This post has background music. Lanquidity by Sun Ra and the Arkestra.
I pulled into the Indian River Campground with the duel idea of fishing the river and checking out the campground, with an eye to setting up camp there for a couple days. It was deserted. Why? It was clearly deserted because it was home to an unbelievable number of the fiercest mosquitoes in America. I opened the car door and ducked out of the way as millions of the little bastards flew in. This led to the question, how do you get them to leave? The answer is to drive fast with all the windows open. On this stretch of the Indian, there was no respite and eventually the mosquitoes drove me off the river. In other places, the mosquitoes came in waves. At the campground on the Fox River, I tried to play the canjo. The rhythm went bum-ditty bum-ditty bum-whack. WHACK. Bum-ditty whack. Whack WHACK. Bum-ditty whack. On Wednesday, a warm day with gusty swirling west winds, the mosquitoes just about disappeared. Curiously enough, Wednesday offered the slowest fly fishing of the trip as well. There seemed to be a connection between being tormented by biting insects and catching trout, a connection I can’t understand.
Mosquitoes are not the only insect pest around the UP. I saw several of those parasitic nasties we call ticks during my travels. I took to checking in the tent, checking my clothes, and having a good look at my legs in the tent each night before bed, just because the idea of having one of these mini-monsters attaching itself to me does not impress. I don’t like any of the other critters that attach themselves to me either (like leeches and lamprey). Last year, around home, a tick found its way to Memphis’ head and one got Rossi too, and in both cases I had to gently but firmly remove them with pliers. Certain black-legged ticks or deer ticks carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease and as far as I’m concerned that makes them extra nasty. I guess ticks really don’t belong in this post because I think they are arachnids (like spiders), rather than insects, but to me, they’re bugs, so I’m including them.
The Driggs river runs through a sandy plane and at every place I accessed the river, the sandy banks were mottled with anthills. Big ants. Medium-sized ants. Tiny Ants. Anthills everywhere. Everywhere. Thousands and thousands of anthills. At one point I thought it was one really really huge ant colony, a world we know nothing of. The number of ants on the edge of the river did not escape my attention, as ants are trout ice cream, and I always carry a few ant imitations in my fly foxes. (the trouble with most ant imitations is that they are hard to see on the water. There is one clever pattern that solves this problem – the parachute ant, but that is for another post).
The real good guys of the insect world are the mayflies. First, they don’t bite. I like that. Second, they’re lovely, like flying sailboats. Third, trout love them. The one in the photo was with two of its friends on my tent one morning. Let me say that I’m not a mayfly identification expert, although I sometimes like to imagine I can tell one variety from another. I suspect the one in the picture is the mayfly I always called the Gray Fox. Somewhere along the way, guys who spend their lives thinking about bugs decided that Gray Foxes don’t exist, that they’re actually March Browns that have a slightly different colour about them. That is to say, they are both Stenonema vicarium. In any case I didn’t see any of these guys on the river, only on the tent. I did see a number of light coloured mayflies, the kind we fly fishers call Cahills. And I saw some others that, if it were still May in Ontario, I would say were the ones we call Hendricksons, but it isn’t May, so I don’t know, either the timing is different on the UP or they are another variety of mayfly altogether. Finally, the predominant mayfly emerging from the rivers were the ones we simply call Olives, or Blue-winged olives, or Baetis. There are different Olives, different sizes from very tiny to pretty small in the scheme of things. Trout like all of them. I found a fly pattern known as the Usual to be an effective imitation most of the times I saw the bugs emerging.
There were June bugs and other beetles and dragons and damsels and loads of those yellow swallowtail butterflies. And, there were little wormy larvae that fell from the pines at my campsite onto the picnic table and the tent. Let’s not forget caddisflies, another trout favourite, flitting and bouncing about the surface of the stream. Bees. Wasps. Sowbugs. Those oddball stick-like mantids. House flies and other true flies (Diptera – two wings) like midges and deer flies. I’m sure there were many more I failed to notice, little bugs that live in the bark, in wood, munching leaves, or just hanging out being bugs.