Dry fly fishing for large stream browns in the dark is the most intense fishing anyone person can ever do and requires one to use all other senses outside of site to locate and target their fish. After spring rains subside lowering the water levels and summers heat first starts to bake in; these late weeks of June and the early weeks of July, I find myself living a nocturnal schedule among cattails and morrow. Searching for the largest of all browns that this state can yield; we tie on a Hex, freshen up the headlight batteries hoping the Hex flies get thick enough to entice the TOADS to the surface in a feeding frenzy.
The Pere Marquette is my home river; I live near it, guide and fish it year round in a rather religious fashion. During the fall and spring months I keep myself busy by running nearly seven days a week for several month stretches. Salmon and Steelhead seem to be the fish of choice for the bulk of my fishing cliental. We make enough money in that time to take off most of the winter and a good portion of the summer months. We fish with everyone from millionaires to manure farmers, and they all love the sport that we take them out for a fee to see.
As my clients for the day are hooking massive Kings and taming chrome Steelhead, claiming the best fishing in the world is happening right there in the boat that they are in, they ask, “Tommy, when do you get to fish if your guiding right through the peak seasons?” I reply with a sincere smile, “The off season is my peak season, for I am a trout bum!” I will go into stories about some of the trout that we catch in the late spring on 10” streamer patterns, and early summer weeks with Gray Drakes and stone flies, as well as caddis all the while leading up to the ultimate Trout fishing of the year that haunts me for the other ten months of the year; THE HEX HATCH!!!
Hands down the most addictive two hours of fishing any fly fisherman could ever experience without seeing a thing. I look forward to the Hex Hatch more then any other month of the year as it often yields the largest trout of the year. As the summer heat finally settles, and the nights never cool, I find myself wandering muddy water amongst cattails and critters in hopes tonight is the night for the big one that goes “Gulp” in the night. Between buddies and big Browns, this one month of the year makes for memories and stories of a lifetime.
Finding the first substantial night of the Hex is the best fishing for trout I have ever experienced. Hooking several fish over 20” on this night is the norm. Every year there is that 1st Night, and it is quite magical. People often will fly huge distances or drive through many nights to get a taste of the kind of trout fishing that the Hex Hatch provokes. The biomass of bugs is so very large that no fish in the river can ignore what is happening and they begin feeding as if they had suitcases for stomachs. They feed without hesitation, sometimes inches from your person. On one occasion I had a client land a 23” fish that was feeding within a foot of the anchor rope. There was no cast to the fish in question so I instructed my client to dangle it over his head because he was too close; the fish took the first the fly the first time it dabbed the water and then preceded to run clear around the boat a couple times before we got some type of angle on him.
The Hexigina Limbata is the largest of all the mayflies and provides the trout in the rivers that can sustain them and massive protein bender that is second to no other feeding moment in those fishes annual growth. Most mayflies are tied on size 14’s and maybe even a couple 10’s or 12’s; but when someone is thinking Hex, they sometimes have size 4’s and 6’s out in front of them. The fly is so much larger then all the other hatches going on that when it gets thick, it pushes all the other hatches to the banks as they look like B-2 Bombers going through the Gray Drake swarms that are more or less ignored once the big Hexs fly. They are large, yellow and creamy and have a wetness to them like no other adult mayfly. Whenever one does hit you, you feel as if you need to wipe your face because it is like someone spitting on you.
A couple of weeks of anticipation have already passed, and all the Hex patterns in your box are up to date. Evenings that stretch into early morning hours tying Yellow Drakes, Troutsmans, and Hex spinners and duns in every color of yellow and white that you can get your hands on. Foam and Deer bodies with oversize brown and grizzly hackles blanket the white interior of your fly box. Batteries for the flashlight and headlamp are fresh and ready as well is a bottle of good bug spray. The two hours of fishing that one can hope to experience require hours of preparation to engage. Every night before our evening with the bugs, whether you need them or not, I always like to tie up a couple more Hexs; Ones that will surely be the ones they want for that particular evening. Good meals and good buddies always accompany the first week Hexs. Steak and Potatoes with some type of pasta and a driveway full of 4X4s makes for some of the most memorable nights of my life.
