Monday, February 21, 2011

The Midges from Heaven!

(As opposed to what we normally see -- the "midges from Hell"!)

Since I've not really "officially" sampled this winter -- with StreamWatch or a VA SOS group -- I don't really know what they've been finding for midges.  The midges I've seen on rocks have been HUGE.
The one in the picture above -- found in the Moormans River this morning -- was about 1/2" long.  Anyone who samples knows that that is not what we normally see.  They can be so tiny in the summer (and other times of the year), that "if" you can see them, and "if" you can pick them up with the tweezers, you may or may not be able to see them in the tray when it's time to total them up.  The biggest compliment any sampler receives is to be told "You have 'midge' eyes" -- i.e. you're able to see the tiniest insects!

A smile for the camera -- though this is from a specimen I had to preserve.  His little "prolegs" show up very well.

Fly fishermen, by the way, would not be surprised at the size of the midges I've found.  The winter is really "midge" season for those of us who go to the streams.  This is one of the main times all year that they're hatching in significant numbers, and if we want success with the trout, we have to carry those size 18-22 midge imitations that nobody likes to tie on!

I went to two streams this morning -- the upper Moormans River, just downstream from the reservoir, and the Doyles River near Doylesville.  I didn't see anything really unusual: large numbers of Strophopteryx large winter stoneflies, and large numbers of black flies (at the Doyles, the size of the colonies on the rocks is absolutely disgusting!).   At the Doyles, I again found a lot of small minnow mayflies -- all genus Baetis.  It's fair to see this is a "small minnow" stream.  I also found a fair number of flatheaded mayflies at the Doyles: two genera, Epeorus and Maccaffertium (again with the red bands on the femora).  I got two gorgeous shots of an Epeorus flathead that have to be shared.

Probably as well as I'll do as an amateur photographer who likes to play around with these things.

I also found, in the Moormans, three more Nemourid stoneflies, all genus Nemoura (see the previous entry).  I may have to revise my proposal that this is a genus that is rare in our waters.  Perhaps we're just not sampling at the right times and right places to find them.  Here's a live shot of one of those nymphs.

One final observation to share -- or maybe it's a question to ask.  I may, at the moment, be seeing as many "adult" (i.e. hatched) small and large winter stoneflies as I'm seeing nymphs.  They're out in good numbers.  But I'm finding them where I don't expect to see them at all -- in leaf packs!  This defies conventional fly fishing wisdom.  We're taught that stoneflies "crawl" along the stream bottom, then crawl out on the rocks (either by the shore or in mid-stream), where they crack open their shucks, spread their wings, and take to the air.  So, why am I seeing so many -- with wings totally open -- crawling around in the leaves!

(Below,  large winter stonefly adults sunning themselves on a rock in the middle of the North Fork of the Moormans.  Photo taken last spring.)

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