Tying Scott's Cicada
Everyone has been awaiting the 2011 thirteen-year cicada hatch. It's early June now; the end of the cicada's life cycle is near; and fishing its imitations has started. There is a smaller sub-hatch that is expected again in 2015. The next regular 13-year hatch in the Ozarks will be in 2024.
I've grown up seeing annual and periodic cicadas all my life. But my first experience river fishing the periodic cicada hatch was in 1998. I missed the one in 1985, and the one in 1972 was just before I started my fly-fishing career. Most area fly anglers on the White River in May of 1998 didn't concentrate on dry fly-fishing, and they didn't think too much of the noisy bugs until they started falling out of the overhanging trees along the banks, drifting the slow, edge currents, and then disappearing in a swirl downriver. Suddenly, observant anglers were scrambling for patterns and after a week, the activity was over. Large stimulators and hopper patterns were about all we had to try. The foam bug craze had not started much yet. At that time, I came up with a quick-to-tie, oversized elk hair wing pattern with a peacock body and brown hackle that seemed to do the job. It also continued to work effectively as a general attractor through the summer months until the hoppers became active. But it lacked a good deal.
The pattern below is a closer imitation of the 13-year cicada White River anglers see, and it is easy to tie. It's my attempt at bringing several techniques from different patterns together to form an accurate silhouette, colorful imitation, and durable floating fly. I'm pleased to share it you. Please share it with others and enjoy fishing it.
Tied in green, the pattern makes a good annual cicada imitation also. These cicadas hatch later in the summer and are slightly bigger. Tie it in various colors to also make an easy hopper or cricket pattern. I elongate the body and use slightly longer legs on the hopper.
|Hook||3x long multi-purpose hook, straight eye, size 6 (Daiichi 2461)|
|Thread||Black 3/0 monocord|
|Body||Black squirrel dubbed on the hook overlaid by 3mm craft foam. Cut the strip no wider than 3/8" wide x 3" long. Taper one end. Foam is doubled back to form a rounded head.|
|Underwing||Gold Flashabou-like fibers|
|Overwing||Orange elk or deer hair|
|Legs||Black round rubber legs on bottom for stability; Orange Sili Legs on top for movement and blending color down the side a bit.|
Start by getting the basic dimensions off the bug. Body width, length and wing length are the critical measurements. This pattern is as effective as a tier could hope for and dispenses with the eyes. While most of us anglers focus on the eyes of the cicada, the short, thick body is probably the one feature of the terrestrial that gives it an identifiable silhouette to the fish. Foam material is ideal for giving the body shape, bulk and some floatation. The wings I probably don't make long enough on my pattern, but I like it the way I tie it. Experiment!
Wrap the hook with thread.
A dubbed body of squirrel hair gives a base on which to secure the foam.
The foam strip should be tapered on one end like the body of the cicada. Use the natural curve of a pair of curved scissors to get a good looking taper.
I like to add a drop of Zap-a-Gap to the foam to help secure it and prevent the body from twisting.
Secure the foam about three eye lengths back on the hook. Use a slow thread compression of the foam which will allow it to round nicely over the hook shank and squirrel dubbing.
Bring the thread forward to the eye.
Secure again with 4-5 snug thread wraps. This second wrap helps prevent the body from twisting also. Two tie-in points are better than one.
Return the thread to the first body wrap and tie in the flash fibers.
Tie in the stacked elk hair as an overwing and trim the butts off. You can also add a drop of Zap-a-Gap to the trimmed elk hair butts before you fold the foam.
Double back the foam and secure at the same first-wrap location.
Trim the foam. I use three cuts: one straight across the back, and then a small trim at an angle on each side. The two side angle cuts make room for the legs.
Tie in the legs. Originally, I tied sili legs on the bottom and the medium sized round rubber legs on top (as in the photo). I've reversed that since I believe the heavier round rubber on the bottom adds more stability to the pattern in the water.
Double whip finish with 4-5 wraps each.
Secure thread on top with Zap-a-Gap for a little insurance.
Trim legs. Cicadas have relatively short legs, but the legs on the fly pattern need to be long enough to help stabilize the fly on the water.
Try some variations with different color. The same pattern can imitate a cricket or a hopper. White calf tail or other natural or synthetic materials on top can make the pattern more or less visible as needed. Can you find the natural?
Browns particularly love a cicada and, with many of them being wild fish, they seem much more attune to the insect than rainbows.
The above is a variation tied as a Scott's Hopper with two layers of one-quarter inch wide, 2mm foam in different colors.
• "Terrestrials Part IV: Cicadas (Cicadidae)" by Dave Whitlock. Trout (Spring 2007), pp. 53-55.
• Whitlock, Dave, Trout and their Food: A Compact Guide for Fly Fishers. Skyhorse Publishing, 2010. Pages 145-151 contains the reprint of the above article. The book also contains many more of Dave's Art in Angling columns which appeared in the official magazine of Trout Unlimited.