“Call Goof and see if he can make it tonight!” I say as I jump into my truck to go and get the steaks out of the fridge and tie just a couple more bugs. Sean excited as well now, looking for his fly boxes that he tossed into a old gear bag 11 months ago, exclaims “Go, Go, Go, we only have a couple of hours to eat, get the guys up here, and get to the river”. “Make sure you call Goof, he will be mad if we go out without him”. Goof is otherwise known as Geoff, but the nickname fits the man more than his real name: Normally not a huge fly fisherman, Goof doesn’t miss too many nights of the Hex. He drives up north an hour and a half from Muskegon on a nightly basis for a couple weeks in which case he can be classified as a Hex-maniac. Having a day job he is up at 7am daily works until 5pm, only to go home and gear up and drive up north in time for Steak and Potatoes; fish all night and make it home by 3 or 4 in the morning; pending on how late the Hex spinner flight goes till. The man can go all day and all night and still look the part the following day.
It is about 8pm and the guys are showing up and the grill is sizzling. Sean comes down the drive in a panic, jumps out of the truck and takes over the cooking details while I get one more bug tied. Sean is the cook on most events, and is very good at it. Goof shows in dirty truck followed by a cloud of dust from the roads as they settle just behind him; busts out of his truck still dressed in work clothes and yells “I need to buy some Hex and borrow some wading boots, I forgot mine”. I giggle and flash to several seasons before and realize that the Hex is on.
After an hour of taunting your buddies on who is going to get the largest fish, all the while stuffing your face with a pile of carbohydrates and proteins that was prepared without error and to perfection by Sean, it is time to gear up. Throw on an old pair of capilene bottoms, some thin socks for wicking and a tee-shirt that you don’t mind retiring altogether at the end of the Hex due to the fact that it is covered with deet and every other kind on bug repellent known to man kind. The shirts slowly decompose over the coarse of one months time; by the time it is over the shirt is coming apart at the seems and has sweat stains that cannot and will not be removed. The hat is key and has to be disposable as well because when covering your person with bug spray the hat is sprayed directly several times each night. If for some reason I forget my bug spray at home, the smell of deet on the hat is usually enough to keep the bulk of the bugs away from me. Waders, leaders, flies and fly rods being flung from one end of the house to the other, we all manage to get our gear and equipment in check. Goof having the most trouble because of leaving his house in such a hurry is running around like a squirrel on the last day of autumn. “I need wading boots!!!” he keeps shouting. Never mind the fly rod that he can’t seem to exhume from the pile of what-nots that cover the interior of his truck. “Here you go Goof, here are the boots you need.” We watch him in a sweaty mess of disorganization.
After a good half hour of hosing ourselves down with Deep Woods Off, then dressing up to a point that it looks like we are about to jump out of a plane and perform surgery on the way down, I look down at my watch and exclaim “Lets go, the Bugs are going to crack in an hour!” With that we pile Goof, and the gear that he is still fumbling with, into the truck. Sean holds the rods, which have been fully rigged and left long and out the window to dry the silicone paste floatant that is on the flies while doing 20 miles over the speed limit in any given spot; Sean all the while mentioning every couple few minutes in a muffled tone, “Tonight’s the night”.
It’s a twenty minute drive that is cut short to about 12 minutes during the Hex because be always want to be the first ones down there. Winding and Dusty roads all the way to the spot; it is as intense a ride there as well the ride back with all the deer that cover the roads a few hours past dusk. Fisherman all over the state, still unaware of the fishing possibility that exists on this eve, are no where to be found when we get to the access. Not one car in the lot leaves us with a feeling of maybe instead of for sure on whether or not we would be seeing the first Hex Hatch of the year. Goof points out as he steps from the truck,” Maybe we are still a few days early, sure doesn’t look like the fishing is going to be there judging by the cars that are not in this lot.” I turn to him with a direct face and inform him that most fisherman who come to fish for the Hex rely on reports on the internet and fly shops to pass information on the when and where they should come up and fish. He politely, but unknowingly asks, “Yeah so, what is that supposed to mean for us tonight?” “Who do you think writes the reports and gives the fly shops information?” I say as I look over at Sean who already is looking at the water, gills flaring. Goof looking back down at the knots he is trying to master before me and Sean leave without him says, “Oh, I see what your saying.”
Making our way down to the river, covered with our Bug Spray aftershave and overfilled vests we start maneuvering our 9’ graphite sticks through the thickest vegetation anywhere on the river. Unaware of the trails from last year, because of the lack of foot traffic in between seasons, we leave the getting to the spot to the dog. Chinook, who is by far my most trusted and loyal fishing buddy. Chinook who smells his way thru most of the Pere Marquette water shed, knows every trail on its hundred and some odd number of miles. Turn him loose at just about any access, launch, or even secret spots, and just follow the white of his curled Husky tail to the river, and even to certain spots. Killing and or eating every critter that crosses his path is his only reward for going on these outings, and he loves going every night. He is invaluable when it comes to having someone watching your back for good fishing water. While I may be stopped and concentrating on the river in front of me, Chinook is lying calmly behind me listening to all the critters that move about, and informs me by standing up if a fisherman are coming down. His hearing is astounding and his sense of smell even better. He can tell someone is coming two bends away which gives me the Hex advantage if I’m trying to locate the big ones.
