Spruce Moths Are Out And About
I have found spruce moths on my apartment building in town and the flyshop the last two mornings. I haven’t actually heard of any on the rivers or people fishing them yet, but I’m sure they should start working. The moth ‘hatch’ shouldn’t be as good this year as it has been in recent years, and a little background will explain why.
The moth that we western fishermen have been calling a spruce moth is actually named the Western Bubworm Spruce Moth, and contrary to what most people have been told is a native species to the Rocky and Coast Mountains. However, every so often localized areas experience a large population booms that last for several year. It is know as the most destructive defoliator of coniferous forests in North America. This defoliation activity only kills the smaller trees, but the larger trees that don’t die can become susceptible to beetles. We’ve seen the results of this double attack in SW Montana that has exacerbated the pine beetle problem we’ve also see take a toll on our forest.
While the moths are here though we might as well fish them as the trout find them a delicious food item, and when they are on the water in numbers the trout gorge themselves. We will still see them to some extent on the Gallatin this year mostly in very localized pockets. The Upper Madison should see decent numbers too. The Missoula area had there first year of massive moth numbers last year and should see them again this year, so if you’re headed over the divide this summer make sure you’re stocked up and ready.
Now even though it looks as if we won’t get the numbers of moths we’ve seen in the past, if there’s something the story of the spruce moth has shown us is that trout love moths. There are plenty of other moths in Montana besides the spruce, and a moth pattern is a good fly to search with.