The Short Story On Inchworms
Malden Angler's favorite terrestrial

by Thomas Lew

Arguably the most anticipated "hatch" around the Malden Angler's pond is that of the inchworm. During the late spring/early summer, it is not uncommon to see trout school up beneath the overhanging branches of oak and maple trees waiting for inch worms to fall haplessly into the pond. A stiff breeze or playful bird will cause the worms to drop into the pond by the dozens resulting in an eruption of trout rises to the floundering worms. These worms are often suspended by a thin span of silk and can be found dangling from trees. Unable to take nature's interminable teasing, trout and bass will occasionally leap to take worms from these threads before they even reach the water.

Paleacrita vernataAlsophila pometaria are also known as "cankerworms." The more common species; Operophtera brumata is also known as "winter moths." Neither species are really worms but are caterpillars of the family geometridae. When the male worms mature they will eventually form a small whitish moth about an inch in wingspan. The female is wingless. The silk threads that suspend them from branches are used to carry them with the wind to other trees where they feed voraciously on leaves or to carry them from danger. Unlike many spiders, the silk comes from the worm's mouth. Inchworms are so named because of the method in which they crawl. They reach out with the front prolegs while forming a hump or loop with the lower part of their bodies; "inching" along.

Both varieties of inchworm will appear in the spring between May and June for about a three to five-week stretch. Major "hatches" occur in three-year cycles. Easy to collect, and the subject of many picture books, there is little doubt they are a favorite among children. The appearance of inchworms has been seen in writing as far back as when North America was first colonized. Both the Cherokee and Iroquois have a mythology that features the animals.

When selective trout are feeding on inchworms, like any high-calorie snack, they will often feed on little else. During such times, a good inchworm pattern is a welcome addition to your fly box. "Greenie Weenies" as they are affectionately called, can be constructed out of a variety of materials, the most popular being micro-chenille, foam or colored deer hair. In general, the better the material floats and the more resilient it is to sinking the better the fly will work. One example is tied like the famous San Juan worm but with chartreuse instead of red micro-chenille (vernille). Unlike a San Juan worm, a good soaking in silicone or "WaterShed" helps to keep it from sinking. It is an excellent first tie for a beginner and will yield rewarding results. It takes less than 60 seconds to make one.

Check out this YouTube video by Jim Misiura for a simple but effective fly perfect for the beginner.

Fishing with an inchworm is dry fly fishing - an invitation to some exciting topwater action. The best results occur when the greenie weenie is cast under an overhanging branch or a collar of bushes or shrubs. Look for leafy deciduous trees like maple, elm, spruce or cherry where real inchworms may drop. Inchworms avoid conifer trees such as pine or fir.

If the fly alights the water with a gentle "plop" it simulates the dropping of an inchworm from the leaves above. Often a trout will snap the worm up the instant it strikes the water. Otherwise, just dead drift the worm keeping it as still as possible. The inchworm is a terrestrial. It does not swim. That being said, some fly-fishermen swear to fish caught by an inchworm pulled through the water. Personally, I haven't caught them that way. I fish them with 6x tippet, at a dead drift, recasting often to give them that fallen action.

However, on at least one occasion an unlucky cast left my tippet draped over a low branch, my inchworm hanging tantalizingly over the water. With a sudden splash, a trout leaps to snatch my fly and at the same time free my line! A trout's impatience is my reward.

Mr. Lew is an apprentice fly-fisherman, fly tyer, a member of Malden Anglers and Senior Director of IT in the healthcare industry.

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