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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.

Case view of a Pycnopsyche guttifera (Limnephilidae) (Great Autumn Brown Sedge) Caddisfly Larva from the Yakima River in Washington
It's only barely visible in one of my pictures, but I confirmed under the microscope that this one has a prosternal horn and the antennae are mid-way between the eyes and front of the head capsule.

I'm calling this one Pycnopsyche, but it's a bit perplexing. It seems to key definitively to at least Couplet 8 of the Key to Genera of Limnephilidae Larvae. That narrows it down to three genera, and the case seems wrong for the other two. The case looks right for Pycnopsyche, and it fits one of the key characteristics: "Abdominal sternum II without chloride epithelium and abdominal segment IX with only single seta on each side of dorsal sclerite." However, the characteristic "metanotal sa1 sclerites not fused, although often contiguous" does not seem to fit well. Those sclerites sure look fused to me, although I can make out a thin groove in the touching halves in the anterior half under the microscope. Perhaps this is a regional variation.

The only species of Pycnopsyche documented in Washington state is Pycnopsyche guttifera, and the colors and markings around the head of this specimen seem to match very well a specimen of that species from Massachusetts on Bugguide. So I am placing it in that species for now.

Whatever species this is, I photographed another specimen of seemingly the same species from the same spot a couple months later.
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.

Posts: 59
Chris_3g on Nov 26, 2008November 26th, 2008, 6:20 am EST
So, I have another ethics issue for you guys. Story first.

I got out this morning to fish for a little bit, and within half an hour, I had hooked and landed a really pretty 20" male brown.

Roughly two hours later, I spotted a couple of fish in what has become for me, a pretty popular hole. So, I proceeded to drift an egg fly through this lie, and after a few drifts, I felt a non-rock-like tug, so I set the hook, and quickly found that I had hooked into a big mean brown! Score +1!

So, the fight was on: first he tried swimming for deeper water, and I was able to curtail that. Next, it was upstream, which I was happy to let him do (within reason) so as to tire him out a little more quickly. Then, he decided that downstream was his best bet, and he was right, because just downstream of my position was a fast run of water! I knew I had to get him in quickly (as if I hadn't been trying before...), so I ran downstream ahead of him and managed to pull him onto a rock bed just short of the fast run of water!

It was a fight for the ages, and I actually had to use a little skill to manage the fight so as not to lose the fish. Score +2!

Then I saw, much to my chagrin, that I had in fact hooked his "chin" and not his mouth. Score -1000. Of course, I couldn't resist a picture of such a beautiful brown (see link), but I can't help but feel as though I shouldn't be proud of this fish at all.

I mean, this was a heck of a fish, who put up a heck of a fight, and I had to put up a heck of a fight to land him. And sure, the foul-hooking was completely unintentional, and given the close proximity of the actual hook-set to his mouth, I really didn't have a clue until I landed him, but the fact remains that I didn't actually fool this fish. I cheated.

Now, I could just as easily have claimed none of the above, and no one would have known the difference, i.e. "I caught a great big brown because I'm a great fly-fisherman." However, it's a matter of respect for the sport (and a conscience) that forces me to say something.

Have any of you had similar experiences? What did you make of them? Am I crazy for being this conscientious about a fish I caught?

Later on.


P.S. - Here's a link to my a Fall's worth of fish (and it's only the end of November). Fall Fishing '08
Falsifly's profile picture
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Falsifly on Nov 26, 2008November 26th, 2008, 7:11 am EST
I can understand your remorse; foul hooking a fish is certainly deflating, especially when it is a fish of such stature. However, as I glean from your post, you are a man of high moral and ethical standards and will thus “Take it on the chin.”
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
Troutnut's profile picture
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2758
Troutnut on Nov 26, 2008November 26th, 2008, 12:33 pm EST
It might still be a fish to be proud of -- it depends, where and how did you hook it?

I think the question of whether a fish "counts" should rest on whether it tried to bite your fly or not. Of course, if it's hooked outside the mouth, you legally have to release it. But a catch-and-release angler's internal standard can be a bit more flexible, allowing us to make a good-faith subjective judgment of the intent of the fish.

The most extreme examples of that, for me, have been a couple incidents in which trout leaped clear out of the water as they grabbed my dry fly, but came down hooked in the top of the head or something. It would be illegal to keep such a fish and I would never do that, but it certainly goes down in the "caught fair and square" column of my mental records for the day. I'm sure the underwater equivalent of this situation is fairly common... it's just harder to discern.

A related situation is the fair-then-fouled fish: one that's fair-hooked to begin with, but the hook slips out of its mouth and catches in the pectoral fin or something. That's not quite as clear-cut: I'd call it "mostly caught." Again, the law is clear, but your memory can be more nuanced.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
CaseyP's profile picture
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
CaseyP on Nov 26, 2008November 26th, 2008, 12:42 pm EST
foul-hooked fish are often much harder to land, but i agree, it's embarrassing no matter how you think it happened. go figure: three casts, three fish, every single one hooked at the front of the dorsal fin with the dropper of a two-nymph rig. sadly, i had to admit to those who asked that the day's results were not what i'd have wished. you have suggested a very good notation for the journal!
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
Posts: 59
Chris_3g on Nov 26, 2008November 26th, 2008, 2:28 pm EST
Good points Jason. I forgot to mention that I released the trout! That would be important from a legal standpoint, but I almost certainly would have released him anyway.

I can't say for sure that the brown went for the fly during the "fateful" drift, but he definitely moved for the fly on at least one of the previous drifts. The stream is pretty stained from the recent rain / snow melt, so I only noticed one lunge as I pulled back for a cast, which prompted additional drifts.

He was hooked on the underside of the jaw, about 1-2" from the end of the kype, which makes it conceivable that the interaction of the fly / mono / BB caused an issue if / when he went for the fly. I can attempt to justify the legitimacy of the hook-set (and I would have a decent case, given its proximity), but unfortunately, nothing can be proven one way or the other.

At the end of the day, I landed a beautiful brown trout after a great fight, and for lack of a better option, I guess I'll just remember the trout with an asterisk next to him.


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