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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.

Dorsal view of a Zapada cinctipes (Nemouridae) (Tiny Winter Black) Stonefly Nymph from the Yakima River in Washington
Nymphs of this species were fairly common in late-winter kick net samples from the upper Yakima River. Although I could not find a key to species of Zapada nymphs, a revision of the Nemouridae family by Baumann (1975) includes the following helpful sentence: "2 cervical gills on each side of midline, 1 arising inside and 1 outside of lateral cervical sclerites, usually single and elongate, sometimes constricted but with 3 or 4 branches arising beyond gill base in Zapada cinctipes." This specimen clearly has the branches and is within the range of that species.
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: 21
Delablobbo on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 1:01 pm EDT
I USED to be a pretty good fly fisherman! Then came this season. OK, OK, I didn't do enough tying. And the spring was late, and extremely dry. The hatches were off. But the rain returned, and the rivers rose...But I'm getting skunked more than I've ever been in my life. And it has me trying new techniques all the time. I return home again and again, having caught a couple of tiddlers. No, I'm not the entomologist that some of you are. But I used to get by with some Adams, Elk Hair, Pheasant tail, Orange Soft Hackle, Griffiths. But this year I've been throwing beadheads, even using indicators (which I hate). I'm like Big Poppy at the start of the season. How the hell do I pull out of this, guys? It sucks raw rat!
Martinlf's profile picture
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3047
Martinlf on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 2:54 pm EDT
I've had some bad spells too, but they pass. Just keep at it and try to be confident. Those two things are often the keys to turning a slump around. One day you'll find active fish and it'll all come back and wonder what all the fuss was before.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CaseyP's profile picture
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
CaseyP on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 3:27 pm EDT
whew! someone else having an off year. it's been awful, hasn't it? not one memorable fish...well, that leaves the scenery and the friends and all those other reasons we fish.

...wait 'til next year!


a Washington Nationals Fan)
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
Softhackle's profile picture
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Softhackle on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 4:22 pm EDT
In my opinion, if you are having a bad time, it isn't the time to try something new, but the time to try to figure out why your tried and true techniques are not working. Perhaps it something you are not seeing. A bit of imperceptible drag. You may be visible to the fish. Your retrieve may be too quick. You may not be leaving the fly in or on the water long enough.

Re-examine your procedures. Look more closely at what the fish are doing and how they are reacting to your flies. See what the naturals are doing-how they are behaving. Check carefully to see if you aren't missing something. Techniques that have worked for you in the past are better for you than untried ones, and more than likely you'll figure out why they're not working. When you do, you will have learned something invaluable. That's better than grasping at straws.

Don't give up!
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
GONZO on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 6:07 pm EDT

We all have bad spells from time to time. They keep us honest. Without them, how can we truly appreciate the good days or even recognize them? But, as Louis said, prolonged slumps often have a lot to do with confidence. Ironically, sometimes overconfidence and expectation can initiate the cycle of a slump. Expectation of success can cause us to become careless about many of the fundamentals that combine to create success--all of the things that Mark mentions above.

I don't know if this will help, but I'll tell you about a fishing friend who is a true master of the self-inflicted slump. It usually goes something like this:

When flies or techniques that he expects to work don't work, or don't work as easily or quickly as he expects, he slowly begins to lose focus. It is almost imperceptible at first, but once started, it snowballs with every fishless cast. He becomes impatient. He rushes his casts, and his casting deteriorates. He begins to slap ill-timed and ill-considered deliveries randomly onto the water. Often, when he recognizes that he has just delivered an abomination, he rips it from the water in frustration and angrily delivers another. The next cast is often worse, but even if it is not, any self-respecting trout within range is now cowering under a rock.

By now he realizes that he has blown his chances at this spot, so he moves to another. But his approach to the new spot is hasty, motivated by impatience and frustration. He stumbles. He splashes. He curses. He slaps more thoughtless and random casts at the water. Sometimes he'll change his fly, but the change is more from desperation than observation of a need for the change. And when that fly doesn't produce results in a few casts, the casting becomes even more frenzied and pointless. Saddest of all, should some incautious trout respond to this careless flailing, he is not ready to respond and misses the strike....

It is painful to watch, and it sucks the fun out of fly fishing as surely as a party of drunken tubers floating through your favorite hole at the peak of the hatch.

If any of this sounds at all familiar, then you may be experiencing a self-inflicted slump. If so, I sympathize, as I do when I see it happen to my friend. And I also empathize, because it has happened to me.

Take Mark's advice. Slow down. Observe. Select trusted flies with purpose and confidence. Attend to your approach like a stalking heron. Put all of your skill into every presentation. Do not expect success, but be ready for it at every moment of the drift. If you can fish with the same focus on the umpteenth fishless cast as you do on the first hopeful cast of the day, I'm confident that your slump will end.

