What a June it has been, and as predicted, we are seeing our finest Hex Hatch in likely seven or more years! Fishing pressure each year steadily grows with the ease of big fish bounty offered by the floating proteins, but still begs for the most elementary disciplines needed to call ones self a dry fly angler on the darkside. All things considered, it has been some time since my boat has done as many fish over 24” in one hatch as this one passing, water temps being way too high, the last couple of days, I chose to call off my trips unlike some outfits that guide at the fisheries expense! With Da Hex Hatch slipping now, we begin focusing on “THE HUNT” for a goodie, where not only ones cast and mend needs to be in check, but also his prowess in not needing a fish feeding off the oar locks to get the job done… MOUSIN & Terrestrials will take center stage for the next few months, and it couldn’t come soon enough as my boat is stinking of dead Hex. Watch your water temps before fishing… Any temperatures at or over 69 degrees and your killing trout, which is just fine if your planning on eating it, but if you’re a catch and release fisherman or woman… Just stay in the AC till the river rebounds. This has been a very hot June by all standards, and the cool offs on the incoming aren’t that cool. Those browns can live way too long to chance killing them for a single encounter!
Hex Hatch 2018 was a dandy… 6 fish at or over 24” in my ship this season last couple/few weeks with almost a few dozen over 20”, makes it the best big fish season on hatch flies in likely as many years! Last years hatch was a bust with the water flows being HUGE, and the year before the cool held back allot of the bugs, but this year, everything was just right… Hex Hatch is a time for someone with little time or skill to put themselves in a higher probability of catching a real trout without the expense of several trips to the river, or even a better skill set to “HUNT ONE UP”. Holding a dead drift up to 15’, with a cast just beyond that, with just a basic hook-set in check are the only prerequisites for success. When a fishes position is known, and even his forage being painfully obvious, with a drunk like feeding campaign, it’s not hard to convert on a fish who’s skirt is so far over it’s head, it becomes almost “Hexementary” in the ease of presenting to a fish of such caliber. Knowing where the big ones feed comes in real handy, but the thing I’ve noticed most in the boat for better success with folks not used to hearing such a fish rise, is to simply curve the Buck Fever an angler fights while waiting for his bug to be chosen over the thousands floating down. Hook-sets are the end game of presentation, and I feel as if too many people pucker at that moment when a fish has found your pattern; I mean I can actually see their but cheeks tighten up when the shoe drops! Calm down and gather yourself before that first cast… Finesse & Timing are the core disciplines in this great sport, and there is nothing finessed about a hook-set that winds up 20’ in a tree behind us; or a wiffle ball bat like swing that would otherwise have broken the fish off, or if nothing else startled the fish so much it would just assume quit feeding. Much like a shopping spree, one can get caught up in the frenzy of fishing the high pay off, shortened windows, and darkened arena the HEX HATCH offers. If you have a bad heart… Hex Fishing may not be for you as it is quite exciting hearing such a fish rise with frequency so very close… Which reclusive and larger brown trout are not known to do ANY OTHER TIME! This years’ success has the book already filling for next June… If you would like to participate next year, do give a jingle and we’ll get you in the book for the World Series of Dry Fly Hatches… Hex Hatch 2019! Thanks for a fantastic Hatch folks… Gonna start flipping to the Terrestrial Scene, which includes a mouse, for the next few months. Hex 2018 Is A Wrap!!!
