Monday, September 5, 2011

The Blizzard Hatch of 2011

I know, I know - where the hell have I been? I realize all two or three of you that might actually check this blog are wondering if I sold my gear. This past year has been an adjustment trying to balance a new work schedule and increased responsibilities but I assure you, I have been out fishing a few times. Last Wednesday was one of those times and I must share our experience.

Okay, I've heard the term "blizzard hatch" before, and I figured it was just someone getting excited over their first significant hatch. I mean, I've seen a "blanket hatch" before, with so many mayflies coming off the water that they blanket the water's surface. I've been in a caddis hatch where I thought I was covered in caddis. I do say "thought", because nothing would prepare me for what Bob and I experienced on the 30th.

We fished Newport the week before, hitting a lackluster white fly hatch that didn't develop into much at all (Newport has been our go-to spot for white fly hatches since having one of our best evenings about 5-6 years ago). Bob went out the following Thursday with little luck as well. Then Irene hit Sunday and Monday, causing some light flooding on TWCC, but nothing like spring runoff levels. By Wednesday, we weren't sure how far the hatch had worked up the river, but something told us to head to the run below the first rt. 28 bridge (from what I've read, a.k.a. "the lake"). The hatch started slow, but early. A few white flies popped out around 7:30pm and the fish started rising sporadically. With a surprising amount of daylight left the hatch really started picking up around 8:00pm. Bob and I cought a couple of fish, but as usual there were too many flies available to get the fish to pay much attention to our offerings. Then, it got thick. I mean, really thick. It was too dark to get a decent pic of the scene, but let me describe it to you. Imagine a mayfly every 3-4 inches on the surface of the water. Imagine looking down on your vest and seeing easily 2 -3 dozen flies at a quick glance. Adult shucks littering the flaps covering your pockets. Reeling in your fly to find 3 white flies stuck to the hook. Fluttering around your ears. Trying to suppress your laughter at the spectacle in front of you because you're breathing in mayflies. We had to take cover in the woods because we were actually worried about choking on the bugs. I had to be careful when turning on my headlamp because it attracted so many more bugs at my face that I couldn't breathe. No lie. It was that thick.

Bob managed to get a pic as the hatch started to warm up - this was not at its peak, mind you:

We worked our way down to the bridge, and headed back to the water. No fish were rising but there were bugs everywhere. Bob put two and two together - the fish were actually... full. I pulled my quick seine over my net and started scooping at the surface. There were thousands of shucks, everywhere. And then, we looked up at the light on the bridge and were blown away. It really, honestly, unbelievably, looked like a heavy snow was falling. The mating swarm was thick up beyond the street lamp. It looked like a blizzard.

For those of you looking to fish the white fly hatch, good luck. It is a hatch that continues to excite and haunt me and I seem to learn something new about it every year. This year, I got a really good look at the nymphal shucks - something I think will be the key to the hatch in the future for me. They were a medium gray with a heavy dark rib and medium tan gills. I'm thinking a proper nymph design will help the fishing up to the hatch, and a cripple/emerger pattern along with a soft hackle might do the trick during the hatch. I'm sure spinners would work too, but by the time the spinners hit the water there are way too many naturals to compete with. Oh, and it's so dark that it's pure luck seeing or feeling a take. Not discouraged yet? Good. The white fly hatch lasts for a few weeks from the end of August to the middle of September on TWCC. It starts downstream and works its way up the river each day. As of the 30th, it was just below Cincinnati Creek, so take that into account when you plan your next fishing night. If you happen to miss it this year, I'll see you on "The Creek" next August.