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Fishing during insect hatches


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Last Saturday, I fished a lake where large midges ('blind mosquitoes') and mayflies were hatching all along the shoreline. There were molted casings all over the water's surface, so the hatches probably started earlier at night.

 

Normally, I hate to see this first thing and figure that any fish hear shore is probably too full or too preoccupied to go after my normal lures. Didn't have a fly rod to match the hatch, either.

 

But actually, it was a great day! I caught quite a few fish (bass, bluegill, bowfin) on straight-tail worms and small jigs with grub trailers. I think the hatches left them fired up, not completely satiated.

 

What are your experiences fishing for bass (or other target species) during insect hatches? How do you change your approach to suit the conditions? Any hatches you look forward to (or dread)?

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I'm a good 1500 miles north of you I think,

but local fishing during the big fly (mayfly) hatch can be tough sledding;

especially for brown bass.

Many conventional approaches fail miserably.

I finally caved and went straight up fly rod guy.

Mostly just for redemption.

It was a good move.

Sunset has been the best for me.

post-13860-0-56121600-1419440884_thumb.jpg

:smiley:

A-Jay

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I've experienced those biblical bug hatches of mayflies, lake flies, midgets, etc before.  Its downright disgusting.  You accidentally step on them in the boat and squash them into the carpet.  The next morning the boat is an ugly sight that requires several hours of cleaning.  The front of your truck on the way home is even worse.

 

As far as fishing, if you are on bigger water, you can see the clouds of bugs rising from the bottom on the sonar.  It usually takes them a day or two to reach the surface and hatch.  Its during this time period the fishing often gets to be extremely tough, as fish are gorging on them as they are rising.  Fish that aren't hungry are more difficult to catch.  Stream fishing for trout during a bug hatch can be productive and is well-documented.

 

Just an FYI, bugs cannot hatch out of polluted water.  They need relatively clean, well-oxygenated water.  So if you have enormous, regular bug hatches, that means the waterbody is in good shape.  If you do not have any bug hatches, the water is unhealthy.  There hasn't been a bug hatch on the Ganges River in India for many years and I doubt there ever will be again.

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it depends on which insects are hatching IMO.  Like you saw, midges and other small stuff will get the baitfish fired up pretty well and forgetting their place.  The bass will usually take advantage.  If its bigger bugs that the bass are also eating then like Ajay says it can be a hard row to hoe.  I was a fly guy for a really long time and would track and wait for the big hatches each year.  Big mayflies in July/August were fun, but there were so many around that its like fishing when there are schools of millions of baitfish.  Fish would eat if you put it on them, but they weren't going out of their way for anything.  When the Cicadas hatch or grasshoppers that's a different story.  The fish get big mouthfuls and especially early and late in the hatch they will swim across a river for a fallen cicada.  Every other fish does too and it makes for a fun evening on the water.  

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I know that hatches can be hard, but I've had good success during them. However, when smallies are rising to feed on falling mayflies and damselflies, their mouths are often beyond full, leaving no room for a lure. No matter. I've gotten multiple hits on each cast, so I eventually hook one. I've had good luck with a clear Heddon Tiny Torpedo, which looks like a translucent mayfly. 

 

Last June, I saw smallies launching themselves like Trident missiles to take dragonflies out of the air. Landing a lure anywhere near them triggered a strike. 

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2 minutes ago, ol'crickety said:

I know that hatches can be hard, but I've had good success during them. However, when smallies are rising to feed on falling mayflies and damselflies, their mouths are often beyond full, leaving no room for a lure. No matter. I've gotten multiple hits on each cast, so I eventually hook one. I've had good luck with a clear Heddon Tiny Torpedo, which looks like a translucent mayfly. 

 

Last June, I saw smallies launching themselves like Trident missiles to take dragonflies out of the air. Landing a lure anywhere near them triggered a strike. 

 

Just now, greentrout said:

Got dragonflies in my neck of the woods. The Bass are focused on 'em...

 

 

But bigger bass though?  My experience with dragon flies is that its mostly the 10" bass or so that are eating them.  Still fun to catch, but not usually the fish I'm looking for.  

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16 minutes ago, casts_by_fly said:

 

 

 

But bigger bass though?  My experience with dragon flies is that its mostly the 10" bass or so that are eating them.  Still fun to catch, but not usually the fish I'm looking for.  

 

I was catching 15-inchers, but that's in a lake where they're nearly all 15-inchers. 

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How 'bout motoring during a hatch when you had better have eye protection or else constant eyeballs full of Mayflies. I've experienced good hatches on the Duck River in Tennessee. Just like Gimruis noted, it's a sign of a healthy water body. I've still caught fish when the water surface was covered with dead and dying Mayflies, but obviously the fish have their choices. Bummer to be a Mayfly though.......months or years, depending on species, in the bottom muck just to spring free for a few hours, the joy of flight, romance, then the gullet of a Bluegill!

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6 minutes ago, Blue Raider Bob said:

Bummer to be a Mayfly though.......months or years, depending on species, in the bottom muck just to spring free for a few hours, the joy of flight, romance, then the gullet of a Bluegill!

Their average lifespan is like 3 days.

 

We have hatches of them so big that they show up on radar.  No joke.  Meteorologists see a green blob on radar and think its a pop-up rain shower only to confirm that its a swarm of bugs.

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2 minutes ago, gimruis said:

Their average lifespan is like 3 days.

 

We have hatches of them so big that they show up on radar.  No joke.  Meteorologists see a green blob on radar and think its a pop-up rain shower only to confirm that its a swarm of bugs.