Fishing all over the river right now you can find some level of the Hex Hatch as it has now migrated into the far upper reaches of the system. Eric Filton got our largest fish on a Hex in the Flies Only section at 25.5” this year. Though lighter in fly densities, the audience that would consider it as fine dining is much higher; so when a Hex Fly hits the water midday, morning, or dark… Trout in those sections don’t let too many pass them by. Even when few are present, the pattern is potent! Stone fly patterns have been knocking the cover off the ball for me this May and June, and where The Darkside is my real cup of tea, the daytimes are a favorite for the clients with normal schedules. Giant goldens are just about everywhere, and when fished correctly with the lights on, and much further from the boat, with leaders that exceed rod lengths… Things get very productive and fun. Save the early mornings and sunset hours, few capitalize on the distance needed to really pick locks when the lack of shadows and reclusive nature of the brown are working against you. Casting a line will always be better than trying to shoot one, and if your fishing as much leader as fly line, you may prefer night fishing more as their window of awareness is cut in half. If you are looking to improve your daytime game with dries, simply fish them further. Between Iso, Stone, Terrestrial, and assorted nymphing strategies, there is some real opportunity out there right now, but with the water not being of spring flow or clarity, ones ability to fish away from station is very needed to present a fly before the fish is aware of your presence. Casting is a huge piece of the puzzle when putting together the day game, and you would be hard pressed to find a better fishing/casting instructor in this state. Ask around if you need some reassurance, but I don’t want your check as much as I want to see you get better at it… If you learn how to fly fish, you may actually have fun with it, and that leads to an addiction far beyond the two days a year too the river fighting your presentations, instead of becoming creative with them. Front row seat to all kinds of casting and angling instruction is what we offer, or we can go down and cast any which way and look for woodpeckers… or even a nice mix of both… It’s your day on the water… Not mine. With as many rookie guides around these days, who may be able to take you through the same sections, picking a guide that not only wants you to excel, but has the know how to convert you into a better angler will always outweigh the one who simply wants a pay day while they shine you on. Expertise is the only service we offer as guides; and to be honest, most of my clients have allot more expertise than most of the kid guides around here, (which is just public knowledge); save a couple I know coming out very soon who will reset the rookie bar to what it should be. Terrestrial season is a fantastic time to learn the basics and still have a great time in great weather… We can always save a few hours each run to keep you out of the canoe hatch and allow for some lower light into dark approaches for a sampler package… I’ll bring dinner too…
Following our bigger hatch season here on the PM… Sulfurs, Grays, & Hex all but in the rear view, we beg for a take without knowing the when and where of it; but cast with the faith needed to convert when it does. ISO are a great way to develop dead drift skills and still keep smaller to average browns looking up all day long right now. Fattened and light in color, the emerger is a kryptonite for the daytime feed, but should be fished on tippets matched to the pattern itself, but be mindful of the white gloves if the populations shift. One can get pretty heavy when fishing some of the bigger stones we are, and will be fishing all the way into August, yet fishing the impending Trico is total about face in tippet. Same with terrestrials… Each bug should have a recommended tippet based on the clarity, levels, time of year, and even the size of the bug being fished. We fish goat rope at night because the light is lower, in the same respect we fish much lighter tippets when the sun is up, but one also needs to consider wind drag when fishing the midday; this because too light of a tippet, on a bigger bug, will cause allot of twist and hassle. Casting and mending are all fine and good, and very much needed, but your rigging should be considered as much about the presentation as the mend itself.
Terrestrials have been fishing very well already, and I’m not sure really what doesn’t work if presented far enough away from station, and then fished with proper presentations; because at some point or another, it’s all gotten smacked. Yellow bellied anythings will last until the passing of the Stones, but still pass nicely as a hopper later on with some nice Dave’s Hopper. Spider count on the river this year is impressive, and the damsel fly count is even higher. Though considered an aquatic, the damsel is as much or more a terrestrial in its holding pattern, and that point should be factored in once a rising trout has keyed on them. Fun to watch a brown take damsels, and if you do notice one, take the time to watch the acrobatics it will offer in hopes of the smaller looking dragon. Of course oak hoppers are doing very well, and the bigger red legs will be around I’m guessing very soon with all the heat we’ve been enduring this past week. Ants will fish today after a nice popcorn shower we got, and beetles always have their moments. Water temps are terribly high right now, but look to stabilize this week… Till then, give’em a break and let them get through this sketchy period of low O2, this, the hottest summer in sometime. It’s been really great working with all of you in daylight this past couple months, focusing presentation and casting skills. Lately, I’ve had a strong number of my newer clients coming into their groove, and it’s almost like taking the bridal off some of these guys and gals and watching them adapt, with different angles of cast and considerations, to each and every spot. Both on the cross body present, and the forward… It’s been a pleasure watching the lights come on for you folks; it’s what really makes my job so enjoyable!
