Probably one of the last hex photos you’ll see posted this year is of a friend of mine, Bert. Bert’s grin in the picture doesn’t tell the entire story. He’s a fairly new fly fisher, and that night was his first hex trip to my knowledge. When I dropped the anchor to set up on this fish, I had no idea it was as big as it ended up being. But, within a few seconds of the fish eating, it was 25 yards downstream tight to a log jam. I flipped on my headlamp in excitement to see Bert fumbling with much more slack line than he should have been, and I knew landing this fish would take just as much luck as skill. Fortunately, after a moment or two of disarray in the boat, the fish was netted and quickly photographed amidst laughter. That sequence sort of sums up hex season for me. Plenty of chaos, confusion, and laughter all wrapped into a bunch of late nights.
I’d say hex season has all but ended on most rivers around the state, and I’m only mildly upset that this is the case (although I did hear several flutter by while I was on the river Saturday night). In the wake of the big bugs, my excitement about mousing has increased (pun intended) and I’ve remembered the diverse fishing opportunities that late summer presents a fly fisher. Several evenings waking flies over the past week and a half were met with only mild success, but I’m certain that the night fishing will only get better. In addition, I spent several days fishing hoppers, having fun with a new nymph rod, and chasing smallies. A couple of the really good photos from those trips are shown below. They were taken by photographer Lance Nelson who is great at his job and a fun guy to have in the boat. You can check out more of his work on Instagram @riseform.
After all that rain last month, the rivers up north are finally back to the flows and clarity we’re used to, and they’ve begun to warm pretty quickly. I’ve heard of clouds of Tricos on the North Branch of the Au Sable in the mornings. I’ve seen Isos and a few Cahills on the Upper Manistee when I’ve sat and watched. Depending on the river, blind fishing an Iso is probably still one of your safest bets to bring a fish to the surface. As we move forward, start pounding cover with your favorite terrestrial patterns. Skunks, Chernobyls, just make sure it has rubber legs. Don’t be afraid to drop a small ant pattern off the back of your big bug. Erich Gross, here at Nomad, ties an awesome sunken ant pattern for this occasion. For you night fishers, I tend to think of mousing a lot like I do streamer fishing. If I’m not moving fish on one pattern in spots I think I should be, I’ll usually cycle through a few more patterns and see if they work. Most of the fish I’ve found that’ve been willing to eat this year have come from the soft water behind sweepers, or just off the center of a slow, shallow seem. I expect that as the moon begins to wane, inside bends and long shallow flats may start fishing a little better. Whether you prefer size 20 something mayflies, foam and rubber legs, mousing at night, or switching to warmwater species, be sure to appreciate the variety of options that late summer in Michigan has to offer.