August 4th, 2008

The Day of Small Things
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

As the days of summer begin to wane the size of the hatching insects seems to decrease in direct proportion to the shortening length of the day. Back in the days before time I remember looking forward to those late summer days when on Michigan's Au Sable River the first Tricos and Pseudocleons* would make their long awaited appearance. The Trico imitations were tied on gold-plated Mustad® 7955 size 28 hooks, and I still have a few of them in one of my fly boxes.

Those Tricos were the little guys, Tricorythodes stgiatus, and a true size 28. On early July mornings when the mist was beginning to roll off the river and the overnight chill still clung to your skin like a damp cloth the tiny Tricos would begin to hatch. Along flats where cedar trees spread their branches over and into the tannin stained water of the Au Sable the Tricos would begin to rise like the morning mist. As the sun rose higher in the eastern sky the dance would become more and more frantic until the entire mass fell to the surface of the stream. Tiny rings marked the spots where the current concentrated the little flies into a cafeteria line for the waiting brown trout.

For the angler that preferred to sleep in Pseudocleon anoka*, a nice big size 24, was just what the doctor ordered, and on many days from late July until early September they would begin hatching in the early afternoon and continue until after dark. The tiny duns were olive green and the spinners were a greenish gold, and since the duns and spinners were often present at the same time, especially just before dark, the angler had to look carefully to see what the trout were eating.

I vividly remember a particular bend on the Mainstream of the Au Sable where a deep pool formed against the log cribbing that lined the bank in front of a streamside cabin. I believe that Valentine was the name of the people that owned the cabin so we called the pool Valentine's. Above Valentine's Pool was a long flat overhung with cedar sweeps on the South bank and on the North bank a jumble of fallen Jack Pine and Cedar logs provided excellent cover for the many brown trout that inhabited this stretch of water. Tricos hatched in abundance on the flat in the early mornings, and in the afternoons the Pseudos would pop just upstream from Valentine's Pool, and drift in great flotillas along the log cribbing. When the conditions were right the brown trout that inhabited the recesses under the cribbing would slip out to feed on the mass of duns and spinners floating through the pool. I can still smell the delicate scent of sweet fern on the warm summer breeze, and the delicate rings that marked the location of so many fine trout feeding with unhurried abandon in the fading light of another summer day.

During the 60's and early 70's the Trico and Pseudo hatches marked the last of the 'Super Hatches,' those mega hatches that are so dependable and consistently produce outstanding angling opportunities. When these hatches began to fade we knew that summer was at an end.

This was all in those days before time, when I wished the season would hurry on from the Hendrickson hatches of late April to those delicate Tricos and Pseudos of late summer. Somewhere between then and now time has become something not to be hurried, not to be wished away, but something to savor like a finely aged steak or a delicate glass of wine. I still savor the tiny fly hatches that mark the beginning of the end of the warm summer days, but I'm not as anxious to see them come as in those halcyon days when time was an endless commodity to be spent at one's leisure. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

*[Pseudocleon has since been reclassified and placed in a new genus – Plauditus – but to me they are still Pseudocleon]

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