Take a quick look at my daughter while she was taking a bath one night this past summer. If you didn’t know better, you’d say she was an abused child. While that’s hardly the case, her condition exemplifies why all of us hate those little flying tyrants we call BUGS! They’re annoying, most bite, and if left too long, they’ll leave a welt the size of Mount Everest on the unsuspecting victim. Kids are one of the worst victims, as shown here in this photo.
So what can be done to avoid these nasty little devils? Read on as this two-part article will give you some proven strategies that have helped me deal with this fact of Canadian bush life.
Generally speaking, we have two options to deal with these flying bullies. One, we accept them for what they are and employ protective defenses to thwart off their relentless attacks. Second, we avoid them all together by planning a trip when the bugs are at their least bugginess.
We’ll cover avoidance strategies in part 2 of the blog post. While it may seem pretty much self-explanatory, there are some things you’ll want to pay attention to. For now, let’s talk about seasonal patterns and preferred time frames in our avoidance strategy.
On an average year, the ice out in Northern Ontario is roughly May 10thish, especially on smaller inland lakes. On the bigger lakes like Onaman and Lake Nipigon, open water starts showing up almost a week later. (Please note the word “average”, as the 2013 and 2014 seasons had unusually late use; ice out occurred almost two and a half weeks later in 2014.) Timing a trip right after break-up offers anglers one of the best times of year to avoid bugs. Not only that, fishing rivers and other small tributaries can be downright FANTASTIC. Trophy pike stage themselves in shallow bays to recover from the spawn, while hungry walleyes follow suit. Trout stalk the smelt runs, making them hugely susceptible to enticing lures, and the bugs continue to lay in wait for warmer weather. Timing an ice-out trip can be hugely rewarding and at the same time offer an annoyance-free time when bugs are virtually nonexistent If there are any downfalls to this time of year, it’s weather. It can be wildly unpredictable and might keep fair-weather anglers in the cottage for a day or two playing cards. That said, good fishing in a bug-free atmosphere is the name of the May fishing game.
IT SUCKS – for avoiding bugs that is. Fishing is top shelf stuff!
I don’t know why, but few people realize how good July can be, especially when it comes to the bug forecast. I’m going to throw that word “average” out there again, so please don’t tar and feather me if you experience (or have experienced) something different. On an average year, mid July affords anglers a time like no other. The favorable warmer weather has dried the Canadian Bush out, causing a huge decline in bug populations. Daylight hours which, a month ago, were filled with enough bugs to black out the sun, have given away to much more pleasant conditions. You can hold a conversation outside and when it comes to walleye fishing, it is MY FAVORITE time of the year! Now I am sure there are biological reasons to why the bugs decline, but I lack the biological understanding to give you a solid explanation. But I don’t need to be an entomologist to say July bugs are tolerable and fishing is phenomenal. Despite those positives, one small drawback does exist in July. Biting horseflies rear their ugly little heads, and when they do, they’ll cross vast expansions of open water to get to you–meaning, while in the boat you likely won’t be bothered by black flies or mosquitoes, the horseflies will have you in their sights.
August is just a small variation of July, but with even less bugs. Given the vast fresh waters of the Great Canadian Shield, fishing remains very good while bug populations have dwindled to almost nothing. We have several groups that make August their month of choice for this reason alone. Not only is the fishing good and the bugs gone, but August weather is as predictable as it is pleasant. Stable warm weather is usually the name of the game. It’s not uncommon to get a string of warm days, minimal wind, and very pleasant conditions. This is also a time of year that it’s just simply fun to be in the Canadian bush. Kids can swim, there are endless trails and lakes to explore, and most people have returned home. That means the likelihood of seeing other anglers during a day of fishing is pretty much nonexistent. If I can say anything about August, it’s that you shouldn’t follow the crowds. This is a time that gets less recognition, but the fishing and all the trimmings are as good as it gets. It remains a favorite time of year for those with the inside scoop.
Oh boy, September. I get the chills just thinking about it! I love, love, love September fishing. Not only are there no bugs, but once water temps start to drop, it ignites a feeding storm in the underworld of all things fishing. There are so many things going on in September alone that I can write a whole other article on it. But our focus here is bugs–I hate ’em and September doesn’t have ‘em. I like that!
When the chilly winds of October arrive, bugs have all ready found safe haven in the dense underbrush of the magnificent boreal forest of Northwestern Ontario. Doing what bugs do, they’ll remain there through the winter. Once a string of warm weather thaws the bush, the cycle starts again and we anglers are forced to employ our bug tactics: avoid or defend.
Suffice it to say, certain times of the year afford us the luxury of great fishing minus the annoyance of those dang little oppressors we call bugs. For when they do rear their ugly heads, they bite, they irritate, they seem to be everywhere, and they can make something as special as fishing in the outdoors a burdensome experience. But if you have the capacity to schedule a trip around peak bug season, you can have what most all of us dream of–an outdoor experience full of excitement, immersed in Mother Nature’s beauty, enjoying all there is to offer while at the same time creating memories of a lifetime.
While the above covers the avoidance of bugs, the next post will talk about taking the fight to them on their home turf. Stay tuned…