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Common Sense Mayfly Hatches

This is the season, in some places Mayfly hatches have been underway for some time. One of the neat things about Mayflies is the number and variety of hatches. So if you have missed one, another comes along. Check out Clive Schaupmeyer's article last week here Our Man in Canada which is also on Mayflies.

Hatches can be very difficult for the fly anglers. Which fly to use? During a hatch, fish tend to feed on the largest numbers of insects on the water. The term, Selective Trout and book of the same name are based on that concept. It would be nearly impossible to have a perfect imitation to match every possible size, color and form of insect you could find. Take a look at some of the popular mail-order catalogs, and you will find over forty patterns in several different sizes just to represent one Mayfly's life cycle

So what is a fly fisher to do? Pick one specific trait of the insect and run with it . . . at least to start. My choice would be color, but Mayfly color can vary some from insect to insect during the same hatch! And to make it more difficult, under different light and water conditions a fly looks differently to the fish. Flies also look differently to fish on bright day than on cloudy day. Or in low light of early morning or evening. Add to that the view of a fish through riffles or smooth water. Muddy water following a rain will also alter what the trout sees.

Color might not be the answer. During 'selective feeding' trout key on one of four primary characteristics to investigate the fly. These are size, color, shape, and behavior. While one, color, may draw the fish to take a look, the other characteristics need to be there for the fly to draw strikes. If fish are taking the natural insect all around you, and ignoring your fly, there is something wrong with either the fly or your presentation.

Some anglers carry fly box after fly box. Packed with imitations of each possible color, shape, size and form. One of our angling friends, who is also a fly designer, carries more flies with him than the average fly shop stocks! And I have watched him take his nippers and pare down a fly to match something happening he couldn't match from his supply. On the other hand, I wrote sometime ago about Adam Wendling on the Main Stream of the AuSable River in Michigan who was one of the most successful fishers I've ever met. Every fly he tied, and used was a variation of the Adams. Locals there still use the "Wendling Specials."

Probably the best approach to Mayfly hatches, and the common sense one in terms of dollars is a middle of the road one. For each expected hatch, you should have an appropriate nymph. Ideally one that could be dressed in floatant and fished in the surface film as an emerger too. Add to that the standard dry fly pattern, for rippled water, comparaduns for quiet water, and the proper spinner pattern.

If the fish investigates your fly and turns away (called a refusal) and you can't convince the fish your fly is the real thing make some changes, - in the following order. Try the next size smaller of the same fly. Change the profile of the fly. If using a standard hackle dry, change to a comparadun or parachute. Go to a color change. Same fly, di fferent color. If you are using a nymph go to an emerger - or the next stage up. Change tippet size. Lighter tippets will always give you a more natural float. Make sure the tippet size is right for the size fly you are using, rule of thumb is hook size divided by 3 = X tippet size. That translates into size 16 hook, divided by 3 = 5X or 6X.

This is the big one! Change your casting position. A step or two up or downstream, or toward the bank or middle of the stream can drastically affect your float. It can change the currents, seams and riffles your fly crosses. Raise your rod tip, (high sticking) to get a longer drag free float. And if none of these suggestions work? Find a new fish. That one probably isn't worthy of your efforts anyway.

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