River Report - June 23, 2016
The truly late nights have commenced. Early season offers some comfort - fishing... + sleep, time spent with family and friends, dinner. But Hex, well that's a totally different story. As I sit here drinking coffee, with my eye lids drooping from already a few late nights (which, let's be honest, are actually just very early mornings), trying to remember when my last solid dinner was OFF the river, plenty more late nights in the future, because well...HEX...sometimes I question my sanity. I think I've finally convinced most of the people I know that I work "third shift", but let's be honest - I'm on the river chasing bugs. But, like any good natured die-hard from Michigan, you have to pay your dues, and sometimes dues are measured in lost hours of sleep, to enjoy something that I consider to be one of the most miraculous occurences of the natural world - the hatch of the Hexagenia limbata mayfly
The hex started this last weekend. Typically the lakes go first - Crooked, Burt, Charlevoix, Walloon. Then the rivers. But not this year. The hot heat caused a good number of bugs to wiggle on up and pop. We had a couple days of spinner flights that tapered off, and now we seem to be back to the normal pace of things. The next couple weeks, especially this coming weekend, should be solid. The days are long, the heat is cranked up, and the bugs (and fish) are ready.
For those of you who have experienced a hex spinner flight, and the following slurp and gulp of fish joining the party - you already know what I'm talking about. But for those of you who have tried and missed it, or who haven't been on the river at the right time, the hex hatch is by far one of the neatest experiences you can have with a fly rod in hand. It may not be my end-all-be-all favorite - brook trout still have my heart - but it's something that is nothing short of incredible. My girlfriend experienced her first hex spinner flight the other night. She described it as "one of the most amazing things she has ever experienced...like being in a snowglobe and a meteor shower all at once...a fairytale." She has fished nearly all her life, but just recently started fly fishing - because ya know, dating a fly fishing guide and all...you either fly fish, or you don't date one for long. She said she had never seen so many trout feeding at one time, and was truly amazed. A guest of mine last night, who has experienced hex hatches on numerous occassions, caught "the largest brown trout" he had caught in years. That's the beauty of the hex hatch.
On one side of the coin is the beauty - think of it as a brand new penny - clean, spotless. On the other side of the coin is something completely different. The other side is like the century old penny - green from years of wear, but still something to treasure. The sleepless nights, the early mornings with coffee just to keep your eyes open, the lack of shaving...showering, the clothes that have an aroma of Deep Woods Off, bonfire, and cigar smoke permeating from the very fibers that hold the clothing together - Simms "Hex Hatch"...trademarked. Those of us that forget what day it is; leave our families for days on end - sometimes weeks. I truly believe that some of our families just assume we are permanently on the river from June 20th through the first week of July, and only some of us come out of hiding for the 4th of July festivities. The Cliff bar & gas station sandwhich dinners pulled from a damp pack or vest. The cheap cigars. The "my beer is warm because I haven't stopped for ice in 3 days, but oh well, I'll drink it anyway." The new kid coming in on day 3 and saying "I'm so tired", and our response is "drink more coffee, you'll be good." That's the other side of the coin. No rest for the weary.
Luckily, some of us find the medium. We shave every few days. We keep our coolers iced down. We throw a load of laundry in. We bathe - maybe in the river - but we're clean...enough. We finally find time to take our sister fishing - even if only for an hour. We realize that time is precious. We appreciate our time on the water, but we appreciate it even more when we are able to distance ourselves for a day. Because, in the words of John Voelker, "I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip." We find a way to enhance our experience, instead of forgetting the experience because we are sleepwalking. However, for those of us that work in this world, we have the luxury of taking a step back sometimes. For those of you that work in a cubicle 350 days a year...take 2 weeks off, pack the car, and turn the GPS to "up north". We'll be here when you get here.
See you on the river~