Troutnut.com Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > Will the real Black Gnat please stand up?

SofthackleJune 25th, 2011, 10:31 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
When I first began fly tying, I used a number of different resources from my local library. Surprizingly, I did not get or see TROUT for some years later. One of my most used books was MacClanes Fishing Encyclopedia. It had a very nice section on fly tying plus a whole slew of patterns with photos. One pattern which always intrigued me was the Black Gnat. The one I remember and tied was fashioned from hen hackle, black chenille, black thread, gray duck quill wings and of course, the hook. I used this pattern for years till I discovered Leisenring.

After tying and seeing Leisenring’s Black Gnat, I began to wonder how such an odd pattern as the previous black gnat even worked. To me, it looked very little like a real gnat. I do not recall any natural fly that looked like this standard winged wet fly. Leisenring’s seemed more true to real gnats I’d seen.

Now, I know there are various kinds of gnats-even some aquatic ones, and I’ve often wondered, if, in fact there was one in particular that the pattern is trying to imitate. Any comments or suggestions? I figured this would be a good place to ask this question. So, will the real Black Gnat please stand up?

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
TaxonJune 25th, 2011, 11:10 pm
Site Editor
Plano, TX

Posts: 1311
Hi Mark-

Black Gnat is one of the common names for Leptophlebia cupida and L. nebulosa.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
www.FlyfishingEntomology.com
PaulRobertsJune 26th, 2011, 9:34 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
I can only speculate...
As I remember many of those "early" American patterns, the BG was just another color of the trout-sized winged wet fly like the M'Ginty (sp?), Scarlet Ibis, and others. They did not imitate anything exactly, although the M'Ginty (sp) had a bee-like abdomen. Most of those patterns disappeared from anglers flyboxes with the MG and BG hanging in there bc they were roughly imitative, as well as easy to tie for beginners. I had a wet pattern I liked I tied for steelhead in various sizes that really caught fish well, but imitated nothing in particular. It looked closest to the BG -simply a "bug" silhouette. But I caught a lot of steelies, and resident trout too, on that fly.

Here's where it gets amusing and fascinating in my easily fascinated mind...

The Black Gnat was my brother and my GoTo fly catching bullfrogs for frogs legs one summer years back. Now bullfrogs will chase and eat about any object dangled in front of them, but some they'd turn off to after getting pricked. The old Black Gnat wet we had the frogs seemed esp consistent on. Turns out frogs have retinal neuronal groups that perceive small (esp dark) objects, and are tied directly to a full blown feeding response -capture and swallow. The package of neurons are called aptly, "bug receptors". Fish and other "higher" creatures have such packages too --patterns of visual sensitivity that mean something-- but these are more complex. We have them too, (but not tied so directly to the feeding response -unless you consider chocolate chip cookies).


SofthackleJune 26th, 2011, 10:32 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
That's interesting, Paul.

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
SofthackleJune 26th, 2011, 10:51 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
That's interesting, Paul.

Taxon,
I find the naming of a mayfly "Black Gnat" interesting, and I can see where the variation in the pattern I've found in Bergman's TROUT might actually somewhat duplicate/imitate the mayfly. Leisenring's pattern, as well, would make a fairly good imitation.


This is my version of Leisenring's pattern

The older pattern I remember would not imitate this fly. It was tied with a body that was way too full and fluffy to be imitating a mayfly. In addition, can we consider the Leptophlebia cupida or nebulosa as "Gnats" when there are other flies which are classed as gnats? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnat

Look at this link to see an illustration of the classic Black Gnat pattern I'm thinking of. http://www.flyfisher.com/Wet_Flies_For_Trout_The_Ones_You_Should_Always_Carry.html

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
PaulRobertsJune 26th, 2011, 11:41 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Wasn't Leisenring the originator of the Flymph? Or am I just associating/confusing the technique with a fly that it works well with?
SofthackleJune 26th, 2011, 12:42 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Hi Paul,
Leisenring was a noted wet-fly fisherman who used and promoted wingless wets flies, as well as winged wet flies. His wet flies, or the patterns he tied and their construction, were based on the idea that the body should be constructed in a manner, especially dubbed bodies, so that the thread, or under-body, somewhat showed through the upper body material. This, he felt, made a more realistic appearing fly.

In addition, his use of hackles both from hen and game-birds made for movement in the fly itself to imitate both wing and legs. His fishing technique called the Leisenring Lift, was devised to mimic a hatching insect, and is still a very effective method used today.

His student and friend, Vern "Pete" Hidy coined the term "flymph" and was one of the first to recognize the imitation of the transitional period between nymph/pupa and adult. This term was used by him especially in connection with Leisenring's wingless wet flies. It was Pete Hidy that encouraged and assisted Leisenring in writing his only book.

