Thursday, March 24

Hatches, matches, and the introduction of the LVLS Book Club.

Flies, yes. Fish, no.
So, there's life in the air, and maybe something on the water, but now that you've got a box full of stupid little hooks bedazzled in the most expensive feathers you could buy, what the hell do you do now?

If you read a book or hang out like one of the wallflowers in the fly shop, you know that Serious Flyfishers seem to experience glossolalia at these sort of junctures. They stand around, speaking in tongues, and getting quite animated over intricacies that most people shouldn't give a shit about. Why not? Because it doesn't have to be that hard.

The phrase match the hatch is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most trite and over used in our sport. Its valid, sure, and its helpful, but its such a stumbling block that people think having a degree in entomology is an important part of this sport.

Its not. Just having a pair of working eyes and a few neurons that still fire is.


I don't know or care beyond sz14 hare's ear.
Take a moment to stand and watch. Or, sit on the bank if you want. Smoke something. It should be noted at this point, proper smoking dictates you light your pipe or your cigar with a cedar match. Whatever you smoke, take advantage of that quiet time. Its very contemplative, eh, unless its illegal then its probably furtive. It will also fuck up your cast, but s'long as its fun. Anyways, just smoke. Why? Because it makes you take a moment to fixate on something besides the fishing you're supposed to do.

What's happening? Are there flies in the air, on the water, or in the water? The simplest approach is to see the size and colour, and pick appropriately, but let's pretend we're more into it than that.

Does it fly with grace and a plan, that's probably a mayfly then. They look stately sort of hovering along, thoraxes down and slightly bent. Without getting all touchy feely, they're very regal looking in the air, at least when compared to our next visual...

Does it flutter along like a spastic moth, darting and weaving, dancing above the water? That's probably a caddis or a stonefly. Caddis at rest have tented wings, to a peak above their bodies, stones do not. A stonefly's wings lay flat over its body.

BWO? Maybe. Sz18 PT?  Yes!
That's the two basic breakdowns, you can get way more complex (midges, craneflies, alderflies, etc), but keep it simple. We'll allow one minor complication for mayflies, though. Dun and spinner, that is immature and mature. The dun is what they are when they emerge, and his wings are folded straight up at rest. The spinner has molted once out of water, and is sexually mature. His wings lay flat at rest. Does it matter? Not really.

So, now you know what's in the air. What about the fish, what are THEY doing? Slow, lazy boils on the surface? Betcha thats gonna be mayfly spinners or duns, then. Either falling to the surface or just emerging and drying their wings. If the water is a splashy rise, or the fish is coming out of the water bodily, your better bet is emerging caddis (which generally move quicker than mayflies) or diving caddis depositing eggs. Wet flies tend to work well here, because it can represent the fly emerging or diving, or just drifting, spent and happy after getting laid and droppin' her eggs.

So, now clueful and prepared with some generic flies, you can hit the water and begin to practice the art of angling. This is not the sum total of the game, you will need to know more, but you're that much more prepared to hit the water, face "the hatch" and concentrate on presentation rather than worrying that you've got it all backwards.

So, this is an opportune time to open up the LVLimestoner bookclub, eh? To be honest, when I thought about sharing the three books that made the biggest difference in my life, this wasn't on the list. Then, I realized it should be, because even though I eschew much of the knowledge, and all of the patterns, its an important building block.

Yes, I know, I've been saying specifics don't matter, now it turns contrary to that....But not quite. You don't need to focus on what a book says, and not break away. Finding personal style is very important in this, because that helps you enjoy fishing, rather than slave to the effort of fishing.

So, with that, a fine suggestion to the angler's library: Pocketguide to Pennsylvania Hatches by Charlie Meck. Let's get this out of the way, it is not an indepth, all inclusive guide to indentifying every possible thing and life stage. Its pretty basic, actually. Its name isn't a misnomer, it really is a pocket guide. Hell, I carried it around, a day, once, in my pocket. Then I stopped caring and developed my highly precise method of "yea-big-bout-that-shade-fuckitgo!" hatch matchery. But I still consult it, because forearmed with knowledge can only help me out.

Its been invaluable to matching up what's happening in the air with what might be underneath. I ignore the fly patterns, because I don't care and have developed my own thoughts, but I don't ignore the general time line so I'm better prepared, nor the description of how they hatch and what hteir nymphs do.

Between my brain, my observational powers (such as they may be), and a website like's fly pattern pickerator, I've found myself pretty well covered for the last couple years.

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