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Lateral view of a Female Hexagenia limbata (Ephemeridae) (Hex) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
Hex Mayflies
Hexagenia limbata

The famous nocturnal Hex hatch of the Midwest (and a few other lucky locations) stirs to the surface mythically large brown trout that only touch streamers for the rest of the year.

27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Insect Order Lepidoptera (Moths)

Lateral view of a Lepidoptera (Moth) Insect Adult from the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Idaho
The order Lepidoptera includes both butterflies and moths, but moths are the most important to the angler because so many species spend part of their lives underwater. These aquatic species are similar in many ways to caddisflies.

Many species, of course, are not aquatic at all.

Hatching behavior

The pupae of aquatic moths turn into adults underwater in their cocoons, so they are not worth imitating. The emerging adults, swim away from their pupal cocoons and are vulnerable to trout until they crawl or fly away from the water.

Egg-Laying behavior

Time of day: Usually dusk or nighttime

Mirroring the behavior of caddisflies, aquatic moths may lay their eggs on the surface or dive underwater to lay them on the bottom. The diving species are the most common, and they are especially vulnerable to trout. Anglers frequently see the adults in our flashlights as we leave the stream for the night, and Swisher and Richards wrote in Selective Trout:

Because almost all of the action is at dusk and later, anglers don't realize how prolific these insects really are.

Larva & pupa biology

Diet: Algae and plankton

Shelter type: Some build silk shelters.

Aquatic moth larvae live in a variety of ways underwater, including building silken shelters. Their appearances vary tremendously in size, color, and form, but they are a rare find in most places. In all my nymph sampling I have never yet turned up an aquatic moth larva.

Specimens of Moths:

3 Adults
1 Larva

1 Streamside Picture of Moths:

Start a Discussion of Lepidoptera


Insect Order Lepidoptera (Moths)

Family in Lepidoptera
Family in Lepidoptera: Geometridae
12 families (Arctiidae, Cosmopterigidae, Cosmopterigidae, Cossidae, Gelechiidae, Nepticulidae, Nepticulidae, Noctuidae, Olethreutidae, Pyralidae, Sphingidae, and Tortricidae) aren't included.
Common Name
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