The cicada season is eagerly anticipated by many fly-fishermen in New Zealand, and for good reason. It's a time when previously wary big fish rise boldly through several feet of gin clear water to take large dry flies. Fish snouts poking through the surface and loud suction rises are memories lingering long after the season is over.
The species responsible for this annual hatch in the native bush is the ‘chorus’ or ‘clapping cicada’, Amphipsalta zealandica, which also happens to be the largest and noisiest of the forty or so New Zealand species. Two other species commonly found on bush streams are the greater and lesser bronze cicadas - known collectively as 'shade singers'.
Lesser Bronze Cicada
The long wings of chorus cicadas and shade singers are a predominant feature in the footprint of floating naturals, yet are often poorly replicated on commercially produced patterns.
When I began designing the Silicone Wing Cicada in 2004, I found the long wings impossible to imitate using standard wing materials. After much experimentation I discovered that organza fabric coated with a clear silicone sealant produces long, flexible realistic wings that hold their shape, are suitably tough, and do not twist tippets.
Chorus Cicada on water, from below
Lesser Bronze Cicada on water, from below
Greater Bronze Cicada on water, from below
Silicone Wing Cicada on water, from below
In designing the SWC, I was not only looking for a realistic imitation to better fool the fish I spotted, I wanted a fly that would float for long periods on different types of water and that I could easily see - in other words a prospecting pattern. Owing to the alluring power of cicadas, more than half of the brown trout I catch on cicada imitations are not sighted by me before they rise to the fly.
A trimmed foam cylinder proved to be the ideal abdomen as it has natural clean lines and the sealed cells of air keep the pattern floating all day without any maintenance. Other designs made entirely from spun deer hair tend to become water logged and impossible to see on busy water.
The SWC floats in the water's surface film with its wings partly submerged, much the same as actual cicadas do, as the part of the foam below the water line keeps the fly afloat. The elk hair over-wing helps the fly land upright and is easy for the angler to see.
For many years I named the SWC the 'Sparkle Wing Cicada' as I originally used Mylar organza to create the wing material. This fabric had flat pearl Mylar strands running lengthways (warp) and organza (nylon) fibres (in a range of colours) woven crossways (weft).
The corrugations in the Mylar organza provided some rigidity to the individual wings, much like corrugations do in roofing iron. I then experienced difficulty obtaining this fabric, and discovered standard organza which is easier to work with, sufficiently durable and just as effective. Given that it lacks corrugations I had to create both wings from a single piece of standard organza wing material, as this produced the 'backbone' stiffness necessary when bent around the curved upper surface of the abdomen.
Since the silicone coating was key to the success of this design, I renamed it the Silicone Wing Cicada.
In smaller sizes the Silicone Wing Cicada also makes an excellent 'shade singer' imitation.