If you fish dry flies, you know what I mean when I say Match the Hatch.
Determine what is hatching on the river or lake that day and hopefully have a pattern or two in the fly box that will imitate the real bug and fool a fish.
Sometimes it’s an easy answer. You look forward to an annual well-known hatch like the Salmonfly hatch on the Deschutes River. You expect to see Salmonflies. Right now it’s the place to be. You’ll see these bugs on the grasses and trees next to the water.
You might look forward to a specific hatch you’ve experienced in the past or a friend told you about.
But counting on an annual hatch may not always work. Perhaps those bugs haven’t begun to hatch. Or the fish ignore them and are taking something else.
Remember my post Foam is Home? I discuss why eddies are important for fish. They are natural conveyor belts of food bringing easy meals to trout. Eddies are a great place to “be observant”.
Well, a couple of weeks ago my wife and I are fishing an eddy hoping to find a few noses poking out of the water and eating an adult insect. She looks down at her feet to determine what bugs are floating in the current that are available to the fish. Remember…conveyor belt. We’re expecting some PMDs, What does she find? This…
I know it’s difficult to see, but there are probably 10 different bugs in the eddy she was able to find, including Pale Morning Duns, Blue Wing Olives, a couple of caddis, some midges, an olive stone, and a Caudatella mayfly.
So, what are the fish eating? After looking at the multitude of bugs available to the fish, who knows! Are they keying on one specific insect or eating whatever floats in front of their face. Does one taste differently from the next?
You know the feeling when presented with the option of having a piece of Marionberry pie or an oatmeal cookie? Do I have to choose? Usually I say both! But sometimes I only want pie. What about the fish?
Most fly fishers concentrate on what they think the major hatch…and generally that’s the biggest bug. Guilty as charged. Sometimes that works. I’d tie on a PMD Sparkle Dun because I’m expecting a good PMD hatch. But the fish aren’t taking them.
What to do? Try a different fly. Which one?
This is where the power of observation will help. Try to locate bugs floating by. If you are lucky, you’ll see a nose or two breaking the surface…a fish rising. I’ll look upstream to find a real bug or two and watch as it floats over the fish. If they rise for the bug, I’ll have a pretty good idea what they are taking. If they don’t take them, watch closely in the film and see if some other bugs are around. That’s why eddies are so important for you. They’ll help determine what bugs are in the drift.
But the message here is…be observant and flexible.