– Hi Kjell! What’s this stupid little thing?
My fishing mate stood there with a priceless grin painted on his face. He had just found one of the weirdest looking emergers in my box, ready to lecture me on imitation. The fly was a variant I love to tie in winter, but rarely use during a summer hatch.
– It’s a mayfly emerger, I smiled back at him. It is a pattern with a well-documented efficiency. It’s a classic, but rarely used. It’s a Gary La Fontaine innovation.
A simple yet ingenious design
The emerger he held up against the light with noticeable disbelief was the Halo Mayfly Emerger. A simple pattern, but with an ingenious design based on careful studies. La Fontaine did not only study the naturals on the water, he and his mate Tom Poole actually went under water to study trout, insects and the efficiency of different imitations. The Halo Emergers (there are two variants) are the result of a painstakingly creative approach to understanding the fish, the bug and the imitations.
La Fontaine was a master, able to think out of the box and reach creative heights few others can. Conventions did not matter to him. His unique approach gave us several ingenious designs, among others are the Sparkle Pupae, the Deep Sparkle Pupae and the two different halo emergers.
It mesmerizes fish
Here’s the theory behind the Halo Mayfly Emerger, in Gary La Fontaines own words.
“The triggering characteristic on the Halo Mayfly Emerger is the spike of fluorescent orange deer hair canting upwards. Never mind that it is a wild improbable exaggeration of the budding wings (…) The spike is a great attention grabber. The fly has another powerful visual characteristic – the translucent foam pieces overlapping the thorax. The mayfly laying in the surface film, struggling to climb through the bulging escape hole in the nymphal shuck, shows a brief halo of light. The aura is created by the edges of the stretched skin and the natural air bubbles surrounding the thorax. This feature on either natural imitation not only attracts a trout but also seems to mesmerize him”
The truth behind a lens
I have never studied the halo myself, until this summer that is. I am running a project photographing and documenting insect life in one of “my rivers” in Trysil, Norway. I have shot a lot of bugs earlier, but never emerging insects. This summer I used more time photographing emerging mayflies than I actually fished with them.
In one of my sessions, I was lucky to find a good emergence of the Baetis and the Acentrella in a part of the river where the flow is such that it is possible to shoot them at normal shutter speeds.
As can be seen from the pics below, the emerging Acentrella has a clear halo surrounding the part that is about to break the film. Not possible to see with the eye (remember these buggers are 8-10 mm small), but with a good camera and a macro lens the halo is obvious. The halo effect is not an optical illusion or technical artifact. It is there for sure.