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> > When the hatch don't match

Red_green_hJuly 1st, 2020, 10:11 am
New Mexico

Posts: 64
I went fishing with a friend of mine and son on the East fork of the Jemez River on the edge of Valles Caldera in the Jemez Mountains of NM. My friend has been fishing this river for 30+ years and is what I would consider an expert on this river. The second I got on the river I walked through a huge swarm of what I believe was a species of baetis. My heart started pounding and I was getting excited because I'm thinking I identified the hatch. I threw on a BWO and started throwing it out. Not one bite. I threw everything I had on my fly box that would represent, emergers, duns, nymphs...nothing. My friend had an orange stimulator and I tied a stimulator on my son's line and they were getting fish everywhere they stopped to throw it in. I finally tied on a grizzly Wulff and it seemed like every time I cast I had a hit. I don't get it. I saw Mayflies all up and down the river but fish weren't hitting anything that represented them. My fiend was chuckling giving me a hard time because he told me to tie on a stimulator from the beginning. He told me "sometimes the hatch don't match, and on this river it rarely does." Caught some decent browns and had a great day overall being out on the river but am a bit perplexed. I had a blast with my boy though. He is really enjoying going out and spending time in the outdoors. His excitement is contagious.

< />< />Max brown by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickr
< />< />my brown by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickr
< />< />bend by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickr
< />< />cliff by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickr
< />< />Jemez pool by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickr[/i< />< />Jemez box by < />Ryan Norris, on Flickrmage]
Red_green_hJuly 1st, 2020, 10:13 am
New Mexico

Posts: 64
In that 3rd picture you can see a log in the water. I saw the biggest brown I've ever seen. He was hiding under that log and nothing was coaxing him out.
Jmd123July 1st, 2020, 11:36 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2480
NICE SCENERY! Wow, that is impressive, breathtaking! And a little kid with a BIIIG smile! Pretty fish, too, and it's not always the size that around here in brookie country!

Yeah, fish don't read fly fishing books. That's what I say in the field when a plant is "out of place". Plants don't read wetland books...and I LOVE the Wulff patterns, especially the Royal Wulff that gets fish to hit that just boil or swipe at your other flies, and the White Wulff for evening/nighttime and matching big Light Cahills! They work, and the fish ain't talking other than what they bite on...

Tight lines and well done!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Jmd123July 1st, 2020, 11:51 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2480
Here's a story for ya. Several years ago one night on the Rifle River, here in northern lower Michigan, there was the usual heavy hatch of white caddis, likely Nectopsyche sp. commonly known as White Millers. They dance above the water in clouds, as if to taunt the fish, some of which will actually leap for them (especially the little guys). But throw an imitation around, a #12-14 white EHC, and you'll get next to no hits on some nights, a few decent fish on others. But it's not productive in spite of the enormous number of flies on the water. So one night in August of 2014, I noticed something: every now and then a white mayfly would drift by me RIDING THE WATER instead of dancing like the caddis. Not many, but every once in a while, hey there goes another one of those...on went a #12 white mayfly (may have been a Wulff or Light Cahill, don't remember which) and BLAMMO, out of a nice notch in the alders a beautiful 14-inch male brown in pre-spawning trim grabbed it and almost jumped into the bushes! After release, another fish was on within less than 5 minutes, then another and another...then it quit or I moved upstream or something. But amongst all of those caddisflies, they were looking for that once-in-a-while mayfly riding the water...the hatch within the hatch! A cautionary tale...

Just discovered this past weekend that binoculars help sometimes too!

Tight lines!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Red_green_hJuly 1st, 2020, 2:45 pm
New Mexico

Posts: 64
Laughed at "fish don't read fly fishing books".

I can't tell you how much research I did over the winter on the areas I fish the most in regards to mayfly/caddisfly populations. It consumed me over the winter. I researched books and papers that went back to early 1900s. Some stuff I found on the internet, most stuff was from going to the library and researching and finding old books. I then cross referenced all the material I found with the insect encyclopedia that is on this forum. So I thought all this time I spent researching was going to pay off when I saw all those mayflies. My buddy kept on telling me tie on an orange stimulator as he was pulling fish after fish out of the water. I knew better though and stuck to finding the right fly and I never got one nibble. Meanwhile my son who is learning to cast and tie on flies is getting bites left and right and he even has time to catch a lizard and a bull snake!!! I don't know who was more stubborn the fish for not taking my flies or me for not tying on that darn stimulator.

