Bug the Bug – Does a trout see the hook on my fly?

The Arkansas River Stonefly explains how a trout filters color.

Stonefly by Davenport

From Stony in Fairplay. Dear Bug,  Fish around Colorado will turn up their noses at a Baetis dun imitation that may not have the correct hue of grey/green dubbing or perfect set to the wing.  If the damn fish are so discerning, why can’t they see the hook in a #8 Stonefly nymph?


Dear Stony, You’ve got to think like a fish and not be intimidated by the fact that their brain, just a fraction of the size of a medical marijuana dose, can out think your brain. As thousands of baetis flash by its line of sight each day, a trout brain begins registering a filter pattern of what looks right and wrong. It can’t carefully analyze each of the millions of  drifting particles. So, after the 13,096th baetis drifts by, a couple of neurons in its brain register an edible shade as CMYK You are dead meat if you tied with CMYK color dubbing. And you wonder why his/her filter doesn’t even see the CMYK shade on you hook ? Come on. Use your noggin.


Dr Trico: What’s this spot on my side?

chat John Davenport: 

Bug the Bug


Carson Nature Center’s  Doctor Trico


Dr. Carson Tico responds to penetrating questions from Ronnie.

From Ronnie on the River –

Dear Bug- A lot of the fish I catch, and I catch a lot of fish, have an open sore on their side. I’m worried that my river is sick and they have some form of single dot measles, or big splotch acne, or could they have gotten it from me? I catch some of these fish over and over again since I always fish the Florida Drop. Here’s a photo of one of the afflicted. Is there a cure?

Osprey punctured carp.


Dear Big Fish Ronnie,

Ah. I’ve been seeing a lot of this, and believe it or not Ronnie, it’s a good thing. Notice that the wound is just to the rear of the balance point of your fish and is a perfect circle. These are osprey talon marks and they indicate a lot about your river. It means first, you have a very healthy river with prey and predator working on some kind of balance, kind of like you and gummermint officials.

Second, think of the skill these raptors to hit the water and strike precisely at the balance point of an 18 pound fish. Just like you, when they miss the strike by just a fraction of an inch or a second, it’s an in-stream, Trout Unlimited endorsed, catch and release.

Third, it means the fish in your river are getting either bigger or smarter to be able to avoid capture from the threats above. In this case, it’s obviously bigger. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey has a lifting power of 15,000 pounds, but your fish looks smaller than that so I’d say your osprey is, like you, a diurnal fish hawk. They have a vertical lift that peaks at 4.5 pounds. This may explain the lack of carp in the South Platte smaller than 5 pounds.

Fourth, it means even mother nature believes in catch and release.

And finally, Ronnie, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. You can catch the light rail to my office on the South Platte at Carson’s and I’ll show you some new species of fish, also with puncture wounds from the osprey. Fish some new places for some new fish in smaller sizes. It’s not just about size.

Bug the Bug – No skunks – Dry Fraser

The Bug answers questions on Skunks and Dry Me a River.

Stonefly nymph

A Stonefly nymph, accidently transported under the Rockies through the Moffat Tunnel answers questions about avoiding getting skunked and sucking the Fraser dry.


From Stephanie the Birder –

Dear Bug,   I’ve just taken a job with a trout  outfit but I really haven’t caught many trout. It seems so hard. I just fish and fish, but I always get skunked.

Dear Stephanie,

I know I can help you enjoy this sport. You’ve got to learn to recount your skunks. If you listen in on your co-workers recounting their adventures on trout streams you’ll hear these count categories:


Looks, hits, refusals, takes, hook-ups, runs, break-offs, jumps, throws, and in-stream releases.


All of these indicate a direct connection with a trout but none of them resulted in what you probably think of as a catch. They practice catch and release, but mostly they practice release. In 1653, Izaac Walton thought that bringing a fish “to hand” would prove he’d been master over the fish. Neanderthals are still among your species that believe that you’ve got to kill a fish to really catch it. Today’s fly fishers are far beyond.


If you want to have more fun and not even worry about being “skunked”, develop the ability to count these other categories. They all indicate that, for at least a few moments, you’ve fooled a very evolved animal with 56 million years more experience than yourself. Eventually you’ll get all the pieces together to be able to actually photograph your fish before you release it unharmed.



From Shauna the Highland Mommie

Dear Bug,  What is with Denver Water? They publish all this conservation stuff, gave us rebates on a new toilet, and supply water at rates a young mother can afford but they want to dry up the Fraser River. I thought everyone and every company in Colorado believed in the great outdoors and the enjoyment of healthy rivers.


Dear Shauna in Shock,

Denver Water is not necessarily the bad guy here. They do know that water conservation is cheaper than building new pipelines and reservoirs but your new neighbors have been demanding more and more cheap water to do stupid things; like over-watering kentucky bluegrass on a semi-arid plain so you could have a “real Colorado” house.  Denver Water supplies half their water for landscaping. Have your neighbors check out their website for ideas on Xeriscaping, gardening, and replanting with native grasses and let them know they’re not in Kentucky anymore.

But you are right-on about the Fraser River. The antiquated water laws in the West were focused on “using” water, not watching it flow by in the river. After 150 years it has become evident that using it all up and drying up rivers is not a good idea, even if it is legal. Take action on that. Taking 75% of the flow of the Fraser just because it is convenient and legal is not a good enough reason to do it. An expanded Gross Reservoir can be filled in more gentle ways.