Walking thru spiders, ticks, and whatever Mother Nature can come up next, with we plow through the tall 5 foot grass and endless thicket of falling trees that cover the forest floor, we duck and dive thru the mess with a intensifying gleam in your eyes to see Hex flying thru the air. Wiping sweat from our brows we make it to the first spot of the evening. Wiping the bug spray from our eyes, the first thing that we notice are the Gray Drakes litter the sunset backdrop holding 10’ over the water beginning to copulate and activate the fishes interests to the surface. We begin to break apart and find our own spots for the evening; never being more then a couple bends away from each other just incase of a quality photo opportunity with a large brown we could yell to the other. “Goof, you fish the Turkey House, I will fish Magic Island with Chinook, and I think Sean is fishing………..”, as I am cut off Sean finishes with “I am fishing Ducks Bayou.” “Ok, let’s go the bugs are going to pop any minute, if they are going to pop at all.” “Let’s Go!!” I bark at Chinook, and off he goes. After a quick break, we spread out across the area; with three bright flashlights crashing thru the darkness, followed by the trampling of critters that look to get out of our path then zip code it would seem by their panic.
Making it down to the spot I have I have chosen by about quarter to ten, I post up here and grab a cold can of Dew from the Ziploc full of melted ice in my back pouch. I sit down and call to Chinook with a whistle to stop from going any further down the river just incase he still thinks I am right behind him. All is calming now; no more jingling of lanyards and keys, or the rustling of tippet spools and fly boxes crashing around in my over fattened vest. This is all replaced by the sounds of a nocturnal ecosystem coming alive. Mosquitoes buzz around your head relentlessly, mice pushing there way to the rivers edge for the oats that grow on the taller grass outside the forest canopy, owls sound off every other minute as if they were trying to get the last word in for the night, and I can even hear the sound of my pop fizzing a couple feet from me. Chinook come crashing back thru the terrain and lands right behind me and calmly stays alert for anything that might be moving.
Staring into the less then illuminated sky, spinner flights from smaller mayflies activate the smaller fish on the flat. From a flat piece of glassy, inactive water, comes a feeding frenzy on the surface at the Gray Drakes expense. Some fish are small steelhead are refer to as smolts, that have not returned to the lake and others are smaller browns that hope to get a full tummy before the larger browns come out onto the flat to feed for the Hexs: for they know that if they stay on the flat and feed, they could be in danger of being eaten.
We have several nicknames for the trout as they get to certain sizes and weights. “Dinks” are fish all the way up to 12” or so, and we never even bother with them. From there you have “Nice Fish” that can be up to 18 or 19” and we can and do mistake them for bigger fish pending on their feeding style. Beyond 19” we love any will almost always stop for; these fish up to 23” are referred to as “Toads”. Every year we catch twenty or so fish over 20”, but only a handful over two feet, and we call them Kongs. These are the fish worth really telling stories about. Giants that can be older then ten years of age and will take fly patterns that range from other small fish to other mammals all other times of the year. We are talking about fish that have the capacity to eat a small duck; and for one magical month of the year we get to attempt these giants with insect patterns on a moonlight river surface under the cover of darkness in there most vulnerable state. Imagine any river you have ever fished, then think of all the large trout you have caught over the years, then have them all come up and hit giant dry flies(all of them at once)on cue for two hours every night for a week; that is the magnitude of fish activity that the Hex Hatch provokes.
Sitting on the bank and watching the light slowly slip away beyond the trees in marvelous oranges, reds and purples; I stare thru the clouds of Gray Drakes and see what looks to be B-2 bombers in comparison to the smaller mayflies. “Finally, the Hex have arrived.” I say with a sigh to myself. Three nights before without seeing bug one in the same spot; I am relieved that my fourth night in a row is not in vane. Suddenly a larger fish begins to feed on my flat, and another; and just like that it is time to get into the water.