So yeah, the hatch has been so good I’ve been seeing the sun come up plenty with some of the spinner flights lasting as long… But we are coming up on my favorite time of year to be a trout fisherman in this state… Night fishing for canoe battered, light exhausted, clear water hating… brown trout. Normally this time of year will yield the very biggest of trout, though the passing Hex tried real hard to be that guy this year! Hunting waters anything but busy with fishermen or watercraft, we fish to a savvy trout, one that chooses his windows of aggression wisely… And so should we! Following the hatches, typically there is a minor pause and passing of protein before the need to feed takes over again. Sometime around the next dark moon, larger fish will go into debt of calorie and need to make it back anyway they can. Sneaking up on minnows, crawdads, or other smaller trout becomes exhausting for the larger trout when the lights are on, so naturally they choose a window in which they can hunt… That being the dark of night! Seems to me many that frown on the nighttime practices we engage to better ourselves as anglers, (fishing without as much sight or sense of our presentations, but still delivering a more thought out cast than any could muster in the light of day, where even the smallest lies are well lit and depth perception allows for flawless factoring), would in the same sentence tell you their best windows of chance are at the lowest lights of the day… As an angler, noticing such behavior in the brown trout, known to be a nocturnal hunter, should be jumped on like a grenade. Consider myself more of an evolving angler instead of a stuck in the mud “dry or die”, or the new one, “streamer purist”, angler. If you are keeping up with your adversary, you would know, that not only the light, but the aluminum hatches, which are so very noisy and disturbing, make for very little foraging potential for a predator. It will lie away and wait for things to calm and darken… Much like a recluse wolf, it will choose to hunt at night over the daylight, because his data, like yours, should say that the hunt is possible when the lower lights allow for the fish to gain position off a feeding lane, or ambush point. If you choose to fish daylight, and don’t mind less action, and need to stay on a normal schedule and just love the cast of it… Power to you, I do the same from time to time just to stretch the cast. However, if you are a trout angler, much like a hatch fisherman choosing to be in the right place at the right time, and your not fishing the darker ends of the 24 hour with assorted larger terrestrials… You’re not fishing your data so much as holding yourself to a dry or die mentality. Stretch your comfort zone a bit, and go wade a well known to you section in the dark; I kid you not when I say you will be beyond pleased when fishing to fish that are set up to feed long after the dry or die or streamer purists are fast asleep. Encourage all types of fishing, as I myself angle all types of fly fishing… Don’t let anyone curve your approach with a fly based simply on the time of day you would fish it. As long as your getting a bite, there is no wrong time of day to have a trout take your fly! If your guide hesitates when you ask for night trip, or adds some politics on why he chooses not too… Give us a shout; we’d love to get you out! By the way, if they need a light, (on the boat or on their head), to get down the river, you’re likely with the wrong guide as that typically spooks allot of older, wiser trout, and really shows you how little they know the watershed.
