I’d been hearing it for weeks. Hushed reports from friends that it was happening. The talk became so pervasive it was clear it wasn’t a secret any more. The buzz was becoming unbearable. No matter how hard I tried the stars were not aligning. I wasn’t able to get in on the action.
There are many versions, but in short there are times when something so significant and unusual happens that a river changes its character completely giving us unusual access to it’s otherwise carefully guarded quarry. This is the nature of the epic hatch. In this case a river where the fish are rarely willing to feed on the surface gets flipped on it’s head. Huge browns and rainbows begin to attack the top water with reckless abandon. It doesn’t happen every year. 2011 was unbelievable. Apparently there was a time in the early 2000’s and once in the late 90’s that were even more epic, but I can’t confirm it.
Late to the party but not wanting to miss out, I finally made it two weeks after the first whispers and with only an hour left of daylight. The buzz became real. Tree’s were covered with cicadas, the noise was hypnotic and unmistakeable. The last rays of sun were still warming the river and a stiff breeze blew upstream. A swirl like the flush in a toilet bowl engulfed my bug on the second cast, but we didn’t connect. Fishing soft water near the bank I received a few more apprehensive looks, but no one would commit.
Nearing dark, I saw a flash in some fast, frothy water. My fly followed suit. It was crushed instantly and the fish was 80 feet downstream almost as quickly. The big brown came to hand nearly a hundred yards downstream from where he was hooked. At just under 20 inches and with shoulders like a linebacker, this was the type of fish the river is known for. Not it’s biggest, but a representative catch.
It was all I needed. To catch one fish on a dry fly the size of a silver dollar, in a place that rarely provides the opportunity. Others will have stories of catching more fish and bigger fish, but for me, on this river, this year, the hatch was epic.