Light hendrickson dun from lower Hay Creek.
Heavy rain that turned our local streams into chocolate milk had kept me off the water for several days. The last time I’d been out, the river was clear and the fish were there, but the hatch activity was sporadic at best. “Everything is late this year”, is the phrase we’ve all been hearing this spring. Not only is everything late, but the hatches are sporadic and unpredictable as well. So it was under these conditions that I found myself lazing at Hay Creek Campground, eating chili-dogs with visiting family, with no thoughts of fishing the creek that flowed a mere 100 yards away…until I took the kids for a walk down to the bridge to look at the water…
The first thing I saw was the mass of mayfly spinners swarming over the water. Whoa! The next thing I saw were the trout, lots of trout, feeding on the spinners as they deposited their egg sacs in the water. Well, at that point I knew what I’d be doing the Friday night!
First trout of the evening, taken on a UV Parachute dry fly.
Friday night came and I was on the water by 6pm…apparently at the tail end of the Light Hendrickson hatch. There was one fish rising in the small run I chose to start the evening on, and I got him on a UV Parachute. I was using a size 14, even though a size 16 would have more closely matched the hatching insect. The trout aren’t usually too picky on the lower end of Hay Creek. Since this was the only trout rising, and there wasn’t any more decent holes in that stretch of creek, I moved a few miles up to the pasture.
The UV Parachute does it again
Now I was in the “slot-limit” section of Hay Creek, so I decided to keep some fish for lunch the next day. All fish kept here have to be under 12 inches, and I bonked the first 10 incher to come to hand. Keeping some fish out of this slot section should help reduce the population of trout, making it easier for what trout are left to grow to a larger size. Here’s a blog post I wrote for MN Trout Forums regarding slot limits and keeping fish.
As the evening progressed, I picked my way upstream, catching several small browns, but none that I considered big enough to keep, and no larger fish that would be over the slot, either. I found that not much was going on hatch wise. As far as I could tell, I had missed the Hendrickson emergence. Still, there were a few fish rising and the UV parachute took them handily. I kept my eye open for a spinner fall…and it never came.
12 incher on a cream Mini Bent Head Streamer.
Seeing how there was no trout rising, and it was getting near dark, I tied on a cream Mini Bent Head Streamer. This took a few fish here and there, including a couple in the 12 inch range that I released. Thankfully, I was also able to creel a couple more smaller fish for lunch the next day.
At around 9pm I realized that the spinner fall was not going to happen where I was, and I packed up and headed out. I decided to drive down to the campground area just to see if the conditions were any different there. Sure enough, there was a hendrickson spinner fall in progress! I’m not sure why it didn’t happen on the stretch of stream I had been fishing, but there was no question it was going strong right there in front of me. It was too dark and there were too many campers for me to break out the rod again, so I went home.
As I cleaned my trout, I found that one fish had a very full stomach, so I decided to poke around its contents to see what it had been eating. What I could identify: LOTS of light hendrickson duns (mainly identified by the undigested wings); caddis pupae; caddis adults; small snails (I almost always find small snails in the stomach contents of Hay Creek trout); deer flies; mosquito; black caddis (1); small scuds & midge larvae. Lots of variety!
So, if you are looking for a hatch, the light hendricksons can be found here and there, but be ready to fish attractor patterns, nymphs, streamers & whatever else if you want to catch fish, because you never know what you will find once you set foot in the water.