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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 Ephemerella mucronata (Ephemerellidae) Mayfly Nymph from the Yakima River in Washington
This is an interesting one. Following the keys in Merritt R.W., Cummins, K.W., and Berg, M.B. (2019) and Jacobus et al. (2014), it keys clearly to Ephemerella. Jacobus et al provide a key to species, but some of the characteristics are tricky to interpret without illustrations. If I didn't make any mistakes, this one keys to Ephemerella mucronata, which has not previously been reported any closer to here than Montana and Alberta. The main character seems to fit well: "Abdominal terga with prominent, paired, subparallel, spiculate ridges." Several illustrations or descriptions of this holarctic species from the US and Europe seem to match, including the body length, tarsal claws and denticles, labial palp, and gill shapes. These sources include including Richard Allen's original description of this species in North America under the now-defunct name E. moffatae in Allen RK (1977) and the figures in this description of the species in Italy.
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.

Falsifly's profile picture
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Falsifly on May 2, 2011May 2nd, 2011, 4:16 pm EDT
I would imagine that many of us have made the stream-side egress under cover of night, but I’m willing to bet that fewer have entered the water under the darkness of predawn morn. At an early age I was introduced to the early morning walleye bite, often huddled in the cozy confines below the bow deck of an old wooden boat with my brothers of two, shivering to ward off the cantankerous cold on the long ride to the Banana Islands. We were always on the water just as the slightest hint of dawn’s light peeked from the eastern horizon, and dad made it mandatory that no son of his was to be left behind under cover of blanket. We were never trusted with an alarm clock, it was too easily ignored, so dad was always there, bright and early, barking out his command of, lets go. The avid walleye fisherman is well aware of the magic born from the early morning twilight.

I carried that with me when I began trout fishing, and I recall many a morning taking some dandy browns. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be up at 4:30 and on the water by 5, fishing until I had just enough time to get to work. And amazingly, in retrospect, I can’t recall ever running into another fisherman, even on weekends, in the waning darkness of overnight. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising in that we, as fly fishermen, are preying (or is it praying?) on a hatch; which is another thing I don’t recall running into on my early morning calls. Heck, now that I think about it, I can’t recall any mention of early morning trout fishing from the myriad of books I’ve leisured my way through over the years.

I’d hesitate from this early morning venturing during the early season, when the water temps favor heavy socks and neoprene waders, but when spring blends into summer’s hue, and the freestone temps tempt bare legs and sandals, try it if you haven’t. I’ve found that just about anything appropriate for an across and down swing along the bank works best. If the fishing isn’t to your liking, well, it’s still hard to knock the greeting, standing amid the water’s shimmering light of a new day.
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 May 2, 2011May 2nd, 2011, 7:06 pm EDT
I'm really not a morning person, but I have made occasional exceptions for the Tricos, and once to try pre-dawn night fishing on a river you're very familiar with. I didn't catch any trout but did get a 26" northern from one of my usual trout pools. I had one or two missed, very heavy thumps on big night flies that make me think it would be a productive way to catch some monster trout if I put some effort into it.

Of course, there's not much point to that in my part of Alaska, where the grayling bite best during the warmest part of the day.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Motrout's profile picture
Posts: 319
Motrout on May 4, 2011May 4th, 2011, 5:17 am EDT
During the summer I will often get out predawn when I am fishing trout streams here in Missouri. Last summer was a tough one as far as water temperatures go on many of the wild trout streams around here (we had several prolonged stretches were the afternoon highs broke 100), and for quite a while from about a half-hour before sun-up to about an hour or so after sunrise was about the only window of opportunity where the water temps were low enough for productive and ethical fishing. Plus that is when about all of the bugs hatch on those hot summer days, primarily tricos around here.

Even on streams that don't suffer from water temperature problems, fishing really early can be pretty darn important in the summer. On the first 8-10 miles of upper Current River for example, a nearly 100% spring fed stream where I've never seen the water temperature go above above 70 (except once last year, after an extremely long, dry, hot spell when my water thermometer registered 72 degrees towards the lower end of the trophy trout waters) about the only time when you'll have a legitimate shot at a good sized brown trout is right at first light. After that, you can still catch rainbows , but it's ten to one you won't catch any sizable browns.They just seem to disappear when the sun is beating down on the water. Actually that goes for pretty much all year long, not just for the summer, with the exception of cloudy, rainy days.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
Keystoner's profile picture
Eugene, OR - formerly Eastern PA

Posts: 145
Keystoner on May 21, 2011May 21st, 2011, 9:07 am EDT
EARLY Morning is 100% where it's at. I seldom wake up later than 4am on a day on which I am going fishing. In fact, I get very anxious if I am driving to the stream in the morning and it's light out. This is mostly because the fishing just overall seems to be better. Evening hatches excluded, of course. However, I also really enjoy the solitude. Rigging up by the light of my headlamp, walking down and just sitting there in the darkness, soaking it all in until it's time to fish. This is my ritual all year, and my sleeping pattern is largely dictated by when the sun is rising. It's really kind of sick, but, I often leave the bar extremely early, or decline all together. And to think, they say I have no priorities!!
"Out into the cool of the evening, strolls the Pretender. He knows that all his hopes and dreams, begin and end there." -JB

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