I wonder how many gallons of gas, how many miles, days,
months or years have been spent by fly anglers trying
to hit the hatch. The Big Hatch.
It could be Hendricksons in the east or midwest (in fact
we had friends from Pennsylvania who desperately tried to
extend their Hendrickson hatch by driving to Michigan in
hopes of hitting it again - or at all).
Not as wide spread, the Hex Hatch (Hexegenia lambata) is
loved and hated at the same time. These big bugs, misnamed
the Michigan Caddis, are a mayfly. They hatch at night from
silt or mud sometime in June. Or July. It's not uncommon
(since there are so many people trying to hit the hatch on
weekends) to get home from work, grab a lunch, the thermos
filled with coffee and drive a hundred miles - or more, in
hopes of hitting the hatch. It can be an absolutely perfect
day, everything looks good, drive to the Au Sable or Manistee,
stake out a spot on the river and . . .the temperature drops
twenty degrees - or it rains and the hatch doesn't come off.
You can only make that after-work trek so many times
unsuccessfully before it begins to wear thin. As I recall
two weeks was about the limit. Two hundred miles a night
round trip, with work the next day. If you just happened to
hit it right? It got worse. People called in sick and slept
in their cars to make sure they didn't miss it that night.
The Michigan anglers aren't any more crazy than others. There
are those who make an annual trip to Henry's Fork of the Snake.
People from all over the US and overseas. Possible are the Brown
Drake, Gray Drake and Green Drake. I say possible because
depending on the water levels, the amount of flood or run-off
and scouring of the river bed, temperature and a multitude of
other factors known only to God, you can have one, two or all
three. The problem on Henry's is something called a "blanket
hatch." So many insects hatching, in the air, on the water,
emerging, spent - all at one time that your poor little imitation
drake doesn't have a chance of being seen. Seen? Not by the
fish - by you! Well, the fish probably won't find it either.
Worse is chasing the 'gulpers' on Hebgon Lake near West Yellowstone,
Mt. This is getting both the hatch and the trout (not counting
weather, wind and such) to coincide. The bugs are small, (size
18 Tricorythodes) The big fish come out to suck them up from
the surface, noses out of the water, mouth open sucking the
bugs in like a water-borne vacuum cleaner. The angler is either
wading along the lee side of the lake, or in a boat or a personal
floatation device. Check the wind direction. Spot the fish.
Find the bugs. If you are in luck, the tricos will be in
wind-rows on the lake. Guess which direction the fish is/was
moving. Cast. Cast again. This one can last a month or so.
Then we have the various Stone flies. These are available mostly
in the west, and include the Yellow or Golden Stone, the Skwala,
and the famous Salmon Fly. I've not fished the Oregon rivers on
their stone flies, but I understand they are day hatching. None
of the stone flies actually hatch like we think of other hatches.
The insects crawl out of the water and molt on land, usually
branches of shrubs, trees or even under bridges. Once winged,
they are off to mate and back to the river to lay their eggs.
Big trout who normally are not seen in daylight show up. They
are still sucking up spent flies at night, as well as patrolling
the banks looking for the crawling insects which are still in
the water. We're talking big fish here that will cover a couple
of miles of river a night.
In Montana, fishing this hatch becomes an underground group with
connections everywhere in the state. If the Salmon flies are
starting to come off on the Madison, where? Tomorrow they will
be coming off a few miles further downstream, depending on water
temperature, rain, run-off, air temperature and probably phase
of the moon. There are phone calls. Lots of phone calls.
Varney Bridge last night you say? We managed to hit it a
couple of times on the Yellowstone River around the 4th of
July - which unfortunately in most years also marks the
high-water stage on the Yellowstone. But you might get lucky.
What is all the madness of chasing the hatch about? This has
to be more than an ancient hunter-gatherer thing. Is it about
the challenge? Trying to figure all the variables and succeeding?
Perhaps just wanting to be part of 'something?' There certainly
isn't any guaranteed outcome on hatch chasing. Catching a huge
brown trout is possible. It does happen. Usually on one of the
big hatches - probably at night.
I must tell you as I write this I am smiling. Wandering around
in the middle of the night on some trout stream may not be your
idea of something neat to do, but if you've ever done
it - successfully - you probably are smiling too.
Maybe that is what it is about - the pursuit of happiness.
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!