Black Flies, Big Bass and the Beautiful Boundary Waters

By on June 5, 2017

Ahh, alliteration - the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.  Alliteration is a great way to tie ideas together like black flies, big bass and the Boundary Waters. So what do these three ideas have in common?

The Black Fly

Let’s start with black flies.  Potential visitors to the Boundary Waters and Quetico seem to live in dread fear of these little bugs.  Thinking about these bugs all winter, fear of black flies can grow way out of proportion.  Why does this matter?  Black flies are most prominent from late May to the end of June, with the hatch lasting about two weeks.  That is the same time frame of some of the most prolific bass fishing in the Boundary Waters and Quetico!

So, let’s separate the myth from the bug.  What exactly are black flies?  Black flies are tiny flying insects that are members of the Simuliidae family in the Culicomorpha infraorder.  They are usually small, black or gray, with short legs and an antenna.  In general, they resemble a gnat.  They do tend to swarm and they can bite.

People have asked why God put black flies on our good earth.  Scientists believe that the black flies play an important role in the ecosystem food chain for fish, birds and bats.  Folklore has it that black flies act as pollinators for blueberry bushes, but no scientific evidence exists for this conclusion.

Protection from the Dreaded Black Fly

Those of you who have nightmares about black flies all winter, also probably have sweet dreams of catching big bass in Canoe Country.  Thus, the key becomes defeating the black flies in order to catch the big bass and not suffer the bites of the black flies.

  • Always have a head net with you and ready. Possibly the cheapest and lightest piece of equipment in your boat, it will also prove to be one of the most important if black flies are present. For times when you don’t have your head net on, keep your hat pulled down low.  For whatever reason, black flies like to bite you on the forehead just below the sweatband of your hat.
  • Cover your arms, legs, hands and neck. Usually, the weather in the BWCA is cool when the black flies are out, so this is not a problem.  Buffs offer good neck protection. Sun gloves will cover most of your hands without interfering with your fishing.  Cuff-less long sleeve shirts are best (so there is no opening in the bottom half of the sleeves).  If you are so inclined, you can also wear bug-repellent clothing.
  • Wear light colored clothing. Black flies seem to be more attracted to darker colors.
  • Have a good bug repellent with you.
  • Put your gear on and ignore the little buggers.  Knowing they can't bite you should give you peace of mind.

If you follow those five points, you will be in great shape to defeat the dreaded black flies and enjoy some early-season world-class bass (and other) fishing in the beauty of the Boundary Waters.

Paddle On.  Be Free.

Williams and hall outfitters ely mn

A few black flies swirl around Blayne Hall's hat.