backswimmer illustration

    Backswimmers -- Eaten by trout and other freshwater fish; fly fishermen try to imitate insects by using artificial "flies".

    Fly Fishing is the favorite pastime for many men, women, and children for a reason. It’s because it is almost like drifting along, floating on your back without the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is no insect that really knows how to embody the idea of swimming along without a care in the world like the backswimmer.


Beadhead Rubber Leg Prince Nymph imitates the Backswimmer

The name "backswimmer" may be pretty self-explanatory; but for those of you who are reading this Monday morning, it is an insect that all types of game fish love to feast upon. They swim around on their backs like they own every body of water lucky enough to be infested by them. If they swam right-side-up, you’d be hard pressed telling them from water boatmen. And if you were a fish, you would probably laugh just before gobbling one up.

backswimmer adult

Backswimmers are a "true bug" which means that they (like the water striders, water bugs, milweeed bugs, and Assassin bugs) have modified piercing and sucking mouthparts that are mainly used to suck plant juices.

Backswimmers are part of the Notonectidae family of insects. They are relatively large, full bodied insects which make them a particularly coveted treat amongst surface eaters. They suck leaves for a living but they are also predatory toward animals as large as tadpoles and even small fish! They are owners of a ferocious bite, and will sometimes inflict the unwary human with a bite from their powerful jaws if you aren't careful. The bite hurts because this bug injects enzymes and other chemicals to paralyze its prey and then begins extra-oral digestion. Are we having fun yet? Call your physician for medical advise and treatment.

If you get backswimmers and/or water boatmen in your swimming pools there are several options to rid yourself of them; shock the pool and use a product such as Corian Bug-Away; get BioGuard brand Back-Up algaecide and put the whole bottle in your pool; or the natural method -- turn on your pool light and wait until they swim towards it (they will), then scoop them up with a net.

The Notonectidae family of insects have a very distinguished look, which is augmented by there relatively large size, and the fact that they swim on their backs utilizing a pair of greatly over-sized hind legs to kick through the water at impressive speed. Many “flies" that fisherman love to utilize are modeled after these fresh water delectables, and their most important distinguishing feature would have to be a large, oblong body with a huge appendage sticking out on each side. A couple of over- sized red eyes wouldn't hurt either.

a backswimmer doing the backstroke

If you are out fly-fishing for freshwater game, then grab a few backswimmer modeled flies. Hopefully, the fish will never know the difference 'til it's too late!

Click here for al list of the most popular fly patterns from around the U.S.


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