Darkness finds its spot in the woods and everything is heard and not seen. Your sight is lost and you begin relying on your ears and even nose to help guide you thru the best dry fly fishing of the year. When one sense is lost your brain must enhance the others, or at least it would seem. When you get used to fishing for trout in the dark, you can hear fish sometimes at a distance of a hundred yards or so, even with the Hex swarming up stream with the sound of a million Locusts. Soon what was just a scattering of bugs across the sky has turned into a healthy pipeline of Hex flying as fast as they can up stream, along with the constant emergence off new ones in the form of Duns that dimple the surface of the water. In the distance…….”YAHOO!!” is shouted by Goof as he sees the bugs in a healthy forum. So loud is the hatch sometimes that it is difficult to hear your buddy, even if he was next to you. It is ten after ten and the bugs are in high gear and the big browns are moving out onto the flats to gorge themselves for an hour or two. You’re standing in the river with what you believe to be the right fly, with your trusty sidekick laying behind you in the grass waiting for the next mouse to give away it’s position, and that order to the Universe they are always talking about seems to be a part of your world on this night.
An interesting 15-minute intermission from fish feeding on the flat occurs around half pasted ten when the dark of evening is followed up by the blackness of night. A Cone of Silence on the water as the little fish exit the flat and the large ones take up their positions. Then, as if on remote control from the year before, the giant residents begin feeding. A once inactive glassy flat of water with little to no trout feeding turns into a flat of what would seem to be four to five pound Piranha feeding on Cheez-Its off the surface. The “dink” splashes that were heard just a half hour before are then replaced by the sounds of “toads” slurping the water around the fly instead of just the fly itself. Some of the big fish can filter up to a full Dixie cup of water with each visit to the surface. Some of the better feeding lanes that are taken by what are usually the largest fish on the flat can accommodate 2 to 3 bugs per gulp.
My heart racing, my sweating intensifies as the high air temps just barely give way to the marginal five degree evening cooling. It’s a quarter to eleven and all of a sudden a dozen fish that could be classed as toads feeding only rods lengths from my person surround me. This is when it really gets good. “One casting” these fish happens often, and especially on the 1st Night of the Hex. The fish are stupid and unable to determine what is real and what isn’t. They haven’t been fished to in several months, and most of the giants only come out of their log littered lairs a couple times a year; and one of those times is always for the Hex. They feed viciously and without hesitation on fly after fly; my only job in the world is to get my fly in line next too be eaten by the fish of my choice. The Hex is so intense you will find yourself running from one bend to another trying to determine which fish is bigger — the one over there or the one up there — it is enough to drive a person nuts, but in a good way. “Here goes…” I whisper to myself as I pull off my first bundle of line for the Hex Hatch. Then as if the fish was waiting for my bug, and my bug alone, the first cast is the right cast for this nice fish. “Fish On!” I yelp at the top of my lungs, in hopes that Goof can hear my scream over the sound of the bugs that are swarming in every direction by this point. “ZZZZZZ”,,,,ZZZZZZ as the reel gives way to the first couple of vibrant trusts. Knowing that I have a good fish on, but not the Super Toad I am looking for on this magical night I quickly make short work of this nineteen inch trout with ten pound tippets. Steering him quickly to the inside, so not to disturb the other fish feeding rods lengths from the splashing fish, I manage to photo and release him in excellent time. The pressure is off and the Hex is on!!
The first nights that I began fishing the Hex Hatch I was scared out of my mind. When standing still on a bank listening to every movement that the darkness offers, and without the back-up reassurance of your eyesight, the mind can play some pretty horrible tricks on you. In between the sounds of large browns snatching big Hexs one can hear a beaver smash the water with his tail only a few feet from you without so much as a warning; or sounds of raccoons on the opposite bank rustling their way through the thick vegetation for a cool drink, but as far as your mind is concerned it is definitely a large black bear stalking a few feet closer to you every few minutes. Making your way through the swampy grass kicking up deer and sending them on a mad dash further into the thicket is enough to make your heart skip a few beats as well. Seeing is believing, and in pure blackness, imagination is substitute for eyesight in determining what is and what isn’t.
Fish feeding every third second all around you and sometimes even off the downstream side of your waders. Any obstruction in the water can make for a good Hex seam. Smarter and older fish will sometimes require more attention and sometimes even a fly change. I’ve thrown fifteen different patterns to a fish that seemed to be feeding without hesitation for upwards of an hour and had him say no to a dozen and never consume one. Big browns act a lot like wolves in that they love to live in the wood and often only feed at night. The smarter the brown gets, usually coincides with how deep into a logjam a fish may live. These fish often will never even feed on a bug except for the Hex; primarily basing their entire diet on other fish or even small mammals. If a large Brown ever had an Achilles heal it would be the Hex.
