Touched by Rain

Touched by rain, the neighborhood creek was much improved last night. Five days ago, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe fishing there seemed dead because of low, clear water. Now the stream was up a little (still clear), and the casting rocked. Fishing for wild trout was comparable to the way it was in early summer. I saw some healthy looking brooks, and a smattering of browns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA couple of evening rains did wonders for the creek, a tributary of the Genesee which, unfortunately, was flowing high and chocolate-colored. Here the creek was comfortable to wade in with a short rod and a tapered leader and a dry Black Ant. The flying ants were everywhere, in company with some micro-caddis.

As the sun began to set, I ran into trouble, so I quit. The trouble started when a dragonfly seized the Ant that sailed by on a back cast. Thus I pulled in a spidery set of dragonfly legs, with Black Ant solidly embedded in a wing. Lest we forget, these large, amazing insects are carnivorous. Extricating the fly from the wing and wiping it off, I then placed it at the head of a narrow pool.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trouble deepened when a sizeable brook trout nailed the fly and took it down a hole. The fish wrapped the leader on a tree root, snapping it beyond my reach. Realizing that the fish might have to spend the night on a leash,  I quit. Fly fishing, too, can dish out the blues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut having caught and released more than a dozen trout, I didn’t want to agonize. A good rain is what we had needed here. Returning to the car, I found a large mayfly on the water, one I’d never really seen before.

Hexagenia limbata is the second largest of the 600-plus mayfly species in North America. The big brown and yellow specimen I found floating on the surface of the creek was about two-inches long. I found it where one might expect to see this creature– in quiet water with a lot of silt, at sun-down. I had known about the fly. I’d known that it hatched on Pine Creek in late summer, but for years the “Hex” had been a stranger to me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fly presents a well-known hatch on many lakes across the country and in rivers where it draws huge trout to the surface. It also draws a lot of anglers who are willing to pursue the Hex-eaters into the inky darkness of night. Even though I’ve fished some rivers in Michigan and Oregon where this fly has long been famous, I haven’t consciously encountered it before. So where the hell have I been? Somehow I felt cheated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere it was again. The blues. A call to reason… Lots of trout came by tonight. One brook was close to 11 inches, colorful. The wild brown trout wasn’t bad… And hey, that dragonfly showed an ugly face… Like the cape of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins through a fog machine.

So why should I think the Hex fly had been taunting me? Was it saying, “Here I am, buddy; where have you been all these years?”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For a moment or two, Hexagenia could’ve been Screamin’ Jay, himself … It put a spell on me!

I saw a trout stream through its wings. Those wings were about to fly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to Touched by Rain

  1. trutta99 says:

    That stream looks identical to our Umgeni River here! The difference is in the size of our mayflies. That is a whopper! Ours seldom exceed a #22! Thanks for sharing

  2. It’s interesting to learn some of the similarities and differences between our widely separated streams. Amazing to think that S. African mayflies are so tiny!

    • Bob Stanton says:

      Those Hexes hatch on the middle Allegheny in what I consider to be fair numbers, but I’ve not once witnessed trout eating them, even when I’ve caught spinners and hurled them on the water over actively rising fish. Same goes for the clouds of tricos that mass and fall from July onward. Isn’t it funny that bugs that acquire a “superhatch” reputation elsewhere can be non-factors on our local waters? I think these tailwater trout have a preference for caddis larva and crawdads.

      • Bob, I think the Hex super-hatch is mostly a Midwestern and, in some cases, a Western phenomenon (also in various lakes) that occurs in late spring when trout are usually pretty damned hungry. Out here it seems to hatch in late summer when in all too many cases the trout are suffering from warm water temps and aren’t taking much of anything. As for Tricos, I think you’ve got to seek them out and be there by 8 a.m. If they’re hatching in warmer waters, like the Genesee, pursuit is rather futile, in my experience. But in cold water streams (there’s a bunch of them here) with sufficient flow in mid-summer, I can have a lot of fun with the hatch.


  3. Long says:

    Walt – fantastic, loving the brookie action. beautiful stream you got there.

  4. Alan says:

    A wonderful post.
    I too found the heavy rains worked magic on a small stream I fish.

  5. Mark W says:

    I would pay attention to that stream in early July when it starts to get really humid and the hex’s start to show up! It is quite an experience fishing in the dark by feel and sound with these monster insects flying all around you. Sometimes you can hear them “pop” as the mayfly emerges on the surface.

  6. Thank you for the tip, Mark; I’ll keep an eye out for this mayfly in the future. Not sure when it first appears on this stream, but I’d say it’s relatively late, compared to streams where it’s a “superhatch.” I’d love to experience the hatch as you describe it.

  7. stevegalea6953 says:

    Well done again my friend. I love the last lines of this post. Fine writing.

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