Presentations are a huge part of terrestrial and mouse fishing, and really the only difference in the two is the time of day you might implement them. Even fishing a bigger stone fly or smaller caddis could be fished with the same ideals in mind. A blind approach to where a fish might be, with presentation in check for each potential hold, with only a forecasted position of predator versus the reassurance of an actual rise. When there is a hatch, the trout’s lane is predictable and very easy to present too, as you are aware of right where it needs to be dead drift. Mice, hoppers, stoneflies, and assorted terrestrials need to in fact be presented correctly over a much larger band. Though egg laying, water walking or skipping, or even the doggy paddle of a mouse are all based on giving life to the pattern; it’s often the moment of dead drift that opens the window for an attack. Much like streamer fishing, where the pause of the higher paced retrieve is sacked, it’s the allowance of STOP that sells a brown enough to really set up and kill the presentation. Stone flies out west can be worked non stop thanks to the trout count and perpetual chop that hides most high sticking maneuvers, where on flattened and slower Midwestern streams you need to give some sense of stealth following the walk or skip to sell the rest of farm. With smaller pockets and ambush points that are tinier, allowing for less chase room, but than longer dead drifts, is the key to converting. With mice the same ideas are in check, but based on the prey and the way it would trek or float down the river. Even when we night fish, it’s not always a mouse when we say mousin… It’s often frogs, muddlers, divers, pushers, and even some smaller ducklings if you are so bold. Fly selection is still in play, but much like terrestrials you could argue, what doesn’t work when the presentation is ahead of the curve?!?! Leaders for daylight and dark are just that… Night and day… Tapering the right rigs gives roll over ease and presentation accuracy that too limp, or to stiff of a leader cannot. Neat thing about fly fishing, is if your evolving with the fishes awareness, you can stay ahead of the curve as a better guide, this instead of monitoring car spot sheets and cut and pasting another mans program, which is more the norm with the younger crews coming up.
We are looking forward to the streamer season this fall, and strangely, October is booking way out this year, as November books even sooner these days. For some better steelhead dates, favor the December thing as the fall dates are thinning. We have some great openings this July & August still out there, and September shouldn’t be overlooked for hoppers and mice. Also in September we are putting a crew together for a Montana run to see Brad Turner for some streamer fishing on pre spawn browns following grass out… Very easy on the wallet, as we are just looking to bring some better talent to Brad to get his streamer programs over there appropriated. Also, need three more guys for Arkansas Unicorn Hunt 2019. One spot first session… Two spots in second session… Third & Fourth all booked up. If you are interested in either away trips, they are beyond well priced, and keep you in a click of guys all down with the big fly approaches, who like myself, like to test those skills in fisheries that offer allot of payoff, or just mega versions of it! Below I will post my openings for the July, August, & September. Dark moons come recommended for all you veterans to the darkside, and all half moon, too newer should be for those looking more vision while fishing the patterns so you have some idea of presentation. Full moons are great midday terrestrial and sporadic hatch action, along with nymphing programs, as the fish can’t hunt efficiently in the full moon light, so they turn to daylight as a means of hunting the bank bugs and unsuspecting fish that would come too close. Full moons also have been more productive this year thanks to the lower waters keeping them from over fattening on the crawlers that bleed from the bank when it rains, which is customary for June normally; but we are even seeing some pretty good night bites even when the lights are high. I’ll be taking a couple weeks off this summer to go north, and then maybe another to go west because I miss my buddy Brad. Will start up “Eggin” season as soon as the roe flies, but till then, it’ll be on the darkside, and for that matter, my favorite side. My family and I thank you folks so very much for a great summer to date, and I can’t remember the last time I thought about my