Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hex Hatch, or An Exercise in Frustration

Those who ply the trout waters of the Midwest are aware of the mayfly Hexagenia limbata, or "Hex" for short. It's the largest mayfly known, and when it hatches, it draws the largest trout in the stream out of hiding. Clouds of them have been known to show up on Doppler radar on Lake Erie and along the upper Mississippi.

It goes about 2 1/2-3 inches long with the tails (that's 6-8 cm for those of you living in advanced cultures), ranges from a dusty brown, to buttery yellow, to an off-white tan. Hatches usually start in my home state in early June in the South-West and progress North and East over the next six weeks or so. The bugs generally start to come off of the water at dusk shortly after the whippoorwills start singing and continue to come off until after midnight. This generally means that in order to fish the hatch, you have to fish in the dark. Doing so can be very challenging even on a stream you know well. It is downright dangerous and stupid on a stream you don't, and don't even think about going if the water is high.

So what do I see on the screen of my cottage this past Friday morning?

For those of you who don't know mayflies, the grayish object at the bottom is the husk of the mayfly's original adult form, the dun. It has molted into a spinner, the form in which it will mate, lay its eggs (if it's a female), and die.

Normally, this would excite me no end: there's a passably good trout stream a few miles away, which I think would play host to these bugs. And I know the stream pretty well.

Problem is, it's been raining like hell for 2 weeks, and the streams are all over their banks, and not likely to come down soon.

(grinds teeth) Bloody weather.

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