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Traveling Sedges Cause A Rainbow Feeding Frenzy

Billowing, dark clouds heralded another windy day as we moved from the shallow, marl-bottom flats toward the weed bed where we hoped that damselfly nymphs soon would be hatching.

“There’s a traveling sedge,” Al Stier said. “You want it to take its picture?’

He scooped up the large caddisfly after I said I was interested.

Then traveling sedges were popping up everywhere and trophy-sized trout, cruising fast just under the surface, were slurping up the fat, juicy bugs in a frenzy of feeding.

I clipped off the black ant pattern I had been using, tied on a No. 8 Mitch’s Sedge, cast it about 50 feet and was rewarded a few moments later by the heart-stopping take of a big rainbow.

Stier and I were at a British Columbia lake where the average length of the Gerard strain of rainbows is 22 inches and where four species of caddisflies hatch. The lake, popular with Inland Northwest fly fishers, is one of the relatively few in British Columbia that still have fairly good hatches of the traveling sedges.

The big caddisflies (Phyryganea), called traveling sedges by fly fishers because they spin around in a circle and run over water after they’ve hatched, are becoming a rarity throughout the Northwest.

They are to rainbows in lakes what the big salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) are to trout in Northwest streams. When they hatch, the biggest fish in a lake go on a frenzied feeding binge, sometimes failing to examine each bug closely.

A fly fisher who has a reasonable facsimile of the traveling sedge, regardless of his or her experience, has a good chance of hooking, at least momentarily, a fish that can take out all the fly line and more than 100 yards of backing. Many fly fishers who were at the lake last week ruefully told stories of huge trout that broke their 5-pound-test tippets.

The traveling sedges at the lake we fished last week aren’t as big as they appear to be. Consequently, many fly fishers tie patterns on No. 6 or 8 2x long hooks. Their patterns are too big and they get many refusals.

The sedge that Stier captured for me was typical of the sedges that hatch at that lake. Its body was 9/16th of an inch long and the bug was 1 inch from its head to the end of its mottled wing. My pattern was tied on a No. 8 Mustad 94833 dry fly hook and the pattern was 1 inch long.

The body of the insect was a light olive with dark brown segments. The butt of the body had a tinge of orange. Legs were black. The wings were beige with black mottled markings. I used light olive dubbing for the body and natural deer hair for the wings.

Stier and I and the friends who camped at the lake had agreed that we would leave the lake at 11 a.m., break camp and start the 270-mile drive back to Spokane. But traveling sedges were all around us and the huge, hungry trout were racing from one sedge to another to gorge themselves.

The lake may be the most popular fly fishing lake in eastern British Columbia. Many expert fly fishers from California to Calgary test their skills on the trout nearly every day from early May to September. The trout see all the best fly patterns delivered delicately on the water. They deserve their Phi Beta Kappa status.

Three of the four 22- to 24-inch rainbows that I hooked from the time when we first saw the traveling sedges took out all my fly line and 75 to more than 100 yards of backing. Two jumped 3 to 4 feet out of the water several times before making their runs.

Finally at noon, we reluctantly decided to leave. The sedges were still hatching and the rainbows were still taking them off the surface, creating great holes in the water.

Every fly fisher who fishes that lake knows that there are few places in the Northwest where nearly every trout that is hooked is a trophy-sized fish. That’s why the lake is popular with thousands of fly fishers and why the fabulous fly fishing may end in a year or two unless the B.C. Fish and Wildlife branch establishes catch-and-release regulations.

Only 10,000 Gerard rainbows are planted each year. A person can kill one trout that’s 50 centimeters or more long (about 20 inches) a day. Many fly fishers take a limit for themselves and their families. In addition, loons eat many newly planted trout, poachers kill as many as they can catch and careless fly fishers don’t take time to carefully release the fish they catch.

But as long as the trout are as big as they are this year and the traveling sedges, other sedge species, damselflies and midges hatch, fly fishers will make pilgrimages to the lake every year.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review