After success with catfish at my office lake on epoxy pond snails (Tales of Snails and Weather Spells), I decided to shape one as a spoon fly. I was hoping the catfish would take it for a pond snail when fishing it slow, and the wiggle when retrieving it might trigger a strike from “whatever”. I made one and went out on a very cold Sunday afternoon when I was expecting nothing to bite. I walked up to the neighborhood pond and, lo and behold, caught a couple of bass with it. They took the fly it as it was stripped, of course.
I couldn’t help but notice that the black spoon fly looked more like a beetle than a snail and catching the bass on it made me even more suspicious, so I did some research, and I’m glad I did. I found the following article which has a fly pattern for the Boatman as well as a lot of photos and information: https://flyguys.net/aquatic-entomology/fly-fishing-boatman
Apparently the Water Boatman is a water beetle tolerant of poor water quality, and we do have our share of that here in Mississippi. Stained water is everywhere, oxygen-poor, polluted, you name it, we got it. I am amazed that the water quality sensitive mayflies do so well at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, but being a big body of water I guess helps in “pollution dilution”. It makes sense that my fellow local fly fishers and I should pay more attention to the bugs common to poor water quality such as midges and boatmans.
Researching the Boatman, I also found out about another bug which is often mistaken for the Boatman. The Backswimmer is another, larger, aquatic beetle which looks just like a Boatman, http://www.flycraftangling.com/index.asp?p=118. The Boatman’s length is around 11 mm while the Backswimmer is bigger, about 15 mm or .6 inches long. Like the Boatman, it is a very adept swimmer and it also flies and dives into and out of the water. Apparently, like the Boatman, it is notorious for getting into people’s swimming pools, but unlike the Boatman, it has an especially undesirable feature – it bites! The bite also injects a toxin and though not poisonous to humans, it can cause reactions. Since the bug is a biter, it has earned a nickname of “Water Wasp”. The thing I like most about the Backswimmer, is that it SWIMS ON ITS BACK whereas the Boatman does not. Of course, a spoon fly “swims” on its back too. The beetle is a very active swimmer, so I’m thinking the spoon fly, which requires an active retrieve, makes for a good imitation. I was so impressed with my newfound knowledge on this bug I wrote a limerick, my apologies in advance:
Fellow fly fishers, here’s the inside track
on a beetle, that swims on its back
It looks like a Water Boatman, when its upright
but beware the Backswimmer, it has a poisonous bite
lucky for us, fish consider it a snack
While I was looking up the Boatman and Backswimmer, there is another beetle I found information on that was interesting. The Whirligig, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whirligig_beetle. Over my many years, I have often seen these beetles but I never knew what they were. Most fly fishers have probably seen them too, swimming extremely fast in circles on pond surfaces. There is almost always more than one and sometimes they’re in large groups. They swim very fast and are hard to catch, by fish or anything really. Fish usually leave them alone, but a few times I have watched bream busting the top trying to eat them. The Whirligig also dives so he is not just a surface bug and he looks very much like the spoon fly I made. The Whirligig is interesting because he has two pairs of eyes, one pair above the surface and one below. No wonder he’s tough for the fish to catch. I could find no fly patterns for the Whirligig, possibly a testament to his effective counter measures.
So a black spoonfly looks and acts a little like all of these: Water Boatman, Backswimmer, Whirligig and possibly, even a black pond snail. And it fishes deep, where it can be dredged along the bottom, which is where the fish usually are in the dirty office lake I use as my field testing lab.
I’ve been making the small spoon fly out of various hooks, the Gamakatsu SC-15 in size 4 was the best, but any wide gap, short shanked hook will work, some bending might be required for other hooks. The Boatman and Backswimmer both utilize a bubble that they cling to on their abdomen for air and also for buoyancy. For this reason, I am starting to leave a part of the epoxy uncolored and/or with a little glitter to represent the bubble. A black sharpie is all that is needed to color it because epoxy takes color really well. With the spoon fly running on its back and with the snag guard installed, it is very good about not hanging up.
Of course, all of this needs field testing, but it’s something I’m playing with and enjoying, thought I would share it.