At night they crawl up tree trunks, shrubbery, door jams and stick themselves in place while their skin cracks and splits. Out crawls a large green and black bug with big gossamer wings. There are very nice people, whom I assume to be tone deaf, who call the sound cicadas make - singing.
Illinois has a couple of species and if you're thinking you'd like to know more, just google cicada, get a beer and read away, especially If you're into the Latin name, order and all that. I know of two types, periodical and annual. Periodicals are the seventeen year cycle ones and we should see a hatch of them in 2024. If you're thinking, what's an annual...try google, type in dog day cicadas and make an appointment for a prostate exam.
Their empty cases decorate the big maple in my backyard. In the dark the little monsters crawl out from the ground, hatch, and sing up a storm. At 120 decibels, if there's enough of them It's like putting your head inside the speaker cabinet during a Metallica concert.
So when the raucous choir arrives, I know one thing. It's a good time to fish! Here's what I really like about cicadas, they are clumsy flyers and make a ruckus when they land in the water. In Missouri, some folks stop fishing because the fish are chock full of cicadas. I read that on a blog about fishing Missouri, so I know it's true.
So let's go back five years ago:
I hand my buddy Marc a large foam fly.
"Tie this on."
"What is this thing?"
"It's ugly and big."
"Hey I tied the thing, you fall in...I'm watching and taking safety photos."
"It's actually tied quite nicely."
"Better, oh by the way, you're standing in poison ivy."
I tie it onto a fairly short leader.
Marc had a fast six weight that was rigged with a clouser line; he'd had a casting lesson the week before. This was going to get ugly.
We were standing in knee deep water on Kishwaukee, a tributary of the Rock river and a good smallmouth stream that's a good wade for someone making their first fly fishing trip. The wind was polite that day, the water nearly clear.
"You practice casting like I told you?"
This was going to get real ugly. We step into the water. This is the magic moment for me. I fill with anticipation, my socks fill with water. As I wade further down it climbs up my legs and then past the happy parts and I have to pee. Twenty ounces of coffee will do that to you. Wet wading in August in the heat is the best: no waders to mess with, just cotton and neoprene socks, boots, and quick dry everything else.
"Cast towards the bank just below that riffle, again, again, one more time." Not as ugly as I thought.
"What do I do if I catch a fish?"
I love fly casting instructors who teach the mechanics but forget about the retrieve, hook set, playing and landing a fish. And then say, "Getting on the water is no time to practice." Sure, because a river runs through the grass in your backyard.
I wait and watch Marc cast. I give encouragement, "That's good, it landed in front of you, wow, almost fifteen feet, that's a mighty big loop, stop the rod, no stop the rod..." Marc comments that this is why I'm not a certified instructor.
He finally gets the fly to land at the top of the pool.
I see the grab, "set the hook!" I repeat it louder, then yell it.
"Next time. How much did you pay for lessons?"
Two casts later, he hooks one.
"Now what?" The rod has a good bend and this one is pulling line.
"Let him pull some line out and get him on the reel. Then play it like a spinning rod. "
The fish tires and Marc begins to pull the fish back him, I begin encouraging.
"Don't reel the leader into the rod, lift and bring the fish towards you.
"Why don't you have net?"
First fish and already a critic...
It's a pissed off fourteen incher.
A few casts and some encouragement later he lands an eighteen incher.
Eight fish, for him that day. Most were the typical foot long smallie that you find there. Marc saved the first fly and lost six in the process. We all know what it's like in the beginning; tree, grass, pigtails, snap and so on.
While this is not a commercial plug, Marc is in the successful and really good play, Million Dollar Quartet playing at the Apollo theatre in Chicago. Tell him Stuart sent you."
We return to our present day.
The best part about cicadas, fish call em food.
I carry one pattern with me and have used it for some time, it's from Loren Williams and I've made a couple of changes. It's the periodical pattern and while changing the orange to white makes it an annual, the fish don't care so neither should you.
The recipe is simple. Foam, dubbing, crystal flash and rubber legs. Head over to the fly tying portion of the site and you'll find photos and instructions and if I get it completed in time, a tying video.
Tie up some; hit your favorite smallie stream. Send us a photo!
Hook: bass stinger hook 4
Underbody: Black 3mm fly foam
Abdomen: Rusty Orange dubbing, I use angora in dubbing loop Over Body: Black 3mm Fly Foam
Wings: Pearl and Orange Krystal Flash
Thorax: Rusty Orange Angora dubbing
Head: Black 3 mm Fly Foam
Legs: Orange striped legs or black or orange solid legs, just so you have legs