shoulder it feels so good doing as much rowing as you folks have had me doing… Think I’m gonna call the bone doctor and take him fishing! Been coming home with smiles since the first part of May thanks to a banner finish to a shortened streamer season, a hatch season that seemingly has no weak points on three different massive flights of Mayfly, with the Hex still holding on by it’s finger nails. Though I will be fishing allot a night, I envy some of you that will find daytime justice with a big Iso or Stone in the near future as the lower waters this summer are promoting for allot of looking up, instead of level and down like they would if there was higher O2, more color in the water for hunting, and flushes of rain keeping the protein rolling. Having a killer opening on the mouse back in May, we retracted and catered to the fantastic dry fly scene that presented itself, bowing to the conditions, it was productive across the board. If mouse season holds any consistency with the passing months, we could forecast some great full moon feeding, with assorted patterns as a result of the warmer waters and evening favor to the night bite. Pros to fishing at night far outweigh the daytime approach when waters run hot… First and foremost, the water cools all night long, and heats all day long… Nuff said! Second, we use goat rope tippets and rarely have a fish on long enough to weaken it like we would if having to use the lighter tippets of the midday approach… Even the rods we use are of higher weight for quick attitude adjusting. If you look at it from this summers point of view as of yet, you could argue the most ethical approach to fishing brown trout isn’t in daylight, so much as the dark! Myself, I’ll be engaging the mouse & hex season on other rivers for the couple weeks I’m scheduled to play. But again, the dates are spread out, so there is plenty of dark moon and half moon dates available, and I’m fired up. As the crowds lesson with the ease of angling the hatches, the anglers will start to show up and hunt it up… Mid July through Mid September are without question my two favorite months of the year to angle a fly in the black, or to angle outright… I love the darkside, and what it has taught me about brown trout I could have never learned in the middle of the day. Learning what they will and won’t tolerate based on light levels and prowess has given me some insights to what they could, or why they would, consider with the lights on. This sport has no ceiling or 300 round, and there are no savants… You’re as good as the time you have into the game, and it really does show with as many tails I have grown. All the great anglers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, all never put it down, or ever got bored of it, their hobbies were their job, and getting better at it was it’s own reward. Too many are just doing it for a paycheck these days, instead of doing it for the right reasons. Guiding was never about the money, if it was I’d be a Funeral Director! It was about the sport of it…
Speaking of which, we had a great finality to a slower evening of bug, with one of my more productive friends/client… Tom Mcgraw has been fishing with me for some time, and to say he has giving it his all might be an understatement. Birthing PMTU, constantly involved in conservation, both here on The PM, but also now Nationally; to say he’s into it is surely and understatement. After countless runs on rivers out west, and here in MI, (save a mutant that he scored in Arkansas, which all others on a streamer will be measured against for sometime at 36”), Tom had a big old gap in his Trophy Stepping. Going from very nice to larger trout, he skipped the trophy parts, and tinged the bell as high as you can on a fly… Only to be left high and dry on the Two Foot Barrier, versus the three footer! So many fish landed over 23” with me, and several out west, along with some return runs to Arkansas for the possible repeat of lightning striking him twice, but all for not on his quest since… It’s been a real project getting Tom his due and proper. One slower night of Hex this season, where the bugs were weak, and the bite was scarce, Tom got his Two Footer, and a thick one at that. Skills in check for sometime, the fish really didn’t stand much of a chance with such a seasoned angler, but it just goes to show, you never know which night you have to be ready for the happening. Hugs were dealt, and cigars were smoked… T. McGraw broke 24”, this after setting a bar we must all follow with the mutant on the southern front. Good On Ya T… Way To Keep The Faith!
