Hexagenia Limbata: A Fly Fisher’s Dream

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If you have ever had a high fever or dabbled in psychedelic offerings before heading out to wade in the coal darkness of nighttime pond, you have most certainly had an impression of how dreams can emerge in the awake time. The addition of rain, loon song, and the concentric sound of trout breaking water converge to paint something entirely unearthly. At the height of the hatch, there is a 30 minute period in which my senses are at capacity. In the darkness, the silhouettes of giant mayflies keep me casting despite a total lack of awareness of where my line will come to rest. In between fish, I feel the rhythm of sleep….casting, retrieving…casting… coupled with an electric hum that has my wrist ever ready to set the hook upon taking.

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It is, of course, a strange combination. To be meditative while simultaneously flooded with the chemicals of expectation. This is the unique experiential offering of the hex hatch, never mind the great fishing that can sometimes occur. The trout, brook trout of all sizes, might share in my assessment this evening. For them, the hexagenia must seem like a sort of “carnival of nature”. Supersized mayflies that reliably appear from the water’s surface year after year; it’s a colossal bonus round for lazy eaters, especially those who enjoy late night snacking.

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When a big trout does take, I feel my disadvantage. Trout, native to the water, are ever graceful in whatever condition their environment presents. Not so much for us visitors. To net a strong fish in the dark and get him safely back on his way feels a little like walking drunk… down basement stairs… with a burnt out light bulb…while carrying a futon mattress…by yourself. When a fish departs my catch with a strong, shadowy swirl, I am largely relieved. It is not until I am in process of gathering my line that I have the headspace to revel in the wonder of the whole bit.
At 10:45 p.m. it is time to come off of the water. I am fortunate to have a friend who has offered access to this experience for the past couple of years. The hospitality that is laid out upon arrival is, in my view, perhaps even more unique and unexpected as catching 3 pound brook trout wading in a pond, at night. As we carefully shuffle to land, I smell the sleepy call of the woodstove. Todd knows that the fish have quit long before we do and has made his way to the cabin to provide a much needed warm-up for 3 rainy fishers.
Art, Molly and myself soak up the heat and spend some time chatting while writing in the cabin journal. What to say? I do my best to characterize my gratitude for it all. The water, the trout, the generosity, the rain, the willingness to accept my fly, the friendship of fellow fishers. My tired scribbles fall short. It’s nearly impossible to write the magical, weird wonder of fishing the hex hatch. I will simply honor it by being quite sure to never miss it for every year that I am able to participate.

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The Further I Get Past The Humans

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Mammaflybox

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I pause for a moment, staring at a deer’s half-consumed rib cage that is resting between a pool filter and a Top Ramen noodle bag. If I duck down I can see the river through the trees- I’m almost there, but my curiosity beckons. Who threw their pool filter in the middle of the woods? What animal left a half eaten deer next to the river? And I’m not sure who would make noodles and toss the bag in the woods, but I notice they are also missing some hair ties, RC Cola cans, and a heinous amount of used toilet paper. And what’s with the pool filter…did you really bring that out here? The eeriness of all the untold stories, and people’s failed attempts at camping, bothers me. The coldness sweeping over me could also be the cloud cover that has rolled in and darkened the river valley, adding to the…

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Ellis Gets a Rainbow

Fly Fishing: Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized


At 12 weeks, it’s time to get Ellis on the fly.  Maria and I load him into the boat for his maiden voyage and load an additional passenger…a very reliable catcher.  Today, Nome works hard to sort through her catches to determine which is most likely a “dog trout”.  “Cat trout” detest puppy snouts and will let you know it with a swift swing of the tail.

It’s the last of the late Fall fishing that allows a shiver free pond outing as the sun dives ever deeper in the afternoons.  As we depart the water’s edge I have only one concern…  that Ellis might have the impression that this fly fishing stuff is “easy”!





Ellis Gets a Rainbow

Fly Fishing: Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized


At 12 weeks, it’s time to get Ellis on the fly.  Maria and I load him into the boat for his maiden voyage and load an additional passenger…a very reliable catcher.  Today, Nome works hard to sort through her catches to determine which is most likely a “dog trout”.  “Cat trout” detest puppy snouts and will let you know it with a swift swing of the tail.

It’s the last of the late Fall fishing that allows a shiver free pond outing as the sun dives ever deeper in the afternoons.  As we depart the water’s edge I have only one concern…  that Ellis might have the impression that this fly fishing stuff is “easy”!






 

Trout Quilt

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

I asked Maria to make me a quilt that evoked all of my favorite trout markings.  She delivered. I can now dream of next season’s catch into the dead of winter while wrapped in brookie, brown, and rainbow spots.  Perhaps she wants me to sleep right through May without complaint re: frozen waters….

Thanks, Maria, for a wonderful interpretation of my favorite river dwellers!

