I was working a heavily wooded shoreline of a local pond late one afternoon when I observed a little commotion on the water. A bright green object around two inches long was fluttering about on the surface. I instantly recognized it as a large katydid that is relatively common in these parts in late summer. I only had a few seconds to ponder how it ended up in the water before it disappeared in a sizable swirl. I suspect it met its demise in the mouth of a bass as it vanished in a pretty significant disturbance on the surface of the water. The incident got me thinking how often they end up in the water and whether or not it was worthwhile duplicating them at the vise. As is often the case I thought why not!
The next time I sat down at the vise I decided to turn out a few impressionistic katydid imitations to try out on my next trip to the water. I have been tying a lot of foam flies lately and remembered seeing some insect green foam sheets in my assortment of foam. So I rummaged through my supplies and found some appropriately colored 2mm foam sheets along with matching round rubber legs and a mix of caddis green and chartreuse ice dub. With the help of a foam cutter, it was easy to create the appropriate profile for the fly, though the finished product was slightly smaller than the real insect making them the perfect size for big bluegill. To form the body I used a foam cutter from River Road Creations. Unfortunately, this cutter set was not labeled, but I believe it is the hopper wing cutter that I used to create the bodies. The largest size creates a fly with an extended body that can be tied on a 3x long size 8 or 10 hooks.
I tied a few basic versions of the pattern. I tried another version in which I glued two sheets together before cutting to double the thickness of the body. This version more accurately depicts the shape of a katydid. The third version also had two layers of foam, but each layer was tied on independently creating a distinct top and bottom to the fly. This is my favorite version of the fly but also the most time consuming to produce. With the first two versions, I tied some with a dubbed body and some without. All of the versions I tied had the same configuration of knotted rubber legs. To ensure the fly did not come undone or rotate around the hook shank after hooking and releasing a few fish super glue and UV resin were used to secure materials to the hook shank and protect thread wraps. Most importantly put a drop of superglue on the knot portion of the rubber legs to keep them from coming undone.
The final product was a floating bug that matched the color and general profile of the insect. Could I have created something that looked a little more realistic? Sure, but there really is no need when targeting panfish and other warm water species. While trout can drive a fly fisher to frustrations, warm water fish are seldom that selective.
The verdict? As I expected, the panfish were not picky, the simple, single layer foam body with a thread underbody performed about as well as any other version. The fly built with the single layer foam body is very easy to cast even on a two or three weight rod. Because of the single layer of foam in floats low in the water and was little more difficult to see then the thicker two layer flies. The addition of an Antron wing improved its visibility, but the bright green color is pretty easy to spot on the water in all but the harshest glare conditions. I thought that the two-layer versions would better imitate this big insect, but the fish did not share this view. I'll probably continue to tie a two layer version for my fishing just know that it is probably not neccesary.
Hook: Size 8 or 10 3x long nymph or streamer hook
Thread: Chartreuse 140 denier UTC
Body: Two layers of bright green 2mm craft foam. The top layer shaped with foam cutters or scissors to a narrow leaf-like shape.
Legs: Bright green medium round rubber. To create the bend in the legs, knot two strand of rubber together. Cut one of the stands away after the knot to create the shape shown above. Coat the knot with a drop of superglue to ensure the knot does not come undone.