The first fish I caught on a fly rod was off of a royal Wulff. It seems I always have success with that fly pattern.

I'll tell ya what though, your story reminds of something I've always thought. I've learned more about fishing after getting skunked than a day hauling them in left and right.
Jmd123July 1st, 2020, 6:22 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2480
Always learn from your mistakes! And the Royal Wulff rarely fails, fish that refuse something totally natural-looking will turn around and slam a Wulff! Works on smallies just as well as trout, they like the RW too!

It's a lifelong learning experience. I've been at it for 35 years and run into new situations all the time. And no, they don't read our danged books, and if they did they would purposely mess with us and do the "wrong" thing...

You've sure got some pretty country to fish there! Those western landscapes...tempts me to look for my next job in Oregon. Thanks again for posting!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Red_green_hJuly 2nd, 2020, 5:40 am
New Mexico

Posts: 64
The great thing about NM is that it's not Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana etc. and other than the trophy fish in the San Juan does not get a lot of fishing pressure outside of locals. Not that I don't want to go to any of those places but we have some pretty spectacular wilderness areas here. Catching a fish is a bonus, you already hit the jackpot just being out there. But I think that's just about anywhere you go fishing. If someone in our state's tourist department knew what they were doing they could really attract a lot of people here, thankfully they haven't figured that out yet.
Jmd123July 2nd, 2020, 6:46 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2480
I live in a high tourist area - the Au Sable River Valley. We're the regular stop for people from the Detroit area, so this coming weekend is going to be a ZOO. you can see from the visit from the boys, there's places around here few dare to tread, unless you're obsessed with catching spectacular little brookies in amazingly beautiful little creeks surrounded by bog vegetation. If you can drive to it, people will be there; if ya gotta hoof it, well 95% of them are NOT going to follow you, especially if they have to drag a boat (e.g., my kayak on wheels) or there's no defined trail...

Enjoy your scenery! And feel free to share pics of it any time, I will always do the same and trip pics & stories are always the best part of this website.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TroutnutJuly 7th, 2020, 3:52 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2592
I'm guessing the cloud of mayflies you saw over the water were spinners in their mating flight.

They wouldn't end up on the water until sometime after that, and occasionally they'll go back to the bushes or something instead of falling dead on the water. I've seen spinner clouds that never "fell" to create fish activity.

Also, were you fishing upstream or downstream from the cloud of mayflies? Perhaps those spinners were mating over a riffle toward the downstream end of the reach you fished, and then you were fishing smooth water that doesn't attract the spinners from there on up?

Did you ever actually see a bunch of them on the surface of the water, and trout weren't rising to them? Or were trout rising to them and refusing your imitations in favor of big attractor flies? Or were the mayflies just in the air, not on the water?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MartinlfJuly 8th, 2020, 1:06 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3057
Gorgeous photos. Your boy is a lucky one, as are you, to be sharing such adventures. Thanks for sharing them with us.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Red_green_hJuly 9th, 2020, 8:42 am
New Mexico

Posts: 64
To answer your question Troutnut I never actually saw any fish rising or mayflies dropping on the water. The biggest swarm I walked through was on the trail about 5-6 ft off the stream. Though I did see a couple stragglers here and there on the water occasionally. I was fishing both upstream and downstream and everywhere in between for that matter. We didn't get on the water until about 08:30-09:00. I actually didn't see fish rise until late afternoon after the canyon walls had cast a shadow over the entire canyon. I thought fishing wet flies in patterns that I thought would mimic the mayflies in different life stages I saw might do the job. But it was clear that they were a lot more interested in stimulator patterns and in the case of my son a San Juan worm I tied on for him. Maybe I should have tied on a BWO (I think the mayfly was Baetis tricaudatis) in the afternoon when I saw the fish rising but by that time they were going after the grizzly Wulff so hard I kept it on.
Red_green_hJuly 9th, 2020, 9:31 am
New Mexico

Posts: 64
Your boy is a lucky one, as are you, to be sharing such adventures.

