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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 Pycnopsyche guttifera (Limnephilidae) (Great Autumn Brown Sedge) Caddisfly Larva from the Yakima River in Washington
This specimen appears to be of the same species as this one collected in the same spot two months earlier. The identification of both is tentative. This one suffered some physical damage before being photographed, too, so the colors aren't totally natural. I was mostly photographing it to test out some new camera setting idea, which worked really well for a couple of closeups.
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.

Troutnut's profile picture
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2758
Troutnut on Sep 1, 2006September 1st, 2006, 5:41 am EDT
The other day I was fishing to a pool full of picky trout below a waterfall. There were NO bugs coming off, or so it seemed, and I'm better at spotting bugs than at most other things. But several trout were rising frequently. None were steadily sipping from the same feeding lane; instead, once or twice a minute a trout would hit the surface hard, often coming half-way out of the water vertically.

I tried a variety of dry flies and emergers without any luck. I didn't get so much as a look. At least the trout in the other pools on the river had the courtesy to come up where I could see them to refuse my fly. These fellows waved it off from a distance.

So, what were the trout rising to?

My guess is that they were eating drowned terrestrials. They were below a major waterfall in this forest stream, and above the falls there's a 50-yard-long, tall, overhanging gorge. It seems a lot of bugs could fall in the river there. Normally rises to ants or beetles are more subtle, which had me puzzled. But normal ants and beetles are trapped in/on the surface film. I'm thinking maybe the waterfall dunked them all below, but they floated up, so they were trapped entirely below the film like nymphs about to emerge. And maybe the trout seeing in that position were triggered to respond as if they were emergers, which explains the violent rise forms.

Or maybe, since there were so many other trout in the pool, they were taking the insects fast just because it was a race to beat the others.

Unfortunately I didn't get to test my idea, because I discovered there that I have lost the box with all the ants and beetles I tied last month.

So, what do you think they were taking?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Southeastern PA

Posts: 5
Fishingguru on Sep 2, 2006September 2nd, 2006, 3:52 am EDT
I have encountered similar situations on my home waters in PA and like you was totally baffeled untill I spoiled the waters by wading into the site with a net. Didn't find any bugs, emergers, land insects, but what I did see were small baitfish scurrying about. After leaving the area and resting it for a while, I tied on a small,#12 6xlong streamer imitation, cast it upstream and stripped it as it floated through the riff. Talk about violent takes!!!

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