The Buzzer

The Buzzer is a very important fly for the fly fisherman as it makes up a substantial part of the diet of trout. The correct name for the Buzzer is the Chironomid. It was given the name Buzzer by anglers due to the noticeable buzzing sound that the adult fly makes. The fly is similar to a mosquito, although the Buzzer is a non-biting insect.


  There are a number of phases in the lifecycle of the buzzer, many of which are important to the fly fisherman and numerous fly patterns have been devised to mimic these stages.


The adult fly mates in flight and lays its eggs whilst skimming over the surface of the water. Some species also lay their eggs directly on reeds or weeds. These eggs will hatch into the Chironomid larva of which there are different types, although the one of most interest to the angler is the free swimming type known as the bloodworm. The blood red colouration comes from the storage of oxygen in the blood of the larva. Bloodworms spend most of their time on the bottom of lakes under rocks or vegetation, although they do venture out into open water where they are prey to feeding trout.


One of my favourite imitations of the Bloodworm is a very simple tying consisting of red copper wire wound around a grub hook (about a size 10 or 8). I coat the hook in superglue before applying the red copper wire in touching turns. I finish with a few turns of black tying thread at the tail and head of they fly to ensure that the copper wire is nice and secure, before coating the entire fly in superglue or varnish. This fly cuts through the water very quickly and soon gets down to where it should be fishing, near the bottom.


  Buzzer larva change over time and mutate into the pupa. This stage is vital to the fly fisherman as trout feed heavily of buzzer pupa all year round and it’s a safe bet that buzzer pupa will be present in most fisheries, and usually in good numbers. The buzzer pupa comes in a variety of colours with black, brown and green being the most common. The pupa swims from the bottom of the lake up to the surface to hatch, and may make several journeys before finally choosing to hatch. During this time they are often stationary, suspended in mid water and easy prey for cruising trout.


  In order to make their ascent to the surface, the pupa fill air sacks within their skin for buoyancy. These air sacks can give the pupa a silvery appearance, and in my pupa patterns I like to use white flexi floss stretched over the tying thread (in the appropriate colour) and then coated with clear varnish in an attempt to mimic this.


  When hatching the pupa sits suspended in the water?s surface, a stage referred to by us anglers as the emerger. If you see trout breaking the surface with the classic head and tail rise it is likely that they are taking the fly in this emerging stage of the lifecycle. A great fly to represent this stage is the Shuttlecock buzzer. The Shuttlecock buzzer is tied as a normal buzzer pupa but is given its buoyancy by a bunch (usually 3 or 4) of CDC feathers folded over the thorax of the fly and protruding out from the head. The fly sits in the water?s surface, just as the natural insect would and the CDC makes the fly highly visible to the angler.


The golden rule when fishing buzzers is to fish them slowly! Many fly fishermen make the mistake of retrieving buzzers far too quickly. Remember, the pupa spend much of their time suspended in mid water and this is what we are attempting to imitate.


  On Lochs I usually fish from the bank and my first choice of method when targeting buzzer feeding trout, and when there is no sign of rising fish, is to fish two buzzer pupa, in sizes 12 and 14, on a fluorocarbon leader of about 13-15 feet. If the water is deep enough the flies will be weighted with lead wire to get them down to where the fish are lying. I look for a gentle side wind, preferably from left to right as I am right handed. After casting the flies out at a right angle to the wind I hardly retrieve the flies at all, letting the wind do most of the work, forming a bow in the line and gently swinging the flies around in towards the bank. It is important not to let this bow in the line get too big, as you will lose contact with the flies and takes will not be registered as quickly. Takes are detected from either a gentle weight on the line, or an arm wrenching tug that you cannot miss. Stock fish can tend to “pluck” at the flies before getting hold of the properly so don’t be tempted to strike too fast. Takes from wiser fish can be very gentle and you might not feel them at all. I like to keep a close eye on the fly line below the rod tip which will straighten out when a fish takes and this is a great way to spot takes that you may not otherwise have felt.


If there is no wind you will need to retrieve the buzzers. A very slow figure of eight retrieve is usually the most effective and again, I keep a close eye on the loop of line below the rod tip when retrieving. Also, experiment with different depths by counting the flies down before you begin retrieving. Try a few casts counting just 5 seconds before retrieving, then 10, 15 and so on. I usually find takes come between 20 to 30 seconds.


Another effective technique is to suspend the flies beneath a sight indicator. This can be useful as you will be able to control the depth more precisely and even gentle takes can be spotted easily. This method can be very effective but is often frowned upon, with many anglers likening it to float fishing.


When trout are taking the emerging buzzer I always reach for the Shuttlecock style of buzzer. Again, I stick with a tapered, fluorocarbon leader of about 13 feet and degrease the leader to help it sink and take of any shine. One method I have found very effective when fishing with Shuttlecock patterns is to give the line a couple of long pulls as soon as the fly lands. This can be a great attraction to trout, and takes often come just a couple of seconds after doing this. It also helps to sink the leader and straighten everything out, ensuring the fly is sitting correctly.


  For trout taking adult buzzers my first fly of choice would be the “F” fly, which is also good for imitating adult sedge. Other good patterns to represent the adult buzzer are the hopper and “bobs bits”. Most of the time I fish the adult fly static, although it can be productive to retrieve the dry flies, again with a slow figure of eight. Towards the end of the evening rise when low light makes it difficult to spot your flies, a gentle retrieve can be very effective and changing to a larger fly can also often bag you a bonus fish before it’s too dark to carry on.


I hope you have found this article helpful. Remember that the golden rule when fishing buzzers is to fish them as slowly as possible, even static. Once you start being successful and gain confidence in the method you can use it regulary to deadly effect. Tight lines!