I saw my first June bugs last week. The very warm weather we experienced the first of June must have triggered their emergence from the ground and they seemed to be everywhere. I haven’t seen any since we had those hard frosts this week so they may be another casualty of the unseasonably cold weather, along with the apples, grapes, strawberries and Christmas trees.
The appearance of June bugs usually signals that warmer weather is on the way and they should also interest trout anglers. While many of the more popular insect hatches, such as mayflies, often slow down as the weather warms there is another group of insects now on the menu. One of them is June bugs.
I have to admit I never considered June bugs as important food for trout but that changed when a friend told me of catching a good-sized brook trout in the Margaree River and finding six June bugs in its stomach. I always considered June bugs as being too hard to be eaten by a trout because of their hard shell but I guess I was wrong.
I should have known better as trout are very opportunistic. They will take advantage of whatever feed is available to them. They also try to maximize the amount of food they get and, since a big insect such as a June bug is a much better meal than a small mayfly nymph, fish will take advantage of them when they fall in the water.
June bugs are actually a type of beetle and most gardeners will be familiar with their immature stage, the white grub, which causes problems on our lawns and vegetable gardens. The grub stage lives for three years in the soil until they hatch in the period from late May to mid-July.
The adult June bugs are strongly attracted to light and they are a common sight around outside lights at night in the spring and summer. The adult beetles are dark brown on the back with a reddish brown body.
June bugs do not bite so they are no threat to humans. The adults lay their eggs on the ground where they hatch into the white grubs which continue the cycle. I enjoy seeing June bugs but I am not so crazy about the raccoons and skunks digging up my lawn every year looking for the white grub stage of this insect.
June bugs are not great flyers so I expect a lot of them end up in the water to be eaten by hungry trout. While natural insects make great bait, artificials are easy to tie. Although I am sure you can come up with your own imitation my attempt at imitating a June bug involves spinning reddish brown deer hair onto a hook and clipping it into a buggy looking shape. Add a brown calf tail wing and a few turns of brown hackle at the head and you are in business.
Presentation isn’t critical and you don’t need to be too delicate with your delivery. June bugs are fairly large insects and make quite a disturbance when they land in the water. You want to make some noise when your fly lands.
So, if you want to offer the trout something different at this time of year try fishing with some June bugs. You won’t be disappointed.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.