The Hex Hatch The most highly anticipated may fly hatch in Michigan is the hex hatch. These big mayflies bring the largest fish in the river up to the surface to feed. Hexagenia Limbata is a floating filet mignon to a trout. Therefore the Hex Hatch, whether duns or spinners probably produces more large trout […]
Fly Patterns for Michigan Hatches
I remember way back (45 years ago) when I was learning to fly fish out west, the most intimidating facet of the sport was bugs. Pale Morning Duns, Blue Wing Olive, Green Drakes, I had no idea what these were or how to proceed in learning more.
Fast forward 35 years. One night during Hex and Brown Drake (the big bugs) season my son, Zach, was wade fishing while I was on the water, working. When all the guides and customers gathered in a friend’s garage Zach was showing a picture of a nice brown that he landed that night. A customer of one of the other guides asked Zach “how did you know what fly to use”? Watching from across the room I wanted to make sure that Zach was polite and respectful. He said to the angler “ just a moment sir, I’ll be right back”. Minutes later he returned with his fly box, opened it and told the angler “I catch the bug that the fish are eating, set it in my fly box and pick the bug that looks like the natural”! At 10 years old he had that figured out. Read more
The Hendrickson Hatch is the first major mayfly hatch of significance. It usually arrives around opening day in Northern Michigan. Being a size 12 or 14 it is a big bug that hatches at the beginning of the season. Many times on the Ausable below Mio dam, or the Upper to Lower Manisttee I’ve encountered good hatches and spinner falls during the same float. Getting two bites at the dry fly apple with big fish rising is a great day.This larger morsel brings good fish to the surface! Hendricksons are the first and one of the best.
Like all of our mayflies Hendricksons hatch and spin during the best time of day. In the case of hendricksons most hatches occur mid afternoon (the warmest time of day) however on some rivers there can be a pre-emergence around 11:00 in the morning. This is why Hendricksons have the nickname of the gentlemen’s hatch. You can stay up late playing cards and drinking and still be on the water when the action starts! The spinner fall is usually in the early evening before temps fall to low. The Hendrickson mayfly is one hardy little guy. I’ve seen hatches where I had duns landing in my boat on three inches of snow. Read more
Starting as early as mid May these size 10 or 12 mayflies are the first really big bug to show up. Gray Drakes spin at dusk generally in large numbers over riffles.
Gray Drakes are very easy to identify, the have a thin body and a very visable white stripe around the head.
Isonychias, are the best mayfly for anglers in Michigan! In Michigan, and elsewhere, the Isonychia mayfly provides the best dry fly opportunities of the year. That’s heresy to many in fly anglers in Michigan, who would argue vehemently that the mighty Hex beats Isonychias hands down. Isonychias are the best mayfly in Michigan for many […]
Many anglers that I know in Northern Michigan consider the Sulphur hatch to be the very best hatch of the year. It is a fairly long and usually very prolific hatch. It can last as long as a month in northern Michigan. Due to the usually large numbers of bugs, Sulphurs will produce some very large fish for the size of the dry fly.
There are two Sulphurs, the Ephemerella invaria and the dorothea. The first to hatch the invaria is a size 12-14 and the next bug, dorothea is a size 16-18. Don’t worry, that’s the last of the Latin!
What you really need to know about sulphurs follows. It is good to carry Sulphurs from size 12 to 18. I’m a big fan of the Robert’s Yellow Drake pattern and use it primarily for my sulphur imitation. I carry it in all four sizes. Hatch times vary by bug and weather but look for them anytime from mid afternoon until dark for the little guys. Fish can get very selective on these flies. At times you may encounter duns of one size hatching and spinners of another size falling at the same time. They can also get focused on emergers of any size. Close observation is key here.
Speaking of spinners, they are a different color than the duns. Instead of the sulphur yellow they spin having changed to a tannish to rusty color. So again you need to have three or four sizes of rusty spinners. Sulphurs will spin over riffles very late in the day, even at dark.
To effectively fish the Sulphur hatch a fly angler should have emergers, duns and spinners in at least two sizes, 14 and 18. It is better to carry them in all four sizes, 12-18 if possible. You should be on the water by 3:00 pm and stay until close to dark. You need to be very observant because this time of year is generally the most complex time of year hatch wise. In addition to all of the sulphurs there are many other mayflies that may be present.
Good luck, see you on the water.
Double Fly Rig
There are times when trout are rising that you are unable to determine what fly they are eating. There are also times that trout aren’t rising much or at all that you would still like to catch fish. There is a tactic that we use to combat both of these situations. It’s the double fly rig.
Many or most of you have used or heard of the “hopper-dropper rig”. That is attaching a bead head nymph to a hopper pattern and using the hopper as your strike indicator. It can be very effective at times. It works because you are presenting two different food sources in different water columns at the same time.
Two Dry Flies
We use the same method with two dry flies. This can be the same fly with two different life stages, two completely different flies or the same fly times two! It is deadly effective during a hatch, especially a light one. By presenting an emerger and a dun you are covering both bases. The emerger attracts lots of attention because mayflies are vulnerable at that stage.
This method is also valuable during complex hatches. That’s when there are several different bugs on the water at the same time and trout are eating but you are unable to determine which bug they are eating. This can be common in June when there are several different mayflies possible during the evening. Sulphurs spinning along with bat flies doing the same, Isonychias hatching and/or spinning and maybe Brown Drakes. All of this occurring at dark. It can be tough to figure out which morsel the fish are eating!
To present two dry flies at once tie a piece of tippet to the bend of the hook using an improved clinch knot. Make sure you moisten the monofilament prior to cinching it down to maintain maximum strength. See the video that explains how to tie this below.
The size of the tippet should be either be the same size as the tippet being used on the first fly or one size smaller. I make the decision on size based on two things. If I’m worried about losing two flies I use the smaller monofilament so if I hook the bottom fly on something and need to break it off I have a chance of saving the top fly. If I’m casting to or searching for big fish I will put both flies at risk so that I have stronger tippet.
Try this method, you’ll find it works!