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Fishing the Hex Hatch
written by Jason Akl

If you are planning to fish a Hex hatch, don't worry about getting up early and beating the sun.
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The "Hex" can be found from as far north as Canada, all the way down south into Florida.

If standing out on a river bank in the middle of a night with the buzz of mosquitoes ringing in your ears does not make you cringe, then fishing the Hex hatch just might be what the doctor ordered.

Hexigenia are the largest of the mayflies that occur in the Midwest and they have the power to bring some of the largest trout to the waters surface where they can be caught using large dries. 

 

Hexigenia limbata is one of the most extensive families of mayflies found almost anywhere you look from as far north as Canada to as far south as Florida. Hexigenia can hatch anywhere from late June to early August and represent a significant link in the ecological food chain of clear water streams and lakes. Focusing on these tasty morsels is your best bet to catching that true lunker of a trout.


Lifecycle

 

Female Hexigenia mayflies deposit their eggs directly on, or in the water. Each female has the ability to lay as many as 8,000 eggs, that will find their way to the silty river or lake bottom. After a short incubation period (dependent mostly on the temperature of the water) a tiny mayfly nymph hatches and immediately burrows into the lake sediment. These small nymphs create a U-shaped burrow, with two openings at the sediment surface. The nymph life of Hexigenia lasts from about one year in warm climates to as long as two years or more in colder regions. When the nymph is ready for its final molt, it swims out from the burrow at dusk to the waters surface. On the water surface the mayfly nymph will shed its outer skin and take flight.
During the night the dun will molt one final time to become sexually mature Imagoes (adult spinner). The matured adults will no longer look to eat, because their mouthparts are not completely developed. At dusk the adult flies return to the river in a large swarm and mate. After mating the female spinners settle down to the waters surface and deposit her eggs and the cycle starts over again.


Gear

 

Fishing the hatch does not require any special gear. Your standard 5 or 6 weight fly rod will suffice along with a floating forward taper. One good thing about fishing the hatch is that you really do not need an extremely long leader section. Seeing as you will be fishing after dark and the mass of activity on the water the fish will not be as weary of your fly line. A 7 1/2 foot leader will do just fine and a short stout tippet section is recommended when you are trying to catch big browns with good sized teeth. A good idea is to bring along a headlamp in the chance that you do hook into a monster brown or have the need to change flies. In any event the headlamp will be a welcome addition on your walk out of the river and back to the car.


 

If you are trying to capitalize on catching a big brown then there is no better time than the hex hatch.

 
Fishing the Hatch

 

If you are planning to fish a Hex hatch, don't worry about getting up early and beating the sun.  Since the flies don't hatch until night getting to the river early is useless. Another point to remember is that the nicer the day, the better the hatch will usually be. So if you are having cold, rainy weather the chance of seeing a big hatch of bugs is minimal. Under good conditions duns can be seen rising off the water at around 7:00 PM but don't be fooled, this is just the false hatch.  The real hatch will not start until the sun starts to go down about 9:00 or 9:30 CST so beat the line up and be ready before the lights go out. The truth be told, there really is not much to fishing the hatch. You have to sit and wait for the flies to come off the water and then listen carefully to hear where the fish are biting at. Browns will move into feeding lanes and stay in the same local feeding over and over again. If you can get to where the fish are feeding simply (or not so simply in the pitch dark) drop your fly in the fish's lane and hang on. If your fly happens to drift over where you heard the fish feeding, pick up your line and start over again. If you do find a fish that is feeding hard it will not take more than a few passes near the feeding lane to get the fish to bite and bite hard.


Fishing the hexigenia hatch is not for all anglers, but if you are trying to capitalize on catching a big brown then there is no better time than the hex hatch. The hex hatch is also the perfect situation for the angler who wants to do some fishing after the work day is done.  There is no mystery to the hatch, the flies and fish come out at night and if you can manage to place your fly in just one of the many feeding lanes then you should be in for a great fight. Large flies hatching off the water by the hundreds coupled with fishing in the pitch dark can make for some of the most memorable fishing trips you will ever experience just be sure not to forget your bug dope.

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