The Black Curse of high sum­mer

Trout feed­ing on reed smuts are no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to catch, says Tony J Car­mody, but these tiny flies can pro­vide su­perb sport

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Trout On Lough Sheelin -

IMAG­INE THIS: YOU are stand­ing mid­stream in a hand­some lit­tle trout river some­where in Ire­land. It’s a fine, late-july af­ter­noon and small white clouds drift over­head on an in­con­sis­tent breeze. Green over­pow­ers the senses: alder, ash and the odd oak are in full flour­ish and the banks are clogged with lush stands of reed. Robins and black­birds can be heard singing in the dis­tance, but mostly it is silent. Maybe, close by, a pretty lime­stone bridge of two high arches spans this river of our imag­i­na­tion. Gone are all the heavy hatches of the ear­lier sea­son. Only dusk will pro­vide good sport, usu­ally in­volv­ing the lo­cal sedge species. But you per­se­vere with a gen­eral emerger pat­tern, a Klinkhamer Spe­cial per­haps, of­fered blindly but with hope, into likely spots. Then, out of the cor­ner of your eye, in the smooth glide just above the bro­ken flow in which you stand, you see not one, but three fish nos­ing through the sur­face. This drags you back from your reverie and you be­gin to pon­der the op­por­tu­nity of a hatch of Simulium, AKA black­fly or the reed smut. Now, in my ex­pe­ri­ence the trout fly-fish­ing com­mu­nity is split on the po­ten­tial bounty of this man­i­fes­ta­tion. There is a small pro­por­tion who will not know a reed smut from a Tweed suit: the novice or the dozy per­haps. But the two main fac­tions dis­agree on the “fisha­bil­ity” of this tiny crea­ture. In the red cor­ner are those who re­fer to Simulium in with­er­ing tones as the Black Curse; as much for its abil­ity to frus­trate as an ar­ti­fi­cial, as for its propen­sity to bite as a re­al­ity (only the fe­males bite, by the way; the males are nec­tar eaters). This group will stu­diously ig­nore the in­sect and per­sist with the Klinkhamer, Tony J Car­mody has fished the rivers of west­ern Ire­land for sal­mon and trout for more than 45 years. He has a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in spread­ing the word on the beauty and im­por­tance of our river­ine in­sect life. with a sto­icism that I sus­pect grows with age. In the blue cor­ner, how­ever, are my ilk who recog­nise that even though it is small and un­re­mark­able, the reed smut is much prized by trout who will hap­pily graze on the hatch­ing in­sects all day long and dili­gently snub all other, more meaty pro­pos­als. But in truth, all three of our afore­men­tioned nos­ing trout can be taken in just a few min­utes with a very humble of­fer­ing cou­pled to a sim­ple but sen­si­ble ap­proach. The reed smut is an in­sect of fast-flow­ing rivers and streams, found all over Bri­tain and Ire­land. It is of the sci­en­tific or­der diptera, which also in­cludes such well-known char­ac­ters as the hawthorn fly, the daddy lon­glegs and the buzzer midge. At all stages of its life this in­ver­te­brate is a sig­nif­i­cant source of food for trout. The lar­vae can be found in their mil­lions on the sub­merged stems of wa­ter­side veg­e­ta­tion in the sum­mer­time. Here they are held in place with silk al­low­ing them to wave in the flow with their feath­ery an­ten­nae ex­tended to col­lect tiny food morsels. The trans­form­ing pu­pae, housed in tiny cone-shaped cases, are also to be seen here in their mul­ti­tudes. These lar­vae are cropped from their im­mo­bile po­si­tions by feed­ing trout, and some­times the lar­vae, up to 10 mm long, en­ter the drift on a silk thread at­tached to their start­ing lo­ca­tions. They do this to find bet­ter en­vi­ron­ments or to es­cape other preda­cious in­ver­te­brates. This is un­doubt­edly why a small, dark, cone-shaped nymph, (some­times with a brass or sil­ver bead head) is such a con­stant in many ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers’ fly-boxes. Don’t be with­out sev­eral, in var­i­ous dark tones, weighted and un­weighted, in sizes 14 to 18.


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