When you get right down to it, it's a rarity to catch a hatch – Green Drakes, Hendricksons, Tricos – at the perfect time. We try, but typically things don't quite play out and we're not on the right stretch of river at the right time. So those epic nights on the stream when every fish, even the biggest ones, are feeding on the surface are only in our dreams. We have some good nights, but just when we're feeling pretty good about it we get a phone call from a buddy, maybe even a fly fisher from another state, who opens with, "man, you should have been here last night," wherever that water may have been.
But we still try to time things just right, figuring if we're out there often enough, it will happen and we'll vacuum the water of every feeding trout, only heading back to the truck when we're convinced we've caught and released them all or we just can't see to tie on another fly in the darkness, surrounded by slurping trout waiting to be caught.
It's that way right now on selected waters in the region, where anglers begin whispering about the when and where of the famed – at least in some tight circles – Hex hatch. It's actually Hexagenia limbata if you want to get technical about it, but when you're trying to clear off your cluttered desk, mow the lawn and get whatever other domestic duties out of the way, you don't have time to spit all that out. Hex is all some fly fishers need to hear in July.
It doesn't happen everywhere, but Lake Placid and even smaller, nearby Mirror Lake in the village of Lake Placid are two great options where the big mayfly makes an appearance every summer, often yielding memorable evenings on the water for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass that gobble the flies as they plummet back to the surface in dense spinner falls that leave trout and bass awaiting like Yogi Berra for a foul popup.
Put it this way: if you're there when it happens, you'll remember it.
But those perfect nights are rare. Sometimes the hatch and spinner fall, likely due to weather conditions, doesn't take place. Other nights, there's so many spinners on the water it's difficult for the fish to find your fly. You get the picture.
But there are ways to tip the odds in your favor, besides practically living on the water every evening. The region's top-notch fishing guides can tell you what's happening where and when, and some even run special Hex outings in the evening on Lake Placid. It's not a sure thing; fishing never is. But it's pretty darn close.
And when you experience it, you'll want to do it again. Soon. The big mayflies bring the biggest fish up to the surface, feeding like there's no tomorrow. Slurping. Sipping. Splashing. There's nothing like it.
And it's happening now.