HOME  PHOTOS  ARTICLES  CONTACT  ABOUT 

Fly Fishing Things

AQUATIC INSECTS AND HATCHES Back to Categories

Fly-Fishing Hatches.  Know what the trout are feeding on and when.

Hatches are an incredible experience. Fishing dry fly's when a hatch is happening is one of the euphoria's of trout fly-fishing.

flyfishingthings.com/hatch

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.

I'm not going to go into all of the entomological details of particular hatches and when they happen.  That is beyond the scope of this page. I will point however, 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. Early June, 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 in Delaney Buttes during bow hunting season. Then fall brings more caddis and mayfly hatches.  Note: May and June especially during runoff, Crane Fly Larva fishing can be phenomenal.  Of course every season will vary as to when hatches begin and end.

When hatches happen, trout begin to feed selectively. The wise fly-fisher immediately matches 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 beyond compare 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. 

Hatches can be sparse or profuse.  If the hatch is sparse then good.  If the hatch is profuse, then euphoria.

A Profuse Blue Wing Olive hatch on the Big Horn.
I have fished blue wing olive hatches on the Big Horn that were 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 breath 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 bug 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.

In the Big Horn during a hatch, schools of trout will gather in the 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 can be observed bobbing up and down taking fly after fly; never veering more than an inch or two from their position.  I have observed my exact imitation float within an inch or two of a feeding trout, and the trout didn't 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.

 The Big Horn has the most incredible hatches (and many of them) I have ever encountered. The picture above is an illustration of what a full blown hatch can look like. For current fishing conditions on the Big Horn, or to book a trip.
Another hatch phenomena.

 
Another phenomenon that can occur during a hatch is that the fish will feed until they are gorged and then quit. Makes sense.   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. 

Here's a circumstance you'll most likely encounter some time in your fly fishing career.  If you happen to arrive at a stream while the hatch is happening and right after this phenomenon, you may go crazy trying to figure out why the fish are not taking your fly.  Been there, done that. 

Recognizing the beginning of a hatch.
 
You can recognize the beginning of a hatch when a significant number of rises begin to increase.  Scenario. flyfishingthings.com/hatch with troutYou 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 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 tends to get fixated on a particular bug. In order to be successful, you have to figure out which one it is the trout want.

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.  Also, here is a link to Western trout hatches courtesy of Orvis.