Observations and a simple recount of the Fall River in late June. Note hatch times and locations for future reference.
Following the hatch via lurking certain internet boards:
June 17 – A few bugs noted coming off
June 18 – More bugs hatching
June 19 – Tons of bugs hatching, but few fish keyed in on it
June 22 – “It went off last night”
June 25 – “The hex hatch is in full swing…”
June 27 – I arrive….
It was still dark when I left the house Sunday morning. The drive over 299 was routine and efficient – arriving on the river just in time for the morning PMD hatch. I made it well upriver from Island Road noting that the river was as busy as I’d ever seen it, but everyone was friendly and still plenty of room to fish. I spent the morning chasing fish starting with PMD spinners which always seem to be on the water particularly in the morning starting around 8:30 or so. By 10:30 or so, a few duns dotted the water and I switched over to an emerger and finally a sparkle dun and started raising a few fish. By about 2:00 it seemed to be winding down – a little later than normal? Not a heavy hatch and the fish were not consistent and many of them were moving around in the wide, shallow area I fished in the uppermost reach below Spring Creek bridge. During these sparser hatches and on the wide, open reaches, the fish are masters at staying just out of casting reach – but these are the fun places to fish. My experience is that the first bend above Island Road is the most dependable for fish surface feeding more on station and more dependably day in and day out. However, the fish density in the upper reach, about a half mile or so below Spring Creek bridge is ASTOUNDING. At mid-day with overhead sun and wide, shallow area, the river is one big trout garden. To think that this river can support that many fish is mind-boggling. Many rainbows push steelhead size and it leaves me hoping for a heavy PMD hatch that will get many of these fish up and going with rhythm and in one place. One of these days….
But I came for the evening Hexagenia limbata party. I had tried in the past to get it right, but missed it. Access to the lower river is difficult in my little electric boat. For this trip, I had secured access from a farmer willing to let me drop my boat in for a fee. The spot would put me right in the middle. During the morning, I had queried a local angler on the hex and my launch site plans. He was puffing a cigarette, shaking his head, “It was fuckin’ crazy last night. You put your boat in there, you’re right in the middle of it.” I was stoked…
Here’s what I noted in two evenings of fishing the hex hatch.
(1) You will see a few bugs hatching before the sun is down. They are HUGE and can be seen from across the river. The fish will not be on them, and the birds will grab them up quickly.
(2) You will not be alone. Boats will come from above and below and seemingly converge on your specific location. The reality is that boats are converging on the entire river – this is a big annual event for many people. There is plenty of room. Still, though, I could do without the excessively chatty boats breaking the calm evening.
(3) While waiting you can catch fish stripping a hex nymph. Even suckers will grab these stripped flies!
(4) The sun will set and you will wonder if it’s even going to happen.
(5) Just when you think it’s time to give up and go home, thinking you missed the hatch again this year, seemingly over a span of less than five minutes the river will go from glassy calm to literally frothing with every fish in the river grabbing emerging hex duns from the surface. The river is carpeted with these bugs, barely visible in the fading light. It happens fast! Put it this way: I haven’t gotten the shakes while fishing in a long time. A fly placed in the masses of naturals is like playing the lottery. In my crude estimation, there was probably an average of about 15-20 bugs per square meter of water – and with the water barely moving along, this makes for a lots of bugs swimming up through the water column. Grabs are few and every time you look up to take it all in, you miss a grab. There is no time for taking pictures, reflecting on it all, seeing how the neighboring boat is doing, thinking about what you’re going to eat when you get home… The air hums with swarming hex adults, and the river sounds like it’s turned into a washing machine. Within about 45 minutes, legal fishing time has passed, the rises take on a mellower tone and it’s time to call it quits. On the way back, every nook and cranny of the river has fish slurping bugs off the surface. Judging by the sounds of their rises, probably switched over to spinners.
(6) Arrive in the morning and the river is awash in nymphal shucks. Giant hex spinners have adhered to pieces of floating vegetation by the dozens. Along at least one bank, fish still slurp in the spinners. Next time I will try getting on the water at first light to see if there is more of an appreciable feed on the spinners. However, I did raise and land a few fish around 9:00 or 10:00 using a hex dun (I didn’t have any hex spinners in my boxes).
(7) Night two, the hatch comes off a little lighter (though still heavy in anyone’s books), the fish not quite as furious and a breeze kicks up in the middle of it all. Stripping nymphs prior to the hatch saved the evening for me. I got the sense that the fish here had their fill over the previous nights and the hatch was moving upstream above the Tule River (?).