Big Sky Country is know for some intense and amazing hatches, but not the Biggest. The Salmon Fly hatch can be crazy. Caddis explosions are dense. BWO, PMD’s, and Other hatches are unbelievable when every fish in the river is rising. Hoppers can be awesome.
Montana may have amazing hatches but not the Biggest! The eastern Cicada hatch of 17-year locusts is the biggest that I have ever seen in a long life of fishing. They are not as long as Salmon Flies but just as hefty. Now add clicks, buzzing, and 90 decibel mating calls. You do not have to see the hatch; you can hear it!
There are over 3,000 species of Cicadas but none quite like the 17-year Locusts. They hatch from eggs, stay underground for 17 years, then emerge when the ground gets to be 54 degrees. Millions of these insects crawl up trees and rocks and crawl out of their exoskeletons.
Other Cicada can emerge every year to 13 or so years but the real Mega Emergence only happens once every 221 years. They lay their 600 eggs in the outer branches of trees. This serves as Nature’s Pruners. Flagged branches will die and fall off during windstorms over the next few years. Montana could use some insects that prune, trim, and don’t kill them. Our Pine Bore beetles play havoc on our forests and offer few positive outcomes. Pruned healthy forests tend to be more fire resistant.
Cicadas look mean and alien but do not bite or sting. If they fly into your hair or face, they will get your attention. One female can lay 600 eggs so males congregate to mate with every female they can. Like it or not, these singing insects will be around for a few weeks. Every fish and critter in the forests and fields will feast on them.
I have fished Cicadas along the Green River in Wyoming, but nothing so crazy in Montana. Trout love Big Bugs! Tying a match is always great fun. The picture shows my version of Big Bug Magic. Imagine if we had a month of Mega Cicada Monsters in our Great Rivers.