Many of Leisenring's patterns were American adaptations of English wet flies and North Country flies. Unfortunately, the impact of the publication of Leisenrings book, The Art Of Tying The Wet Fly was somewhat lost due to the beginning of WW II in 1941. Thirty years later, Hidy reissued the book as The Art Of Tying The Wet Fly and Fishing The Flymph. Hidy added additional material to the original book regarding fishing technique. Both books are highly prized by wet fly aficionados and are considered definitive works on the subject of wet-fly construction.

Dave Hughes more recent publication Wet Flies covers Leisenring's and Hidy's techniques. Allen McGee's book Tying and Fishing The Soft-Hackled Nymphs also delves into Leisenring's methods as well.

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
PaulRobertsJune 26th, 2011, 12:49 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Thanks, Mark! Guess I'll keep an eye out for Hidy/Leisenring's books when I'm perusing used book stores -you never know.
SofthackleJune 26th, 2011, 1:33 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0517503379/ref=sr_1_1_olp?ie=UTF8&qid=1309109440&sr=8-1&condition=used

Looking at used book stores, garage sales and on Ebay might find you a copy. Used book sellars also have copies, as you see by the link.

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
TaxonJune 26th, 2011, 2:46 pm
Site Editor
Plano, TX

Posts: 1311
Mark-

... can we consider the Leptophlebia cupida or L. nebulosa as "Gnats" when there are other flies which are classed as gnats?


Absolutely not. However, flyfishers have not always been as aware of the differences between aquatic insect orders as they are today, which may have resulted in the inappropriate assignment of the names (Michigan Caddis and Black Gnat) to some mayflies.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
www.FlyfishingEntomology.com
SofthackleJune 26th, 2011, 3:12 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Tax,
Agree with you, 100%. Local names and identifications often are wrong, but often stick.

Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
OldredbarnJune 28th, 2011, 12:08 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
A very interesting thread gentlemen!

In another thread I mentioned that I had floated with a friend last Saturday afternoon and in to the evening basically looking for Hex later that night. We floated the lower section of the North Branch of the Au Sable that eventually put us on the Mainstream and the wider/slow "Hex" water.

As we floated down the North Branch I tossed around different flies trying to basically get the attention of some trout...The early bug activity was minimal.

My friend wanted me to try a really "old-school" fly which unfortunately I can't discuss in detail here, other than to say, I was pleasantly surprised how well this old pattern worked as a searching fly.

I am inclined to hatch matching and this spring, maybe because of extremely high water and bad weather in general, I seem to have been forced more towards "pounding up" fish than really locking in on a particular hatch. This has been eye opening for me this season.

I am fairly good at this "pounding up" process from years of experience fishing the same river and having had the benefit of knowing guides etc on that river and fishing with some pretty knowledgable anglers...I know where Mr. Brown Trout lives and how to rattle his cage from time-to-time.

Anyway...About this fly. If someone gave me a box of flies and said that I was limited to this box and this fly I'm talking about was in that box, I may never get around to fishing it. It wasn't the best in terms of staying afloat and I wasn't too sure what it was meant to imitate...But this was my friend and he does this for a living and I wasn't doing all that good on my own...

Well...I caught fish all the way down the stream with this fly and the more chewed up it got the more it seemed to work...I kept thinking about changing the damn thing for an unused one but had a hard time since it kept catching fish. I finally did once I could hardly tell what it was originally because it was so mangled. That picture on the other post of me with the small brook trout...Well he smacked this fly.

My friend was laughing at me all the way downstream since he had rattled the "old-school" guys perception...We both were laughing about whatever it was that made these fish hit this fly...It was a hoot...I have known this young man since he was 14/15 years old so pretty close to 20 years. He was getting a kick out of it and I was glad I just sat back and sat, "Kid-O! Show me what you've learned". I've said before that if you are not learning something new each time you visit the stream you need to find something else to do...An opened mind is priceless!

I think that Kurt is on to something when he talks about the brain on these critters and the way they are programmed...A big lazy Brown trout laying under a log feels protected. He has earned that primo feeding station and feeding from there takes very little effort. Over the course of the day many, many, different bugs get washed up against his log and all he has to do is sip them in...I don't think he worries too much about whether or not Spence has matched the hatch, but whether or not this thing over his head now strikes those receptors in to thinking it's edible.

One of the times I heard Gary Borger give a talk at a show he mentioned the same sort of thing. Something about your fly and its presentation eliciting a response from the fish..."Triggers" I think he called them...The wing seems right, the profile and size is right, it isn't dragging or doing anything unnaturally...Bam! The fishes brain had been sparked enough to make a move and once this happens its difficult for the fish to stop the appropriate response...To eat the damn thing, now!!!

