floating on water surface

John Acorn janature@compusmart.ab.ca
Wed, 19 Jan 2000 17:56:06 -0700

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Throughout this discussion, I have been continually reminded of the
countless hours I have spent fly fishing in the foothills of Alberta, and
watching trout take mayflies and caddisflies off the water.  I've never seen
them take an odonate, but then Calopteryx does not occur here except as an
extreme rarity, and other odes don't seem to frequent the water surface on
the trout streams I visit.  Still, the experience of seeing trout take both
my artificial flies and the "naturals," as anglers call them, tells me a few
things about recent points made on the list.  First, wind currents do not
generally blow insects around on the surface, since the boundary layer of
relatively still air immediately over the water makes this unlikely except
on the windiest of days.  Second, an angler tries very hard to get the fly
to drift without "drag"-- in other words, passively with the current.  The
more motionless the "dimples," so to speak, the better the chances are that
the trout will strike the fly. The fly must also pass quite close to the
fish in order to be taken, partly because trout set up feeding lanes, and do
not expend much energy to forage outside of these lanes, especially for
small insect prey, and partly because past a certain angle, one sees a
reflection in the underside of the water's surface, not the image of an
insect.  And although trout do not generally feed at the surface when the
water is cloudy, some other fish are very good at just that-- centrarchids
were mentioned, and I can add Goldeye and Mooneye (genus Hiodon) as well. 
And finally, there are indeed a few fly patterns intended to represent
damselflies (mostly used in Europe), but they are difficult to tie, and even
harder to cast.  The importance of odonates to fly fishermen lies in the fly
patterns that represent larvae, which are readily taken, and much easier to
fish.  Someone on the list speculated that trout are more of a surface
feeding group of fishes, but trout biologists have shown that actually a
small proportion of their diet comes from the surface.

John Acorn
Edmonton, Alberta

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