Itching in between each cast from the unstoppable mosquitoes and no-see-ums, I have located the fish for the evening. Just as I am about to focus all my attention to this slurping toad I hear a voice off in the distance. “I need a camera, I GOT A GOOD ONE!!” is shouted at the top of Goofs lungs. “I’m coming”, I yell back grabbing onto a handful of grass from the bank to pull myself from the mud that has snuck up around my knees. Making it up to Goof in a panic, covered with sweat and spider webs, “Lets see”, I squeeze out in between deep breaths. With his rod submerged under a foot of mud, and bugs swarming his grinning face, he raises large trout from the midnight stained water. “Good one!” I assure him as he waits for me to dig out my camera. “Keep his head in the water.” I exclaim while he admires his fish big fish of the year. “I want to catch him next year, two inches bigger.” I giggle as I fumble with the camera. In a tangle of mud, mosquitoes and monofilament we get a great photo. Goof, unable to calm, goes into a play by play of the battle with the fish. Obviously happy that he has gotten a great fish, I congratulate him a couple of more times and leave him on the bank with a perma-grin and the reassurance of a photo with a great fish.
Crashing back thru the woods in a mad dash for the fish that I had just left, Sean’s flashlight emerges from the brush, and gasps, “Anything yet?” I offer back, never losing pace on the trek back to my spot, “Yeah, Goof just got about a twenty-one incher, and I have a Kong around the corner!!” “Awesome!” I hear as Sean picks up right behind me. “I’ve landed three fish already, but haven’t broken twenty; tickled it a couple of times though.” “You the man!” exclaiming while I reach for my rod that is buried in the grass. “KERPLUNK!!” is heard just in front of us as I get my feet in the water. Sean, astounded by what he just heard, utters in a less then believing tone, “What the hell was that?” “That is what I was about to start fishing just before Goof popped his!” as I’m pealing line off my reel preparing for a cast at the giant. “Crash, Pop, Bam, Snap, Boom” is heard in the near distance as we realize that it is just Goof negotiating the terrain between us and him. “Hey guys, where are you?” is returned by a “SSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!” from Sean. “Tommy’s got a Kong in front of him.” Sean ads while attentively coaching me on the fishes whereabouts. Smiling from ear to ear from the exceptional fish that he just landed, Goof appears with the story of the battle he just experienced. Getting in a sentence or two of the story he is cut off by a massive “KERPLUNK!!” “Wow, is that a…..” Goof is cut off by Sean, “Yeah, that’s a giant!” Sean finishes, and then follows with “Now SSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHH!!!”
Chinook who is being more quite then anyone is also even alerted to the large gulps being taking from the surface. Rings echo across the surface of the water as this large finned pig snaps bugs from their watery grave. Most other fish, already full from eating every couple of seconds for the last half hour, slowly descend off the flats. With only the sounds of this fish breaking the waters surface I slowly locate within a pie plate area, approximately where the fish is and offer my first cast blindly. Without hesitation, the large brown proceeds to refuse my first presentation with a large bowling ball boil just beneath my furry creation. Sean, amazed that this is even a trout, offers a “Wow, that is a smart fish; that cast was perfect.”
Creeping up on half passed eleven I realize that the emergers and duns that scattered the surface a few minutes before have been replaced with a massive number of spinners. I decide that I won’t even cast to this fish again with the emerger pattern that worked for me just a half hour on the respectable, but much smaller nineteen inch fish. Feeling my way through the knot tying process, I manage to get a large white spinner tied on. “That’s the one!” Sean and Goof reassure me as I set it up for its first presentation. “KERPLUNK!” “Did you hear him Sean?” “Sounds like that one is getting a bucket full of water with each fly!” whispering as I get just a couple feet closer to him. Getting late in the game, with bugs running out, I realize I have just a few casts to get this fish before he quits feeding for the night. Offering the first cast to the fish with no results, Sean whispers in a concerned voice, “Just a few feet beyond your last cast.” Goof, impressed with the fish he caught, and amazed at the fish feeding in front of me, burps, “God I love Hexs!!”, as he takes another sip of his warm soda.