Bug the Bug – The Green Rush – Growing Your Own

Bug the Bug – The Green Rush and Growing Your Own.

A big believer in recreational grass use in Colorful Colorado, the common grasshopper, answers question about the passage of Proposition 64 and growing your own.

Thanks to Flowers.VG for this great grasshopper











placeholder for Grasshopper photo from Randall Paetzold

From Leda in Nederland who thinks her shrink is nuts.

Dear Bug,

My therapist is worried that the “Green Rush”, resulting from the legalization of recreational marijuana, will seriously impact fly fishing the way the “Gold Rush” did and “Fracking” would. Is he crazy?

Leda in NederNederland.

Dear Neder-Leda,

As a life long grass user, I can answer this query. You won’t see any changes in Nederland and not just because of your cataract treatments. Stone files will still be stoned during their prenymphal stage. But your fly fishing therapist better be ready for a number of changes that could effect the sport.

  1. Dilated pupils  would improve fishing at sundown by letting in more light. On the other hand it could be more difficult to focus on your fly.
  2. Reaction time could be slowed, helping assure a sweeter hook set on the corner of the mouth, either yours or the fish.
  3. UV perception could be heightened helping you match the hatch that those UV sensitive trout eyes can see in failing light.
  4. If you convince your neighbors to replace their grass with grass, there’ll be more water for the rivers, less mowing, and more fishing.

But if you are worried that the Green Rushers will screw something up in their rush to make a lot of money on this new boom, add your voice to Trout Unlimited by keeping your membership current. Cold, clean water is worth protecting.


From Randall who wants to grow his own.

Dear Bug,

I’ve heard you can grow your own recreational stuff like MJ, elk hair flies,  fly rods, and fishing babes. Is this true or just bar talk ?



Dear Skylarker,

All are possible but not easy.  For the MJ, you’ll have to wait until the July regs and then only 6 plants. For Elk Hair flies, the problem is storing the fresh elk hair in the freezer. This could freak out a wife, partner, roommate, grandchild or probation officer. For fly rods you need a weber rotisserie motor to turn the rod while the guide epoxy dries. Growing your own fishing babe, see The Drake print edition for some examples of others who have grown their own, is the most difficult of all and sounds easy on a bar stool but don’t try it at home without a good prenuptial agreement.

Bug The Bug

Fishing Far Away

Leptophebiidae from Cape Town, South Africa

Lepto, a mayfly from far off South Africa has consented to entertain question from our farflung clueless readers.

From Juan in Cape Town, South Africa

     Dear Bug,

     I just got back alive from a “guided fly fishing trip” on the Smalbaar River in South Africa near Cape Town. I say alive because I’m not sure the guide had “bring them back in one piece” foremost in his mind. Virtually nothing from guide quality,  to waders,  to venue, to stream flow, to shoe sizes, to fly rods, to rigging, to lunch, to trip time matched the emails that I got from the promoter. What did I do wrong? How can you tell if a fly fishing trip far from home is going to be great or a near death experience?

Juan didIdoWrong


Dear Juan,

As a resident of the Smalbarr I can tell you I see a lot of this and it is hilarious. Are you sure this wasn’t a reality TV shoot. Let me guess, the guide had waders and you didn’t, right. OMG. And I’ll bet the very first crossing was waist deep. Hilarious. Fishing in wet tighty whities gives the guide a “hot nuts” advantage so to speak. And the boot size was just a size too large? Ah, slipping around on the Smalbarr is not something you want to do in non-studded wading shoes.

When you are far from home these kind of minor difficulties are magnified proportional to the number of plane connections that were missed getting there. If you can’t find any reviews of outfitters in the far off place you are planning to fish that may be a signal that the not many visitors or guides fish there. If you are cheap, and I expect you are, and are not going with a $1,000 a day international fly fishing outfitter, I’d suggest you get the medical evacuation insurance from Global Rescue or some similar service. You can’t get this kind of advice anywhere else.

From Tim in Tiny Town, Colorado thinking about going to Tsimane, Bolivia.

Dear Bug,

I just saw a presentation on fishing from dugouts in the jungles of Bolivia. These dugouts don’t look to safe or sturdy to me. How can they keep these things from capsizing on a hookup or from submarining in a rapid?

Dear Tiny Tim,

You are looking at this the wrong way. You think the sport is fly fishing for dorado. No, no, no. You are just one of three people in your boat. Your guide and the Tsimane native polling your dugout are focused on another amusement, you. How will you react as the water rushes over the bow, submarines the boat, and floats your $900 camera bag and $600 7 weight into the rapids? Is it good for a 20 minute story around the cooking fire? Will you shout, scream, cry or heroically save the lunch cooler and beer? Think of being dunked in the river as a kind of baptism. The baby in the cleric’s arms is screaming because it doesn’t know whether there are pirañas or candiru in that water. My advice from below the surface is, be brave. The pirañas don’t inhabit the swift current and the up urine stream swimming candiru are a legend invented by that druggie William S. Burroughs and perpetuated by the indigenous people. If it were any other way the other two in the dugout wouldn’t risk getting swamped. Where else can you learn that a call of nature in the Amazon basin will not result in a Korean election lasting more than four hours?