I bought a book, "Match the Hatch", but it's written and based on England's Mayfly species. There are so many different species just on the British Isles that it took up a volume. I would love to read more about the species that live locally. Even my untrained eye identifies a half dozen every year on the Duck. They range from 1/2" long to big gray monsters of what seems like 2-1/2 ".  They pile up in drifts along log jambs they are so plentiful. Life is good for the fish several times a year.

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Mayflies are a great family of insects to learn about.  They require some of the cleanest water and are a keystone species.  There are so many variations in size, color, habitat, and behavior that you're always learning something new.  Little summer blue winged olives and tricos have bodies that are half the size of a grain of rice.  Tricos in particular end up forming mats of dead and dying adults that the trout slurp in gulps.  You're fishing a size 20-24 hook and 1-2 lb tippet just hoping for an accurate cast exactly when a trout comes up to eat.  Conversely, Hexes and green drakes are huge.  Their bodies are are an inch to an inch and a half long and then the tails are that long again or more.  They are practically the size of a dragonfly.  When they are hatching, pretty much nothing else will be eaten on the water.  These are the flies you plan trips around.  The green and brown drake hatches in the east happen in May which is prime time for water conditions (still plenty of water usually, but not spring floods), fewer casual anglers on the water, and the trout are still very hungry and not picky yet.

 

In between you've got the whitefly hatches where it looks like a blizzard, green olives, blue wing olives, tan march browns, and every natural shade in between.  They will hatch when the water hits 45 degrees or so which is usually march in the north east and keep going in some form all summer.  In lakes you get a lot of the same species, but you also get others.  Mayfly nymphs in streams are largely crawlers and burrowers, either under rocks or in the silt.  In lakes and streams you also get swimmers that have longer bodies and evolved swimming 'appendages'.

 

And like noted above, the adult mayflies only live 24-72 hours depending on the species.  Some hatch from a nymph, fly up to a branch to dry a couple hours, and then mate that evening and die.  Some stick around a little longer, but not much.  Some hatches are timed to occur over such a short period that its easy to miss it by a day or two (whitefly and hex hatches for two).  Some mayflies continue to hatch throughout the year like olives and fish will eat them year round.

 

The fish can get suitable picky (or not) also.  At times, if you haven't matched the hatch down to the specific hook size they will not take it.  At times you have to match the specific shade of the body but the size doesn't matter.  Sometimes a hatch is so thick you can barely see the water but the fish will eat anything BUT that fly.  Think bass can be picky?  Trout can be real buggers.  However, one thing is usually true- a big fish likes a big meal.  If all else fails during a hatch, throw a streamer or another baitfish imitation and make it look wounded.  They usually can't refuse.

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I’m surprised they need clean water because the nasty ole TN river is full of bugs . This time of year I have to scrape my sunglasses off with a pocket knife and usually eat a few hundred per boat ride 

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Great info, y'all! Thanks for the replies.

 

I didn't mention the dragonflies--they were everywhere the midges were and feeding heavily. I'm thinking of breaking out the fly rod and fishing big nymphs on this lake. Even when the hatches aren't happening, I'm sure the mayfly and dragonfly larvae are prime targets. I'm no mayfly expert, but these were big ones (~1.25" bodies not including tails, light tan color).

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4 hours ago, casts_by_fly said:

Mayflies are a great family of insects to learn about.  They require some of the cleanest water and are a keystone species.  There are so many variations in size, color, habitat, and behavior that you're always learning something new.  Little summer blue winged olives and tricos have bodies that are half the size of a grain of rice.  Tricos in particular end up forming mats of dead and dying adults that the trout slurp in gulps.  You're fishing a size 20-24 hook and 1-2 lb tippet just hoping for an accurate cast exactly when a trout comes up to eat.  Conversely, Hexes and green drakes are huge.  Their bodies are are an inch to an inch and a half long and then the tails are that long again or more.  They are practically the size of a dragonfly.  When they are hatching, pretty much nothing else will be eaten on the water.  These are the flies you plan trips around.  The green and brown drake hatches in the east happen in May which is prime time for water conditions (still plenty of water usually, but not spring floods), fewer casual anglers on the water, and the trout are still very hungry and not picky yet.

 

In between you've got the whitefly hatches where it looks like a blizzard, green olives, blue wing olives, tan march browns, and every natural shade in between.  They will hatch when the water hits 45 degrees or so which is usually march in the north east and keep going in some form all summer.  In lakes you get a lot of the same species, but you also get others.  Mayfly nymphs in streams are largely crawlers and burrowers, either under rocks or in the silt.  In lakes and streams you also get swimmers that have longer bodies and evolved swimming 'appendages'.

 

And like noted above, the adult mayflies only live 24-72 hours depending on the species.  Some hatch from a nymph, fly up to a branch to dry a couple hours, and then mate that evening and die.  Some stick around a little longer, but not much.  Some hatches are timed to occur over such a short period that its easy to miss it by a day or two (whitefly and hex hatches for two).  Some mayflies continue to hatch throughout the year like olives and fish will eat them year round.

 

The fish can get suitable picky (or not) also.  At times, if you haven't matched the hatch down to the specific hook size they will not take it.  At times you have to match the specific shade of the body but the size doesn't matter.  Sometimes a hatch is so thick you can barely see the water but the fish will eat anything BUT that fly.  Think bass can be picky?  Trout can be real buggers.  However, one thing is usually true- a big fish likes a big meal.  If all else fails during a hatch, throw a streamer or another baitfish imitation and make it look wounded.  They usually can't refuse.

Great info. Thanks for taking the time!

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