New Insect Website Has Fly Fishermen Abuzz

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Fly fishers and science buffs get a detailed peek into the world of aquatic insects on the website, which was re-launched in late August. Its close-up photographs have sparked a new way of looking at rivers and the sport of fly fishing.

Internet blogs and message boards are abuzz this week with talk of flies -- fishing flies, and the insects they imitate. A new illustrated encyclopedia of mayflies and their aquatic kin is drawing crowds to, which site developer Jason Neuswanger re-launched in late August. Thousands of colorful close-up photographs of trout stream insects are stirring excitement both within and outside the fly fishing community.

Books have covered the site’s subject before, but Neuswanger says is different. “The best books were written before I was born,” notes the recent Cornell graduate, “and since that time technology has lifted some big limitations.” Several parts of the site use his new methods to make scientific concepts easier to understand. He describes one, “Maybe there’s some bug body part you don’t know -- like trochanter -- and you just click the word to see it highlighted in a photo.”

The insects’ behavior varies as much as their appearance, Neuswanger says. “Most kinds of insect can pop out of the river in three or four ways, and each one demands a different fishing technique. A little knowledge about each species goes a long way.” His site provides that knowledge, and its users seem pleased with the level of detail. “The fly fishing community needed a bug resource site like badly,” wrote one New Mexico angler.

Eric Peper, author of "Fly Fishing the Beaverkill," wrote that Neuswanger’s pictures comprise “a magnificent and valuable portfolio.” Fly tiers, the craftsmen who create fishing flies, use the photos as models to design better imitations. One Catskill tier on a popular message board described as “an unparalleled and spectacular site.” features landscape and underwater photography from trout streams, too. Neuswanger says this reflects a broader goal. “We overlook so much when we drive by these rivers or even stand in them. I want people to look more closely, to appreciate the drama.”

His message resonates with many who don’t fly fish. On the popular science blog Pharyngula, University of Minnesota, Morris biology professor P.Z. Myers highlighted as “an excellent example of how outdoor sportsmen can put together scientifically interesting information,” and wrote that it’s “full of photographs of the different organisms that might flit out of your nearby stream and park on your screen doors to weird you out.”

The featured insects -- mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies -- live most of their lives underwater, and then emerge in a synchronized event fly fishers call a “hatch.” Trout feed heavily during hatches, which make the insects more vulnerable, but there’s a catch: they only want the kind of insect that’s hatching. Anglers who “match the hatch” by imitating the insect du jour are more likely to succeed. helps with that task.

Most of concerns mayflies, which have been cultural symbols of fragility since the time of the ancient Greeks. Many live for just one day as adults. Neuswanger’s mayfly page reflects on their fate, “The mayfly's poignant drama attracts poets and fishermen alike, but fishermen make the most of it.”

About is one of the Internet’s largest and most popular trout fishing websites. Its central feature is an encyclopedic reference to aquatic insects, tailored for fly fishers who imitate them to catch trout. It also includes landscape photography, underwater photography, video clips, and a discussion board. A gift shop based on is located at Developer Jason Neuswanger launched the site August 2006, replacing an older version he created in 2004.


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