"Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery elements are made for wise men to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration."
In my fly fishing experience there are a couple of legendary insect hatches that I am aware of, the salmon fly hatch on the Colorado River, the Mothers Day Caddis hatch on various rivers and the Green Drake hatch here on the FryingPan.
The Green Drake is the largest mayfly here on the western slope. The biggest is about the size of a quarter and the smallest that I have seen is about the size of a dime or even a touch smaller. The Green Drake starts to show up on the Pan in late July and are usually gone by the end of September or at least their numbers are greatly declined, you might see one or two fluttering away. The drakes seemed to be a little late this year. I saw a few here and there during July and August and even less in September. But nothing in mass. You can set your clock by them, they seem to start hatching at about 2pm everyday when they are in season. You will start to see those lovely greenish wings popping out of the water and folding upward till they look like a little sailboat going down the stream. They do this to dry their wings so they can take flight and fly away to do things that drakes do. The problem is, the trout are also very aware of the drakes and seem to also have an internal calendar and know when they are going to show up, because there are a whole lot of those little drake sailboats that don't make it airborne.
Today was a special day for me on the Pan and one that I hoped I would see this year. I got out this morning at about 930am. I stopped at 7-11 and grabbed a coffee and a danish and headed up to my spot that I call Gandalf Stick. Where it is I can't tell, but someday I will tell the story of how and why I named it that, but not today.
The weather was crisp today, 33 when I got to my spot and I think the high temp today was 43 or so. It was a chilly day standing in the river that's for sure. But the sun was out, the leaves are all a lovely golden color and there was a little snow on the north faces of the mountains surrounding the Pan. So all win. Fishing started a little slow this morning as I figured it would. I was throwing midges almost all morning with limited success. I got a small feisty little Brown trout on probably my 20th cast. While she was only about 8" long, she crushed the fly and after a short but spirited battle, I said hello to her and then sent her on her way. After quite a few fly changes and not having any luck, I finally caught another fish, this time a nice male Rainbow, about 14" and yes there is a way to tell male and female fish apart without looking under their pants. Anyway. I finally looked at my watched and discovered that I had been fishing for almost three and half hours. So far the days catch was two, I did however lose two others so, I was fairly happy with that. I decided to have my lunch that I brought and switch rods. I brought two rods with me today, one I use for nymphing and my sweet little Orvis 4 weight for dry flies.
I promise this is going somewhere so don't give up yet. I had a nice leisurely lunch and walked back to my spot at about 145pm, I stood on the bank for a minute looking around trying to see if anything was hatching. What you are looking for are insects flying off the water or insects low in the air over the river. I knew I was going to fish dry flies the rest of the afternoon and I was looking to see if I could see anything so I could pick the proper fly from my fly box. I looked and saw something, looked closer, wait is that a Green Drake, in October? Wait is that another one and another and another. They were big too. I looked at my watch, sure enough 202pm. Oh shit. Is this it? Am I going to get lucky. I glanced down into the seams that I was fishing and sure enough there were splashes of trout raising to eat all over. I looked again and could see the drakes emerging from the water. It is so fricking cool. Firts there is nothing there and then all of a sudden there is a little mayfly and most likely seconds after that it is gone into a trouts belly. But of course there are many that get into the air to freedom. You kinda start to root for the little bugs to make it. Anyway I watched for a few minutes as the entire river in front of turned into fish heaven. Noses and mouths were appearing everywhere eating, They were splashing at the drakes taking flight and then after knocking them out of the sky eating some more. I quickly dug a drake imitation fly and tied it on a got casting. I was fishing a size 12, people that dry fly fish are mostly jealous right now. First drift, nice swipe at it, missed! Damn it. Second cast. huge hit, fish on. This was a little better fish then the previous ones. A nice Rainbow about 17" fat and healthy. Kind of gross though, when I picked it out of my net and grabbed it by the belly to unhook him he regurgitated all of the bugs he was eating. I had about 15 half eaten drakes on the leg of my waders. Lovely I thought, I just got puked on by a Rainbow trout, I am guessing there are not a lot of people that can say that. Anyway, I gave him a good look and put him back in the river, and got back at it. 2 casts later another fish. Another Rainbow, a little smaller. But fat and nicely colored. I put him back in and started back again. I paused a moment and looked at the river and it was just going nuts, there were bugs and fish everywhere. In the fly fishing world it is the coolest thing ever. Noses, mouths, fins, fish bodies completely out of the water, bugs trying to get a way. It is seriously cool to see nature in action in this fashion. This hatch continued for about 45 minutes. I caught 8 fish during that time, the weird thing was they were all Rainbows and they were all bigger than 14" with the biggest being about 19" The 19" was a beauty, gorgeous coloring. nice green color, black dots and a bright red stripe. Beautiful fish. I really need to start bringing my camera. The catching this afternoon was amazing, but I had some refusals for the ages as well. Remember refusals? Anyway I had one fish that followed the fly for about 8 feet, and looked at it 3 different times during that drift, he turned to follow, got close to eating, turned away, turned back at the fly, took a little nip at it, turned away, turned once more to have a look and got right under the fly and started to rise and I thought this is it he is going to grab it and at seriously the last second he turned and swam away. It was seriously the most nerve racking 15 seconds of my day.
What is so cool about all of this, is that when the hatch is done it is done. There are no bugs flying anymore, the ones that made it are gone and the fish are done eating and when they are done they are done, fishing is done for a while, the fish are full and aren't going to eat anything. The trout know when it is over and the bugs are gone. The instinct those little fish have is mind-boggling. The Pan provided me with some amazing fishing today. I was lucky I was in the right spot at the right time. I got to see for the second time in my life of fly fishing the FryingPan the legendary Green Drake hatch up close. This is the kind of thing that brings you back for more. As I have said, I don't care whether I catch fish or not, I really just enjoy being outside standing in the river looking around. If I catch something, bonus. Honestly I could have just sat down on the bank today and watched the hatch and I probably would have been just as happy. But with that said, I think I might be at Gandalf Stick tomorrow at 2pm as well...