In the dog days of summer hearing the droning call of a cicada is music to a fly fisher’s ear. This is not a hatch that you need to look up in books or call the local shop to figure out what to use. Cicadas are unmistakable. The tell-tale plop on the water followed by a big splash is usually a dead giveaway, when the noise from the surrounding foliage hasn't given it away already. A cicada pattern is an excellent option when you hear the trees and bushes buzzing or clicking. These large terrestrial insects are predominately orange and black or green and black and could easily be featured in a sci-fi thriller.
Adult cicadas are typically 1-2 inches long with a long pointy segmented abdomen tapering up to a broad head. They are much more triangular shaped then a grasshopper. Their coloration and patterning vary by geography with green, orange, and black as the main color. Their wings extend beyond their body and is visible from underneath. Most of the coloration is on their legs and the main vain of their wings.
In the Eastern United States cicadas tend to follow the periodic cycles, emerging every 13 to 17 years. In the West they show up nearly every year depending on weather and the amount of ground moisture. On Utah’s Green River we look forward to the first week of June when they start to appear. That is when the dry fly fishing usually gets easy.
Cicadas cannot jump like grasshoppers and crickets. If they plan on moving more than a few inches at a time they must fly, which they do not do well over long distances. So unlike grasshoppers, they do not need to be fished tight to the banks. Fishing the “big bug” right down the middle of the river is a lot of fun. Leary fish will often moving off the bottom to eat your cicada and will do so fully committed. With these aggressive takes and large foam flies a heavy leader and a stout tippet are the norm for cicada patterns.
For the folks out East, this is the year to stock up on your cicadas. From the recent reports this is going to be a very prolific year. For the rest of you, listen for the clicking in the trees. If you hear them, fish them.
Colby D. Crossland is a fly fishing guide in Utah and Wyoming. When not helping clients catch trout on the Green River, he can be found wondering the flats chasing carp or saltwater species. Colby pro staffs for Howler Bros, Rising USA, and Stealth Craft Boats.