Orvis Fly Fishing
Do I Really Need To Know The Latin Names Of Bugs?
To be a successful and proficient trout angler, you should be able to identify the different types of insects visually. This means that you need to have basic knowledge about the size and shape of the main sources of food available to trout in specific rivers, ponds, and lakes. Each waterbody may have a local variation of a mayfly that differs in size and color due to the water conditions. For example, a blue wing olive mayfly may look slightly different from one region to the next.
Being able to identify insects based on their shape and color is a skill that comes from research online, books, and basic entomology (the scientific study of insects). However, the most important and effective way to learn about bugs is time spent on the water. You will learn the insects that dominate your specific region of trout fishing, and you will begin to decode the local food chain, creating and selecting flies that match your location and fishing needs as closely as possible.
Turning to the off-water research of entomology, you may run across the taxonomic description of insects. Some of these names may stick in your memory and some may not. Within the fly fishing world, some anglers may describe insects with their more common fly fishing nickname, and others may call them by their actual Latin names. Take a look at the list below for some examples of common names with their Latin counterpart, and some examples of fly pattern names.
Common Name / Latin Name / Dry Fly Pattern Names
There are many different sub species of mayflies, caddis flies, midges, and stoneflies. This basic run down should help to demystify all the bugs and fly patterns out there.
But do I really need to know all those names?
Each group of insects has dozens or more variations that make them different enough to the fly fisher that they are important to know. Knowing the actual Latin name of the bug is really inconsequential. As long as you can match the relative size and shape of the insect, that is truly all that really matters to the success of a fly angler on the water. For the sake of knowledge and information, others may find it useful to know the specific name of the insect they are looking at, but once you look at the length and depth of possibilities, it could become the task of a scientist to commit entire taxonomies to memory.
For example, here is the known taxonomy of Mayflies and the subgroups within. Let's say you want to taxonomically locate a Hendrickson Mayfly:
Within the order Ephemeroptera, there are at least 15 families of different mayflies that are of concern to fly fisherman.
Now take one family ( Ephemerellidae ) and there are at least 11 different Genus's
Now take one family ( Ephemerella ) and we finally get a look into the species within Ephemerella
Now that's a lot of names to sort through just to find the Latin name of a Hendrickson (Ephemerella subvaria)! Entomology in that depth is best left to scientists or true bug nerds! What really matters to an angler is seeing (for example) a Hendrickson on the water, knowing that it's really a Hendrickson, and then being able to select a fly pattern that matches the size and color with relative closeness.
If you see an insect on the water, and don't know what it is, do your best with what you have in your fly box at the time, but take a few pictures of the insect. When you get home, you can try to research online what it may be. Narrowing down the search and coming closer to matching the actual insect with a good fly pattern could mean the difference between a day with lots of fish caught or just a few caught. Knowing the Latin name of the bug doesn't really mean you'll have the right pattern to match it. Only by using a good guide, or getting to know your local watershed in depth will ensure you know what type of bugs you've got in the water, and if your fly box is filled with patterns that are effective for your location.
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