Concentrating intently on the few yards of river in front of me in roll cast the deer body in line with the fish as best as my ears allow. “That should do it.” I confidently offer as if I could talk the fish into hitting. Sean replies, “Yeah, I like that one too.” Settling into the drift with a couple of blind insurance mends I drop my rod in hopes that the next thing I hear is a splash. Though large browns can sip and gulp very discreetly off the surface from one bug the next without making much sound at all; they splash almost every time when they bite down on a hook. Sean, eyes wide open trying to burn a hole in the curtain of night, offers that I might be right over his head, and before he finishes “SPLASH”. Line taunt, drag yielding and 5wt maxing out, I exclaim, “There he is!!” Sean starts running down the bank, tripping on everything in his path, hoping to get down stream of me before the fish does. Goof in a panic drops his soda, and stands up only to see the silhouette of a seven pound trout leaping and bounding in the calm moonlight surface of the water. Working the rod back and forth, up and down, I adjust the fish’s attitude slowly but surely. Bursts of energy from the less then happy trout, followed by the sound of the reel giving way, Sean in the distance yelling frantically “I can’t see him yet!” while searching the water surface around him for any signs of a desperate fish ensures for a quality story back on the tailgates.
Calming down from its initial panic runs the trout begins to cooperate and starts to lose a game of mercy with my tippets. Sean, still searching, totally unaware of my or the fishes whereabouts, manages to see a tail flash in his headlamps boundaries. “I see him!” as he lunges for the first attempt at landing the fish. Staring at the water motionless with a confused look Sean wills the fish back to the surface for a second and successful attempt. “I got him!” Sean busts out while trying to calm the fish that has since exploded in a fury from the capture of the net. Sean in a hurried voice yells “Your clear!” after removing the hook from the fishes mouth and tossing my fly back on to the water. Reeling up the excess line and securing the flies I burst back with, “How big is he?” Before Sean can even reply Goof, standing directly over Sean on the bank flashlight blaring, emits a massive “Wow!” I jump onto the bank as if a crocodile was right on my tail, and run down to the fellows who are apparently quite taken with whatever is in the bottom of that net. “Well lets see it!” I demand from the two of them who are a little stunned. Sean reaches into the net only to realize that he would need two hands to lift him out of the net, because one hand couldn’t match the girth of the fish to establish a grip. Goof offering his help, grabs the net, Sean reaches down and pulls up a Super Toad. “He’s over six pounds for sure.” He assures me as he tries to maneuver the fish out the small trout net. I quickly get my camera from the vest and power it up and hand it to Goof. “Here ya go.” Sean says as he hands the fish over to me; which I proudly hold with a satisfied smile. Goof who is manning the digital camera, is trying his best to negotiate finding me on the screen; but with the lack of light entirely he ended up taking blind snapshots in my general direction. The trout, startled by the flashes from the camera breaks out in a hysteric spasm and manages to break free of my grip. “AHHHH!” I scream as it splashes back into the water. Immediately turning to Goof, I exclaim “Did you get a shot?” Goof, still squinting down at the camera with uncertainty, mumbles, “I think so.” When it flashes you get a picture, right?” Looking up at me now, more or less scratching his head. “We’ll find out tonight when we get back.” Sean says while pulling himself back onto the bank.
Approaching midnight, bugs on the surface not nearly as abundant, I offer that we should make our way back to the truck. Breaking down the rods and tying down all the bells and whistles that may be loose on the vest from the hike in, both Sean and Goof congratulate me over and over with “wows” and “sighs.” Chinook, well aware we will be heading back begins to move about, and with everything in order we start the hike back. Conversations over how many fish were feeding in this spot and that spot, what bugs were preferred over others, how good the overall first night was, and how damn big the Toad that I caught was develop and circulate as distant voices across the cedar flats to anyone that could be within earshot. The white Husky tail that we have trusted in the less then traveled spots that we fish, sure as the North Star, finds our way back to the trucks. Exaggerations of fish size, and constant taunting on who would get the biggest fish the following night, manage to shorten the walk considerably.
Nearing one in the morning, tailgates popped, and beer coolers open, we downshift mentally from the excitement from the night’s events. Sweat cooling on every inch of us, without the mosquitoes buzzing around our heads, makes for a relaxing finish to a perfect night of Hex. Sean, satisfied with his performance maintains that he still landed the most fish that night; Goof, still suffering from a smile that was put on his face hours ago by a quality fish, mentions how brilliant the colors were on the fish that he caught and landed. I concur with both of them, and insist they have nothing on me, for the fish I caught that night could have fed on any one of their fish. Laughing out loud, under a star lit sky, petting Chinook in appreciation for his help, I downshift into exhaustion.