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June 25 : Au Sable and Manistee Hex Report

The much heralded and fabled Hex hatch is well started on the Au Sable River, and should get going in all area rivers very soon with a weather forecast boasting a string of 80 degree days. This certainly should be a week of peak activity on area streams.

The Hexagenia limbata hatch, or Hex hatch for short, is also commonly known as the Giant Michigan Mayfly, fish-fly, or the caddis. Years past, secretive locals disguised talk of the Hex hatch by calling the enormous mayflies, the caddis hatch. Some old timers still operate in that lingo, so if you’re in a local diner in the early morning, pull up a seat next to the big round table full of retired guys and eaves drop. If the Hex are going anywhere, the old boys in the coffee clutch will know. It’s an information center in those places and every town has one. But you gotta know the code. In the case of the Hex hatch, they’ll be calling them caddis.

Double Rainbow...What does it mean!? Hex maybe? Double Rainbow...What does it mean!? Hex maybe?

It’s an event more anticipated than any other by Midwestern flyfishers and for good reason. The Hex are the largest Mayflies in the United States. The bugs can be up to two inches long and offer the fish a big one bite meal. They are like minnows with wings. And there are tons of them. One square foot of silty, muck filled river bottom can house up to five hundred of the Hex nymphs. Mating flights can be ridiculously heavy. Some years, the mating flight can be seen from outer space by weather satellites.

 

More on the window! More on the window!

The largest trout in the river, fish that never feed on the surface at any other time of the year abandon their shadowy lairs and feed with reckless abandon. Of course, like in all fishing, it doesn’t happen every night and you have to be there to see it. Look for hot, muggy nights that are as dark as the inside of your hat for your best shot at glory. All of this hatch happens after dark. You’ll have to fish with your ears and wade up stealth-fully in the blackness to the deep slurps of big, rising brown trout. It’s more like hunting than fishing.

 

Time to tie one on. Time to tie one on.

I know most of you reading this report know all of what I just said, and what you really want to know is where the bugs are and what the progression might look like.

So far, as of this writing, we’ve seen one or two nights of good but spotty fishing to hatchers on the most of the mainstream and even some fishing on the South Branch. Most of what we’ve experienced has been hatching, so anglers staying late have had the best opportunities.

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