side of the hook. (When secured the rearward portion of this strand should curve inward toward the hook, hugging the edge of the wing.) Repeat on the near side. The rear portion of the Flexi-Floss strand suggests the prominent olive vein on the leading edge of the cicada's wing, while the front length of Flexi suggests legs.

12) Trim the wing and vein to desired length. Wing tips should overhang the back edge of thc body by about 1/2 inch.

13) Trim front legs to desired length.

14) (Optional) Use the trimmed pieces from Step 13 to suggest additional legs. Fold each piece in half over the thread and catch down on each side of the hook at the same point as the previous Flexi-Floss tie-down. If these added legs lay too closely to the previous work to show well, try folding the strands in the opposite direction relative to the curvature of the material; convex sides facing or concave sides facing. Adding these strands will give you a total of three legs and one long wing vein on each side of the fly.

15) Apply head cement to all exposed thread wraps.



Mary and Bob, Mary's mother Jeanette, and their.two Brittanies (bird dogs) Samantha and Jennie live in a cozy home where one room is devoted to the tying of flies. It's an amazing array of cascading shoe boxes stuffed with feathers, fur, and assorted synthetic fluff, a fly tying table with all its attendant paraphernalia, a small pellet gun, several rods and their cases, sundry plaques, charts, awards, articles and photos lining the Walls along with a sample of Mary's wood carving.

Mary also enjoys doing counted cross stitch, hunting with her dogs for pheasant and quail, and rock gardening. She has worked for The Sporting Gentleman Fly shop in Media, PA for the past twenty years and currently gives professional instruction in fly fishing and fly tying, as well as stream orientation and guide service. Mary has been a member of three different Trout Unlimited chapters, including long stints as editor of the Delco-Manning Chapter newsletter.

Since most of her 29 years of fly fishing has been done in the company of male fly fishers, Mary has ample basis for comparison between that experience and what it's been like to fish in the company of women. "I've heard it said that men are generally more goal oriented, and women more process oriented." She says. "I think that's true in most cases. When men say they don't care if they catch fish, it just doesn't quite ring true. But when women say it, I get the sense that they really mean it."

Favorite place to fish overall: Potter County, PA Most frustrating place to fish: The Letort Spring Run in central PA. Biggest fish ever: a 30-inch plus carp on the fly rod from the Brandywine Creek, Chester County, PA