If not, as Casey says, there's always next year. Personally, I'm getting a bit too old to count on that as much as I used to, so I'd give Mark's advice a determined try first! :)


Jmd123's profile picture
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2474
Jmd123 on Sep 1, 2009September 1st, 2009, 7:03 pm EDT
Guys, I hadn't done much trout fishing in a while, since warmwaters were much closer to home. Plus, bass and panfish aren't nearly as wary or discriminating as trout, so I had been having plenty of success. Well, it had been just too long since I had gone after trout, plus some of my local warmwaters turn to crap for the summer, so I thought I had better give it a go. Last year I began to fish again on a trout stream that I have hit only intermittently over about the last 15 years or so, since during much of that time I had access to superb trout fishing in northern lower MI (lived in the West Branch area for almost 4 years). So, the first time I hit Paint Creek I caught a couple of little rainbows in the 6-7" range - my first trout since 2002! OK, I thought, I now have some nearby trout waters to hit. Well, in a half-dozen or so trips since, I have only caught creek chubs. This honestly drove me CRAZY since it seemed EVERYONE I talked to about Paint Creek thought it was a terrific little piece of water, including some intoxicated guy partying along the stream who said his buddy caught a 20" brown out of there (doubtless on a worm, given his appearance and the likely nature of his friends).

With so many folks ranting and raving about what a great trout stream it is, and seeing plenty of really nice looking water myself, I began to think I had lost my touch as a trout angler. This feeling returned briefly when I hit the Maple (which I hadn't fished in at least 12 years) last weekend while visiting the U of M Biological Station. After all, I had gotten used to casting for maximum distance on lakes and the Huron River to cover the most water in my quest for fish, and suddenly trout streams seemed downright claustrophobic to me, with overhanging trees snatching at my flies left and right and logs grabbing them just as I was about to drift a dry over a great-looking hole. I calmed myself down and moved upstream out into the open where I could cast more comfortably, in a nice glide with overhanging shrubs and grasses along the banks. It was not long before I had caught a 10" brown and an 8" brookie, and lost a thrid fish in the same size range. Obviously, these were not large fish, but they were the first brook and brown trout I had caught in 8 and 7 years, respectively, in a stream where I had rarely caught ANYTHING this late in the summer. No hatches, but the old reliable #10 Royal Wulff worked its magic - two of those fish struck out of nowhere and I saw the third rise only once and very quietly, but there was nothing quiet about the way any of them hit. Lost my touch, MY A*S!! My confidence was instantly restored and I am now raring to go hit other cold waters, even the chub-infested Paint Creek!

So, my advice is to try some different water, or even some different species. Got any smallmouth waters nearby?

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Posts: 12
Strmfshr on Sep 2, 2009September 2nd, 2009, 10:19 am EDT
i saw this post and read through it. it's something that has been dogging me. i almost believe the rivers aren't being planted as much. and then i think no, the rivers are low and have been that way it seems since last year about this time. which in my mind makes me think they are warmer than ever and the fish are holding up in some spring fed hole who knows where. and i think no, i've been to these streams before and caught fish everytime why not now? i think about my technique and this is my conclusion for me-i believe i get to my stream and start right in casting my fave and hittin the spots that i want and expect fish. which really is the right thing to do, in part. because when you fish or do anything in life you do the next right thing that will lead to fish. and you should expect them because you've been here before and you know what to do and when to do it. but i find the fish not biting and i get frustrated. i cast to the next beautiful lie. . .nothing. and the frustration ensues. until i'm moving from spot to spot. quickly in and out. after an hour and half i'm at wits end. and then i think back to the first fish i caught on a fly pole, letting the fly drift far too long down below me, dragging all over the surface, not a clue as to what i'm doing. i'm just enjoying the beauty of the day and bam! a fish when there was no expectation of fish. the difference i found for me, is that day i was connected to the water, i was hunting, and i had respect for my prey. my patience was with me and i was going slow, i had no expectations, they had already been met by just being there.
Posts: 21
Delablobbo on Sep 2, 2009September 2nd, 2009, 10:38 am EDT
Well, I DO have humor about the predicament. I"m not like Gonzo's buddy. I think I'm just not fishing as much, therefore not as "in touch" with my streams. The weather's been downright bizarre. Listen, I enjoy fishing, anyway. It's just that Murphy seems to have me in his grip this season.

Huntington, PA

Posts: 16
Cdcaddis18 on Sep 2, 2009September 2nd, 2009, 10:02 pm EDT
I never have slumps. If there hasn't been some kind of environmental debacle to significantly alter the ecosystem of the river you are fishing you should be able to catch fish almost every time you go out. If you are experiencing a slump it is most likely one of your own making where you are losing confidence, trying different techniques, or not keeping your mind focused on reading the water and your casting and line management skills.
Al514's profile picture
Central New York

Posts: 142
Al514 on Sep 3, 2009September 3rd, 2009, 3:59 am EDT
I can't really say that I experience slumps of no fish. I am blessed with a wide number of trout streams in my hometown and where I go to school so I can usually find a willing trout. Or, like Jmd suggested, warmwaters usually offer days of pressure free fishing.

However, I DO experience certain types of slumps. This summer I had one of the worst summers in terms of missing hook-sets on fish. I don't know what it was and still don't. I waited in the slow water, pricked quick in the faster water, and did downstream hook-sets when nymphing and I still lost a lot of fish.

After the first time I missed a fish, I pushed it off as nothing. When it kept happening my confidence just kept decreasing. I don't know exactly what turned my confidence around, but I was still using the same techniques to get me out of it. This isn't the type of slump you're talking about, Delablobbo, but I can relate to it and give the advice of "sticking to your guns".

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