How Traditions Happen…

Fly Fishing: Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized
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Overnights make late evening and early morning water a realistic endeavor…

 

 

If you mix up the following ingredients:

  1. Waves
  2. Boats
  3. Beers
  4. Fly fishing
  5. Favorite people
  6. Dehydrated junk foods
  7. Weather
  8. Silly tent noises
  9. Hot coffee
  10. Camp Fire plus lantern

….expect a tradition to be born. Year 2, and the Andro float is growing in willing campers.

 

Sometimes, It’s A FAIL

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Mamaflybox at it again..speaking droves of fly fisher truths. She’s a sage and a hoot, my favorite combo!

Mammaflybox

10352256_10203101294764707_6064761208400454415_n THIS IS A SUMMER PICTURE OF ONE OF OUR FAILS

Just so you know, sometimes things fail miserably.

When you are fishing in the warmer winter season and you watch your two-year old confidently follow you into the water with his snow boots on. Ankle deep in the water, assuming his boots are waterproof too, he says, “Fish. Mom.” And I say, “Where is your dad?”……………….Fail

When you drive for two hours into the mountains and get a flat tire about five miles from the river, without a tire iron…And hilbillies fix it for you and then you turn around and go right back home…..Fail

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When you don’t sign your kids (under 10 yrs old up) for sports because you don’t want to lose your family fishing weekends………………….Fail

 When you rescue baby fish from your fish tank and raise them for three months…. And then you get tired of taking care of…

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Leave the Big Net at home…

Fly Fishing: Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, Uncategorized


I have been thirsty for a big brown trout for years, only catching 12 inch stockers in between brookies and rainbows.  As we set out for a float today, I am mainly prepped for some bird watching and a little smallmouth bass wrangling. But we will be on slow, warm water in the middle of the day so I am not feeling lucky.  “I’ll leave the big net behind”, I announce as we load the car with what is already too much to move without motor assist. 

And wouldn’t you know, after 2 eagles and an osprey, I find a willing brown trout hanging behind a rock in shallow slack water just off the bank.  


He provides plenty of nerve raising excitement, taking line and towing me around a bit by my woolly bugger. Once in (BARELY!) my not-very-big-net, we settle in for a breather before dashing back to the depths. The intense golden glow of the brown trout is unlike any other trout I have held before…radiant. 



Now, I have fished this very spot many times. In fact, many times with better water flows, better times of day, more trouty times of year, and with a BIGGER net. But today I am lucky?  Perhaps I will discard the bigger net. 

Generations: Passing on the Rod (among other things)…

Fly Fish the Trophy Stretch: North of Northern New Hampshire, Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, The Connecticut River, Uncategorized


I had the honor and all around good fun of accompanying my friend Art and his grand daughter on her first fly wrangling river adventure. A coordinated, focused, and good-humored teenager, she has all of the prerequisite characteristics that translate to fun behind the fly. We incorporate a night camping underneath unsettled skies to up the adventure quotient and find ourselves fortunate to be enjoying our freeze dried meals sans raindrops. 


Once on the water, I am so distracted by the hope of Molly catching her first fish that I find it impossible to move down below them.  I am, in fact, lucky enough to see her reel in her first rainbow and provide netting and snapshot services.  We are off to a good start! 


So, I end up hanging around soaking up the precious scene of generations passing joy.  This is a special kind of teaching- one full of hope that the student will go on to find the friendships, the solitude, the beauty, the escape, and the acceptance that only comes with loving an activity that can never be mastered.  Despite our algorithm driven obsessions to prepare with the right leader, the correct line, 14 sizes of the same fly, the outcome of our day on the water depends on a multitude of factors that do not respond to human influence. It’s a drag…and a hoot!  And for a grandfather, it just might reason enough to sign up to sleep in a tent on a rainy night. This duality -loving the process despite your lack of ability to control the outcome is the cornerstone of resilience.  And resilient people?  Well, they tend to report high levels of happiness and meaningfulness.  And don’t we all want that for the people we love?  Truth be told, you know you’re extra special when someone with lots of years on their skeleton willingly, and gladly, sleeps on gravel studded ground under threat of thunder to find you a cooperative trout!

So, Molly, see you on the river… OR the field, the library, the mountain…wherever you find your  joy.  (Selfishly, your grandfather and I hope the river calls you back because we are usually hanging around there in waders anyway.)

Thanks for having me along! 

Hex: The Super-Sized Mayfly. 

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The party sized trout snack…cause for much excitement on special lakes and rivers that host the emerging hexes.  Summer nights, campfires, fishing into the dark, distant voices of fish tales being spun and hot dogs dressed…  The hexagenia hatch is a dreamy combination of a sunset hammock nap and an endorphin pumping roller coaster ride.  Never miss it.