Gonzo talks about some of the same things in his book. Selectivity is something that can happen, though rarely, and it takes a great many bugs of the same species over some period of time...A fish doesn't have the luxury to hope, or even the capacity to hope, that some other bug will follow the one above his head at this moment...If enough triggers are stimulated he eats.

So, as Mr. Borger hinted...We all need to work more on our casting technique more than anything...

Spence

As we floated down the stream we also discussed J Leonard and his book, "Fishing the Fly as a Living Insect", or something like that...I have "teased up" fish by moving the fly a bit to get their attention...But that's for another day...Sorry for the ramble but it's always good chatting with you two Paul & Mark, and you too Roger...Thoughtful guys you are! Thanks!

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
GONZOJune 29th, 2011, 8:44 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Now, I know there are various kinds of gnats-even some aquatic ones, and I’ve often wondered, if, in fact there was one in particular that the pattern is trying to imitate. Any comments or suggestions? I figured this would be a good place to ask this question. So, will the real Black Gnat please stand up?

I'm not sure when (or where) the chenille-bodied Black Gnat dressing originated, Mark, but it certainly dates back at least to Bergman's time. The widespread use of chenille in flies might be related to its popularity in Depression-era textiles. (I'm not sure about that--just a guess.) A black silk-bodied dressing was also very popular, and it is probably safe to assume that it predated the chenille version.

The Black Gnat name is borrowed from the Brits. For example, fly patterns with that name can be found in Charles Cotton's contribution to the 1676 edition of Walton's Compleat Angler. Cotton's 65 fly patterns included five with the "Gnat" name: a Bright Dun Gnat, a Brown Gnat, a White Gnat, and two Black Gnats. Cotton's Black Gnats were dressed with bodies of black "water-dog," young coot's down, or black mohair. Many of the British Black Gnat patterns are said to imitate Bibio species, particularly Bibio johannis, which has that common name.

SofthackleJune 29th, 2011, 10:19 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Gonzo,
Great reply and background. I knew of Cotton's mention of the Black Gnat pattern and it's dressing. The species you've given fits my mental image of a Black Gnat. Very small and dark/black.

If I recall, chenille was quite inexpensive ( I still have a bunch, but it's hardly ever used by me. There's a San Juan Worm pattern that still brings it into use, I think.) and made great full fluffy bodies like on the famed McGinty wet, very easily. This probably contributed to it's popularity with tiers of that time period. It was an easy way to make very attractive flies fit for brook trout, I'm sure.

Mark

P.S. The original body on the popular Wooley Bugger was olive chenille, too, if I'm not mistaken.
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
Re: 62 classic wet fly patterns
In Fly Tying by Iasgair
1Oct 26, 2018
by PABrownie
Re: Northern Caddis fly Pattern
In the Photography Board by Troutnabout
4Dec 17, 2006
by Troutnut
Re: World Varsities Trout Fly Fishing Competition
In General Discussion by Jesse
5May 11, 2010
by Oldredbarn
Re: midges vs. gnats
In the True Fly Family Chironomidae by CaseyP
3Dec 22, 2007
by Martinlf
Re: Pinning
In General Discussion by Cdcaddis18
3Jun 24, 2009
by Cdcaddis18
Re: Colors of insect eggs
In General Discussion by Byhaugh
1Jul 29, 2017
by Taxon
Re: fly patern pics of insects
In Fly Tying by Gid
6Nov 12, 2006
by JAD
Re: Fly Fishing The Rogue River
In Fishing Reports by RogueBum
4Jun 16, 2014
by Powellammon
Re: From tying to identifying
In the Identify This! Board by Jman
2Jun 6, 2008
by Jman
Re: Has anyone heard of a Beaman's Ghost?
In Fly Tying by Bcvizina
1Mar 11, 2010
by Oldredbarn
Most Recent Posts
Sage 1830 reel
In Gear Talk by TimR
Re: Euro Nymph Rod
In Gear Talk by Wbranch (Wiflyfisher replied)
Re: Timpanoga hecuba
In the Identify This! Board by Leskorcala (Troutnut replied)
Re: Beautiful fish of the South Fork
In Fishing Reports by Squarehog1 (Martinlf replied)
Re: Waders
In Gear Talk by Bellis (Martinlf replied)
Re: Trico emergers
In the Mayfly Genus Tricorythodes by Bwoklink (Martinlf replied)
Re: Possible PED mayfly ( Epeourus)
In the Identify This! Board by Leskorcala
Tying an Albright Knot
In Fly Tying by Adirman
Re: Recommended Setup for Trout Spey Rod
In Gear Talk by Onthefly11
Re: Fishing emergers.
In General Discussion by Hunter1 (Brian314 replied)