He's my bug guy. He loves bugs!!! And he loves fishing!!! If I can steer him to get those two passions to combine that would be just all right with me!!!
Jmd123July 9th, 2020, 12:28 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2480
Yep, I 2nd that, you're raising that boy right! Kids are natural scientists and explorers, and given opportunity and encouragement they'll run with it! Get a decent microscope or two, they're useful for ID and just plain fun to look through too! I still have an ancient B&L scope my Dad got me when I was a kid (Parke-Davis was throwing them out: "Hey, can I have one of these for my kid?"). It still works, nice and clear, just needs a separate lamp, none attached...I couldn't tell you how much time I spent in the basement on my own laboratory bench (that Dad built for me) staring at pond water samples.

I was thinking of posting a story on optics for fly fishermen: microscopes and binoculars, got a few of my own for pics.

Tight lines to you and your son!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Red_green_hJuly 10th, 2020, 5:56 pm
New Mexico

Posts: 64
We have a microscope and a slide set. We love to make slides of insect wings. I remember a couple years ago I was fishing around in the freezer and found a ziplock bag full of dead frozen bugs: praying mantis, katydid, ladybug, wasp, bumblebee, cockroach, etc. You name it it was in there. Next time we go I'll bring some collection boxes and have him collect bugs we find up there and post pictures.

As much as he's learned in how to cast and fish with a fly rod it was a steep learning curve. It's been frustrating at times. Now my 8 yo daughter she's a natural. She picked up on the basics by watching me once. Her first cast ever landed her a nice little rainbow. And when I take her we never have a bad day.

I actually just got my boy his 1st outfit for his bday this week. 3wt 7'6" Echo base rod with a Echo base 3/4 reel. Found some cheap line from Flyshack that they claim is factory overrun from a brand name company. He's excited, I'm excited. Can't wait to get back on the water.
TaoskiAugust 2nd, 2020, 12:10 pm
Abq NM

Posts: 2
Red-Green, great photos, I haven't been to that stretch of the East Fork in years. Definitely get up to the Caldera meadows when you have the chance.

July fishing in the norther NM mountain creeks is about as easy as it comes. As you discovered, the fish don't care what the hatch is. I've found an elk-hair caddis with a copper john dropper works in any stream, and any time of the day - Jemez, Pecos, RG tribs, Chama tribs etc. That will change over the next few weeks, but sometimes you just hit it at the right time.
TroutnutAugust 7th, 2020, 7:25 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2592
To answer your question Troutnut I never actually saw any fish rising or mayflies dropping on the water. The biggest swarm I walked through was on the trail about 5-6 ft off the stream.To answer your question Troutnut I never actually saw any fish rising or mayflies dropping on the water. The biggest swarm I walked through was on the trail about 5-6 ft off the stream.

Those were definitely spinners, then. Generally, mayflies in a "swarm" are almost always spinners. Frequently they aren't the "olive" color of a BWO at all. The males, especially, can often be brown/black and translucent/white.

Sometimes, spinners don't fall on the water, or the trout don't respond when they do (especially for small spinners like Baetids, and in relatively small numbers compared to the size of the stream). So it's not surprising you had more luck with attractor flies.

It can work both ways. I was on a stream in Idaho about week ago under conditions that seemed classic for attractor flies... very little hatching, bright sunny midday, etc. A much bigger trout than what I'd been catching came out to look at my attractor fly but snubbed it. Then I noticed it was rising in a dark spot along the bank every so often. However, it wasn't interested in a couple different attractors. Then I saw there were some tiiiiiiny little Baetid duns coming off (around size 24). I tied on a decent imitation, made a cast I was proud of, and hooked the fish. Matching the hatch was the ticket in one of the last situations you would expect.

Of course, other times, there's an obvious hatch coming off but an attention-grabbing attractor is what you need instead.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist

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