Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Come on, Irene!

The Author's fallen grapes of Irene's wrath!

Well, everyone else weighed in on it, my turn. Obviously hurricanes are a very serious thing, while we here in Pennsylvania
rarely feel any effects, others peoples lives can be changed forever. From what I hear, some
people still haven’t been able to return home. This I don’t like to hear.
As most of you are well aware, I love fishing, fly fishing to be precise. Friday before the storm I took a few minutes on my way to work to check the flow of the Tulpehocken creek. She looked good, a nice even flow, rising trout, clear water, I thought “perfect!” I thought….the plan was to wet the line early Saturday morning and get some fishing in before the storm hit and the creek was blown out. Well, when I drove past later that day it seems the Army Corps of Engineers had opened the dam of Blue Marsh Lake…plans change so easily! Most likely in anticipation of the storm they decided to drop the lake a few feet to contain some of the storm water. They do this because if the Tully ran high full bore into the Schuylkill, parts of Pottstown would get a thorough cleaning a’ la mother nature. Once water levels hit a certain cfs they begin regulating the dam flow out of the lake, in the opinion of this blogger the lake was useless this year anyways, mucky mess.

Where am I going with this? Hang on, we’ll get there.

Immediately prior to Irene’s arrival the Tully was running at 1700 cfs, normal flow for this time of year? 250. Needless to say, she was running hard.
Early Sunday afternoon I inspected my home waters. It was a classic tale. The dam was letting out normally. Up stream of Rebers Bridge the creek was just as nice as it had been the day before. Below the bridge the Plum creek flows in, further down at the Papermill, Cacossing creek joins in the fun, this area of the Tully was completely busted.

Upstream of Reber's bridge was fine!

Cacoosing Creek coming to play...
Now here’s when we get to where we're going.

As I hung out at the red covered bridge up stream of Penn State Berks I saw something I truly did not expect. Mayfly activity and lots of it. Now pay attention, because this is where it gets neat, regardless of you interest, or lack there of, in entomology. Mayflies are an aquatic insect and serve as a large portion of a trout’s diet, certain species on the water is indicative of healthy Eco system. Mayflies are pretty remarkable little bugs, and a favorite pattern of many a dry fly fisherman. The eggs are laid in the water by the female. They hatch and the larva and nymphs will spend most of their lives under water, with some species the nymphs spend 1-2 years underwater before maturing. When the time comes some species will emerge to the surface as adults, some crawl out on the bank. This "not quite adult" phase has the fly drying its wings on the surface and then flying to nearby foliage to finish going through puberty, (layman’s terms). At one point the males will fly out over the water and do a happy dance to attract females. They begin swarming and the females join the party, most pair off, do the deed, and moments later eggs are laid in the water. Both males and females, from exhaustion, fall to the water dead or dying, for the trout, this means dinner time. The incredible thing is as adults, the mayfly only lives 1-3 days. They only mature and surface for the mating ritual.
But really, what better way to go? Your final act of life is knocking boots….I can only assume they all die happy.

Now let’s circle back, to my amazement at finding mayflies only hours after the end of a hurricane hit the area. Is this not truly a tale of David and Goliath? How could I see mature mayflies around the water with the creek flowing the way it was and the winds blowing the way they did? How did they ascend to the surface without being swept away? How did the adults, who only live a day or two, not get blown half way to Jersey? I was so intrigued, because despite all the odds being stacked against them, these flies, which have only a short time to get it right, made it, through a storm that caused so much damage in so many ways.

A storm battered Mayfly
Nature is funny that way, I think that’s one of the reasons I am so into being out doors, being close to these forces of nature. So many things happen in the natural world the everyday person doesn’t even see. We get so caught up in our jobs and our little world; we tend not to think of the cycle of life happening all around us. I worry so much about little numbers on my computer screen in my little cubicle at work…what about the little mayfly who told the odds to go pound sand?
A passerby on the trail might have seen just some bugs flying around, me…I gained a new perspective. The moral of the story? Well, I know what it is for me….how about you?


  1. In modern society, we get so detached from nature, that we forget how magnificent it really is. We don't give it enough credit for how resilient it really is. We should all just look on in awe!