Hatches are an incredible experience. When (not if) you get to fish dry flies during a hatch you will know what the meaning of euphoria is. Dry fly fishing is so much fun anyway, but during a hatch it’s phenomenal. While fly fishing a hatch you become deluded into thinking you’re one hell of a fly-fisherman. After all you’re taking fish after fish on a dry fly. This is normal. Don’t be deluded, however, catching trout during a hatch is easy-if you have the right fly on.
With the exception of flying ants and grasshoppers a “hatch” is the culmination of the insects’ life wherein they emerge from their aquatic environment to mate, deposit eggs, (to begin another life cycle), and die. The insect emerges (hatches) from his sub aquatic body to an adult insect in the surface film on the top of the water. After mating in the air they deposit their eggs in the water then becoming weak they land back on the water and die. This is called a spinner fall, and it too is sort of a hatch.
Hatches can be sparse or profuse: If the hatch is sparse then the fishing will be good. If the hatch is profuse; then you enter into fly-fishing heaven.
When hatches happen, trout begin to feed selectively. The wise fly-fisher will immediately go to his fly box and match the hatch. If correctly matched a bout of euphoria descends from fly-fishing heaven. On the other hand, if the fly fisherman does not have a matching imitation; then–a bout of frustration will begin to well up within the sole. That is not to say, you can’t catch a trout during a hatch if you don’t have a fly that matches the hatch; you can;…just not as often.
Recognizing the beginning of a hatch.
You can recognize the beginning of a hatch when a significant number of rises begin to increase. Scenario. You have been fishing for a while; occasionally catching a fish here and there with no activity on the surface when you notice a fish rise, then another, and another. Soon it seems like every fish in the area is eating something. As this happens, observe the air above the water and see if there are any flying insects, or look at the surface of the water and see if you can identify any floating insects in the surface film. Also, check your waders at the water line to see if any bugs are on your waders. Many times the hatching insect will grab anything they come into contact with. When you identify what it is the fish are eating, tie on the imitation and have at it.
Tip: If you’re fishing a hatch and line a fish, don’t worry; the fish will not stay down for long. The fish become so fixated on what they’re eating, that eating overcomes fear, and their right back gulping insect after insect.
Duration of a Hatch.
Hatches can be short lived or last all day. It depends on the variety of the bug, the intensity of the hatch, water temperature and weather conditions relevant to the hatch.
There may be multiple hatches (different bugs hatching), or overlapping hatches (one hatch ending while another begins) occurring all together at the same time. When this happens, the trout still tend to get fixated on a particular bug. In order to be successful, you have to figure out which one it is the trout want.
A hatch phenomenon.
A phenomenon that can occur during a hatch is that the fish will feed until they are gorged and then quit. Makes’ sense. Seems logical. If that happens you can forget about catching them with anything other than a hand grenade. Go to your camper and have a sandwich or tie some flies. If you happen to arrive at a stream (or lake) while the hatch is happening and right after this phenomena; you may go crazy trying to figure out why the fish are not taking your fly.
Been there, done that.
Remember, hatches occur as the natural order of things in a trout’s life. Hatches are incredibly fun to fish, and you would be wise to find out when, what type, where, and for how long they will happen in your area. Your local fly shop, (if it’s any good at all) should have that information available.
Hatches in Colorado.
Here are some of the significant hatches that I have fished year in and year out in Colorado.
Spring brings Chironomidae Midges and Callibaetis mayflies in lakes and reservoirs, and stone flies in the rivers. Note: May and June especially during runoff, Crane Fly Larva fishing can be phenomenal. Early June come the Caddis, Mayflies and especially large Green drakes on the Frying Pan. Late June to the first week in July, Big Caddis sedges and damsel flies. Nothing much happens in August unless you’re high in the mountains. My September secret is crawdad fishing at Delaney Buttes (west of Walden in north park) East Lake during bow hunting season. Yeah. Little baby crawdads are everywhere. Just catch one and tie a pattern to match and you’ll become a happy camper. Fall brings more caddis and mayfly hatches. During winter (when the days are warm enough) midge-emergers are the ticket.
A Profuse Blue Wing Olive hatch on the Big Horn.
I encountered a blue wing olive hatch on the Big Horn River that was so profuse, each square foot of water contained over two dozen insects. As far as you could see up or down the river, the water was covered with blue winged olives. I have never observed hatches anywhere else that are even remotely similar to the hatches on the Big Horn. It’s the same in the fall when the black caddis hatch. You can’t even breathe with your mouth open or you’ll be endanger of swallowing a caddis.
When fishing a hatch like that you must be able to see exactly where your fly lands on the water, because if you don’t, the trout may take the insect next to your fly, and you’ll risk putting the fish down when you set the hook thinking it was your fly. Normally that would be a big problem, but not during a hatch. There are so many fish feeding, it’s easy to pick out another target and cast to it.
During the hatch, schools of trout gathered in prime feeding lanes to feed, and because there are so many fish in one place close together, each individual fish tend to hold in a really tight area. Their heads could be observed bobbing up and down taking fly after fly, never veering more than an inch or two from their position. I watched my exact imitation float within an inch or two of a feeding trout, and the trout didn’t even give it a second glance because there were so many flies on the water. In order to catch that trout, I had to float the fly into his mouth!…which I did. As I recall the hatch lasted about an hour. I had a hookup on ever cast I made (if I got it into the trout’s feeding lane)until the hatch died off. Man, that was fun. And it’s like that every time you fish a hatch.
The Big Horn has the most incredible hatches (and many of them) I have ever encountered.
Every stretch of healthy water has hatches on it through out the year. Go to your local fly shop and ask them about the local hatches. They’ll be happy to give you the information. After all there job is to sell flies and fly-fishing equipment and to keep you coming back.