The northern Michigan Brown Trout is one of the biggest in the world. Our area is ground zero for them. The Great Lakes, Huron & Michigan, along with the inland waterway lakes of Crooked, Burt and Mullet, harbor Browns in large size and numbers. This large Brown Trout has genetically changed into a difficult fish to out wit. Your best chance to catch one is to know it's weakness and that is the Hexagenia Limbata. To understand this giant Michigan mayfly is key to your success.
The Hex hatches are mid June to the beginning of July...sort of! The hatch depends on temperature the specifics are the guessing game but the time of year is well known. Hook size for the fly is a 6 to 8 Hex Merger, Para, Dun, Spinner; all are overlapping stages of the Hex. When most people are having a barbecue and cocktails this monster from the deep, the truly big Brown, slips into the shallows of the lakes and rivers and even small creeks to feed recklessly on the Hex. Browns will travel long distances to enjoy this banquet of Hex. They take the Hex in a slurping or smudging maneuver. The bulging water is the big Brown's betrayal. To witness this once a year event takes time, dedication, and immense knowledge...akin to a Masters Degree in Brown Trout. The commitment to fly fish for these large Browns is like a marriage and having an understanding spouse (if you are married) is part of the equation.
My lesson came from an old Brown Trout fly fisherman. His call would come on a June afternoon,"what are you doing tonight ". That question from my friend took years and years of experience hunting the big Brown. So when the call came, like a Navy Seal, it was a call to duty for me. No exceptions, get the equipment ready. That night I watched as he positioned us in the right place, at the right time, and with the right sky's reflection (having moon light is a big plus), getting ready to put the big Browns in his sights. It is the work of a Master. Waiting, waiting, waiting, then timing, correct fly and cast the last maneuver. In the dark, with only last lights reflection on the water to gauge your delivery, sound means everything...then...that sucking noise, your notice to set the hook. Now the fight begins. It is a fight of long runs, directing your fly rod to make the trout change directions, sustaining this dance in an effort to sap his energy. Tiring this big Brown, changing the advantage to you, is your only chance to land this monster. Knowing how much pressure to put on the line to confuse the Brown and change his direction before he spools you is again a whole different talent.
Many hatch fishermen (those who follow and wait with great antisapation for the Hex hatch) will flock to rivers like the Jordan, here in northern Michigan, known for its big Browns. In these mad rushes of fly fishing anglers finding a secluded spot with access to a river Hex hatch requires a plan well thought out.
The Hexagenia Limbata is a limited, unreliable, window of opportunity. Not every night is the same or productive. You have to predict the air and water temperature, wind, available light and hatch periods. Even so it is still a gamble for success. A thirty inch, 15 pound Brown, is the reward and landing one on a dry fly, in the dark, is a accomplishment like no other in the sport of fly fishing.
Excerpts from a Nerdy, Ole Fly-Fisherman...Richard