Mega Hatch Success

When the Hatch of the Century Happens, Use These 6 Tips To Stand Out Amongst The Crowd.

Have you ever been in the middle of a mega hatch? You know the one. Where the water opens up and belch out more bugs than you have ever seen in your entire life? You know the hatch — the one you’ve been anxiously awaiting for weeks, months, or even years. If you’ve ever found yourself in the midst of a mega hatch, you know all too well — sometimes, too much of a good thing can cause madness, confusion and frustration. Read ahead to learn some of the tricks and tactics I’ve used throughout the years to get my bug to stand out when the hatch of the century is on. 

Many rivers across this great green Earth produce mega hatches. You may even have a few near you. If you don’t, obsessed anglers can list the rivers and the mega hatches associated with each. How about Silver Creek and the drakes. How about the Henry’s Fork and the PMD’s. How about the Missouri River and the trico’s. Don’t forget the Madison River and the Mother’s Day caddis. Ever been to the Big Hole and fished the salmon flies? The Delaware and the Isonychia. This list goes on and on.

The Common Story
First off, during any kind of a hatch, if you can identify what the fish are eating, you may have a leg up. So you tie on the cripple pattern of choice and drift it into the rising trout. A perfect drift. And another. And yet another. And another. With no interest at all from the fish. A bug every square inch on the surface. And no interest at all from those damn trout. Why? What? How? Why not my bug? These hatches can bring out the best in the trout. The best in the angler. And, unfortunately the worst too. Frustration can envelope us and drive us, the mega hatch angler, positively batty! You are familiar with the day. You arrive on the river at the right time. Everything is in place. Muggy. Buggy. Perfect conditions for the hatch. They will come off BIG today! And then they do.

Some days we go out there and pound on them. Others? Others, not so much. No sense in talking about solutions of those glory days. Those are easy! How about when we cannot solve the riddle that seems so obvious?

How Do I Outsmart Mega Hatch Trout?
Mega Hatch fish can get way too smart for me. I live and guide on Montana’s Missouri River and I find myself in these situations more often than I would like. A few ideas are listed below that can work. No slam dunks in this game. But sometimes we can trick a few.

  1. Offer the Not So Obvious:Imagine you attended a dinner buffet at your cousin’s wedding. At that buffet they had 99 pounds of roast beef and 1 pound of ham along with a smattering of other salads and offerings. A few small dessert items, some jello salad, and so on. While you would certainly get some roast beef, you would also try your best to get a taste of that good ‘ol ham too. Wouldn’t you? I know I would. I think fish behave the same way. If you/they are inundated by PMD spinners on the surface of the water, the trout will generally eat a few. Sometimes a ton of them. We as anglers generally assume because the PMD spinner is the most numerous, the tout have to eat them the most frequently. Not always true. Not at all. Sometimes the fish are keying in on something totally different. My first try beyond the obvious, is to toss something completely different. If the PMD spinner is the most present, I toss a caddis of some sort. How about a generic Adams? Something to tempt that fish away from the common insect. It certainly can work.
  2. Go Bigger or Smaller:If the fish aren’t eating that size 16 PMD spinner, try a size 14, or even size 12 spinner. That can shock the fish into a take. Go the other route and toss something smaller at them. Dive right down to the size 20 spinner. It can work. You gotta try.
  3. Same Bug, Different Stage:If the spinner is the present bug, a blanket of them, dig into your PMD box and search.
  4. Sink It: Don’t grease the next one. Tie it off behind a fly you can see and float it, I mean sink it by one. Lot’s of trout have been caught on sunken dry flies. The fly sitting n the surface film, or just below can really bring big rewards.
  5. Make the First Cast Count:That is my solution to every situation. Show the fly to the fish in the best light possible. The first time. Listed number 5 here, but I believe it is the most successful of any list. The proper presentation on the first cast is imperative for fly fishing, catching, success. Period.
  6. Go Nuts: Tie on one of the flies that can take any trout out of his spinner trance like an ant. Ants catch fish. They move in and out of my life, my box, my sometimes slow to react fly fishing mind. But always a good idea to tie on that ant, or that beetle, or that ugly bug in the corner of your box you cannot even remember how it go there, tie that thing on! How about trying a cripple. How about an emerger. Put that Transitional Dunback on! Go sideways and you can be rewarded. Don’t assume that the primary is the bug of choice for those rising trout you are staring down.

The sheer volume of any mega hatch that you have either planned on fishing or you have just happened onto can be daunting. Or maddening. Or sometimes even heavenly! Don’t let yourself be hung out to dry if it is too much of a good thing. Tackle it. Run hard. Cast efficiently. Drift well. And capitalize on a Mega Hatch bounty!