I stopped by a friend’s place on the lake on the way home tonight. There, scattered across his window like upright fall leaves were some hexagenia and brown drakes. Thus it starts. I can picture the scene out there on the lake. The guys out there trolling for walleye are seeing odd clouds on their sonars, not far off the bottom, accompanied by the hook marks of large fish. As the next ten days progress, these “clouds” will rise further and further through the water column, until the blanket hatches of hexagenia limbata cover the lakes. These hatches will then proceed up the rivers, much to the delight of fly fishermen.
Well, most fly fishermen. Several of my friends don’t like hexes. Me, I’m ambivalent. Hexes can be a blessing and, well, a hex. For about five weeks here in Trout Country they will dominate the fly fishing agenda, and the menu.
Here’s the problem with hexes. For at least three weeks, and usually five weeks, all trout activity will revolve around them. The weeks leading up to the Hex hatch can be fantastic, with trout looking up and ready to feed on anything. Daytime hatches can be rewarding, the streamer bite is still a go, and mousing can be hot. Then those darn bugs start to emerge, and everything changes. The fish become aloof. Anticipating the Big Event, you can lose hours of your precious sleep waiting for something to happen. If you miss the good nights, or the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can lose a lot of sleep and never quite catch it right. Mousing shuts down, and forget about fishing during the day—the fish, all of them, are laying on the bottom of the river scratching their bellies. Thanksgiving, for trout, happens in June.
For about ten days after the blanket spinner falls happen, the rivers will be very quiet. Then slowly the fish will start to re-appear, terrestrials will take on a growing importance, and the fishing, while slower than May and June, will improve.
But if you catch it just right, and the river gods smile upon you, you will find yourself standing in a Northern river in mid-June. The boreal sky will burn off to the north as ghostly pale shapes lift singly from the water, large as bats. The oily surface of the river will occasionally erupt as fish break ranks to take an emerger. Only when it is truly dark will you hear the whisper of wings in your ears, the sound of rising fish reaching a crescendo, the whole surface of the river convulsed by this feeding frenzy. You may catch nothing. You may catch a couple of fourteen inchers. If you wait until the initial spasm is over you may just hear the perfect sound. Not a splash or a gulp, but a sip or a slurp. You may catch the fish of a lifetime.
The hexes are coming.