Monday, July 5, 2010

Hex Hatch Imminent?

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I had been searching unsuccessfully for Brown Drakes before being gone for over a week. I haven't seen any since getting back, either. That has been frustrating because last year they had begun hatching in mid-June.
The good news, though, is that, according to Westfly/Washington, this is the month. Maybe I haven't missed it after all.
Now, I've been calling these giant mayflies Brown Drakes, based on the Orvis Streamside Guide by Dick Pobst. I've heard others use the same name for them. Westfly, however, says that Brown Drakes hatch on rivers, and that the "Big Yellow Mayfly" on lakes is the Hexagenia Limbata. OK, maybe I'll start calling them "Hexes."
Here's what Westfly says:
About Hexagenia Limbata
Among the largest of American mayflies, Hexagenia limbata inhabits some lakes and slow sections of a few rivers. Hatches usually start between May and early July, depending on the local climate; I've seen them hatch in May on the Oregon coast, mid-June in California, and July in the Cascade mountains. The hatch season can last anywhere from three weeks to two months.
Because the nymphs burrow into silty bottoms and only come out to feed at night, it makes no sense to fish a nymph imitation until the hatch season, and even then you need to restrain yourself until near dusk because the hatch doesn't start until the sun kisses the horizon.
An hour or two before the hatch starts, go to water that is less than ten-feet deep. Use a weighted fly or lead on the leader, and let the your nymph settle to the bottom. Pull it up two or three feet, pause, then let it settle back down; repeat this several times before casting again. Sometimes this takes a trout, but mostly it gives you something to do while you're waiting for the actual hatch.
Hatches begin just before sunset, so take a flashlight with you. When you see duns on the surface, forget the nymph and tie on a dry. Cripple imitations can be especially productive during the hatch. Occasionally impart some action to the fly; the naturals can be quite active.
Spinners are not important to anglers.
In an article on the same site, Scott Richmond writes:
July is time for Hexagenias, the mayfly the size of a Cadillac.
Hexagenias are persnickety bugs. They only live in a few stillwaters or slow-moving rivers, and if the weather isn't to their liking they just figure the hell with it and don't emerge in significant numbers. A cold spring and June can delay the hatch--maybe even put it off for the entire season. So before you pack up your hopes and your tackle, make a few phone calls to fly shops and resorts; find out if the bugs are really hatching this year.
Emphasis mine. I prefer to think that the hatch has merely been delayed, and that the sublime joys of catching big trout on big dries is still ahead, even imminent.
That part about the hatch being put off for the entire season? I'll just pretend I didn't see that.


  1. Me too. It worked well, but I find anything big and bushy works well when they're on those big mays. Thanks for the comment.