On a personal note… And if you just like fishing reports, pass on this next couple paragraphs, as I’m gonna vent a bit here, publicly! It seems apparent to me that local outfitters and lodges are not doing that well in either bookings, or ego, or maybe a little of both. Not to say as fishing guides we all don’t carry inflated heads, but it’s like they like poking the bear, or justifying their need to follow me like a lost dog or maybe they are just mad that I told people the truth about snagging wild salmon and steelhead off their beds, which many still promote as fishing. When I was younger, I fished so many different rivers for the hatch it wasn’t funny… Living out of a pick up truck, and making sure I had enough gas money to get to the next hatch arena, it was fun exploring and visiting other bodies of water to diversify my avenues of engagement on “Da Hex Tour”; all this without interwebs showing me where to go and when to be there! These days, guides are just a cut and paste version of the older, veteran guides up here… And in a way, I do feel sorry for them, as there really are so many more trying to make their mark in a saturated market. Having the identity of a Kleenex, they like to believe they can keep up, so they would bash any that would like to keep a spot from pluming into a Ausable nightmare where possibly up too a few hundred people might fish the same 8 miles of river each night. Somewhere between wanting to be a guide, and actually becoming a successful one, they have no sense of adventure or individuality so they do the most dishonorable thing any one angler could do to another in haste of their situation, and that’s publicize and poach another person spots, which is unforgivable, yet almost kind of expected from certain personalities. Hex Hatch is no big secret, and it goes without saying that these areas will certainly be exploited via the chatty kathys, haters and wanna bes that need to justify why they themselves are just sheep, but that doesn’t mean I have to grin and shake hands with people with such inferiority complexes and lack of respect. In the future, we will exploit these practices and those that do think they are entitled to do so via the same instruments they use. Seems comical to me how few guides actually get the job done with such ease as the hatch allows, and it tells me that these so called endorsed guides should spend more time learning a dead drift in daylight before attempting it in the dark, because they must be doing something seriously wrong to come up as short as they often do, even when they themselves can’t convert. How do you expect to teach others you are being PAID to teach, if you don’t understand most aspects yourself? Is this your second or third Hatch now? Do you see now why I chose never to fish with you again following just one walk in the dark? Didn’t I take your dad on a dozen guide trips the year before you became a guide so to give you a better handle on things? You want some real truth about the hatch… There it is!
After guiding this hatch for almost two and a half decades, and having ALL clients & buddies promise that such trips wouldn’t be discussed or revisited without booking me for the same affair, (Save ONE SUPER DORK OF AN EX_CLIENT that bought a raft and shoved it up my ass); all of my clients, (and we are talking hundreds here), have been great in regards to being honest and respecting by not returning to waters shown for these very specific events and limited bodies of water I use to keep my family fed; as I don’t take paychecks for snagging fish like you do 4 months of the year. Reading articles in magazines written by guides who don’t even fish the hatch, (which is funny in it’s own right), much less have enough sand to even fish at night is saddening; even when you think these same fellows are friends… It would seem they should all stick with what they are really good at… Waiting for migratory fish to show up so they can throw chuck and duck gear at them when they are spawning too collect the paycheck so they can buy a bike or maybe some identity! Leave the trout fishing to us… We enjoy what we do and respect the waters we are in, and look forward to days off when we can fish instead of going for a bike ride, so yes you could say we take it more seriously than most here, and we look to keep what little sacredness there still is for bodies of water we fish, versus stab a buddy in the back simply because you choose not to engage the same events…
Here in Baldwin that the bar for being a guide is much like a limbo stick… Get’s lower and lower each year! We would be hard pressed to produce another Zimmy Knoph, Walt Grau, or Jac Ford in the near future… Newer up and coming guides are just cut and paste versions of the posters they had on their wall. Finding ones own path, or beat isn’t as trendy and just seeing something work, then being shown, then pasting it to their program and screaming “I’m The Best!” News flash dudes… The Wheel Was Invented Long Before You Or Me, and it’s going round with or without us. This sport isn’t quite trendy enough yet for you to add the 90210 to the equation, and point of fact, all we are all just a bunch of Tri Lams. Sit back, and just enjoy the fisheries we’ve shown you, you don’t need to do anymore leg work as that would take a bit of prowess, which you are lacking… But, for the love of Mary, don’t try and justify your intrusion or the impending lights you would bring to the taboo & specific fisheries, it makes you look weak and inferior while being ignorant in your perspective, and there isn’t ONE veteran Hex angler in this state that would agree with your politics over mine. Just go ahead and ask the next old timer you see standing in the weeds if its OK with him if you exploit the spot you found him in simply because it’s getting a little busier and the river is public, and we should just tell everyone the when, where, and how of it all… I’ll bet with the lights low enough, and you still being young enough, the punch would still connect! You have fun out there… I’ll let the veteran Hex fishermen out there know how you feel… They should be real warm and fuzzy with ya in the dark!
September Openings…1-5,7,8,10,14-20… Then headed to see Brad