Playing the guessing game in the water
Being on the water at the right time with the right fly and presenting it in a manner that imitates the natural is one of the most satisfying ways of catching a trout. Successful hatch fishing requires preparation, knowing what flies might be hatching, when, where, and which patterns best match them.During the summer, the life cycles of many aquatic insects come full circle. The warmer air and water temperatures give way to many diverse, sporadic hatches that provide unlimited food sources for hungry trout.
The Vail Valley is known for bountiful hatches of Mayflies, Caddis, and Stoneflies. We fish all year long with sub-surface imitations of these groups, just waiting for the opportunity to fish during a hatch. A hatch is when a specific family of, for example, the Mayfly group rises to the surface of the water, (this is called the emerger stage). At this time they will rest on the surface, floating downstream, drying their wings for flight, (this is called the Dun stage). Once their wings are dry, they will then fly off, in search of a mate, (this is called the Spinner stage). After mating, the males will die while the females deposit their eggs in or on the river before they die.
The adult (dry fly) stage of any of these groups will last from one day to about three weeks. During a hatch you could see upwards of thousands of adults swarming above the water, birds going crazy, and fish gorging themselves in a feeding frenzy.Hatches typically begin downstream, working upstream as temperatures continue to get warmer. Fishing during a hatch is extremely exciting and can be even more frustrating. The fish tend to focus on a specific size, shape, and color of the hatching natural fly, and that will be the only natural that they will eat at any given time. We must be able to select an artificial pattern that represents the natural as closely as possible. We call this “matching the hatch.”
During a hatch, the fish will feed aggressively and get full quickly. You do not want to fish in the middle of a hatch for this reason. If you see a hatch, rest assured that another one may follow somewhere ahead of the last. To be in front of a hatch with the closest imitation to the natural tied on is the most productive way to catch fish.For every natural that we know exists, you will find many worthy imitations of that natural. It can be overwhelming when trying to select the right patterns to buy. Any local fly shop staff is either guiding or fishing every day and they know what will work at any given time.
Shops usually have a hatch chart on the wall that can be a very useful tool when trying to select patterns to purchase. The shop staff is there to offer suggestions, answer questions, and select patterns for you to fish with. One of the many aspects of fly fishing is to understand the life cycles of insects on your local waters. Utilize the knowledge and experience of your local fly shop and use the information they provide to improve your chances on the water.
John Cochrane is a guide for Gorsuch Outfitters. He can be reached at 926-0900.Vail, Colorado