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Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

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2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
Posts: 1280
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Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch

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"In somber forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools a mist of flies,
in their quadrillions rise,
with sudden glittering - as when a crowd,
of stars appear,
through a brief gap in black and driven cloud,
one arc of their great round-dance showing clear.

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"It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
in entrechats each fluttering insect there
rose two steep in the air,
then slowly floated down to climb once more,
so that they all composed a manifold
and figured scene,
and seemed the weavers of some small cloth of gold,
or the fine pistons of some bright machine."

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"Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
as night closed in, I felt myself alone
in a life too much my own,
more mortal in my separateness that they,
unless, I thought, I had been called to be
not fly or star
but one whose task is joyfully to see
how fair the fiats of the caller are."

-Mayflies by Richard Wilber
-PhotoCredits : Trout Nut - Hexagenia Limbata


Disclaimer:
Its been some time since I posted any "article" of significance as a contribution to the forum. I have been a member here for 20+years and have contributed various "articles" for you to live vicariously through or just for entertainment value. In lieu of this, I have a very special presentation for the board but of the warmwater variety. I approach the sport differently than most fly-fisherman I ever met as far has how I catalogue and approach information. I would like to give you a glimpse into my the theories and experiments during a learning work in progress, on a subject I know about just enough to be dangerous. Enclosed is my personal notes, thoughts and the beginning to working field study on Pennsylvania's Hex hatch through one careful outing with the flies. Pictures included where taken at 35x optical zoom for 120?ft away with a Sony Cybershot. I was laying on a river rock, half in the water, while balancing my camera on another river rock (no tripod). I did this for over 1 hour to carefully observe and learn about the flies. There is a slight blur due to no tripod and distance, Fly movement (these suckers moved! a lot!) even still I was able to capture some amazing images for as uncomfortable as I was and ill equipped. If the end result in regards to quarry when taking some of fly fishing's most cherished traditions and principles offends you, then this thread is not for you. I intend to morph them into a brownliner's study on river flies.
But know you'll miss all the fun!
I have to admit, I know very little about Hex flies but they are on my radar. That is the reason I am studying them. Before this year I knew people would get annoyed in the mid west with them.You would see videos and even satellite imagery of these giant mayflies. Locally, every once in awhile a blurb in the paper about the RT462 bridge in Wrightsville. Either shutting off lights at night , closing the bridge or motor cycle accidents caused by them.
Very impressive resume!
Even still my experience with them was under gas station lit neon lights while I watch spiders devour them.
Wishing and wondering......
Then why does virtually all fly-fisherman in Pennsylvania not have them in their fly boxes?
Well, they are hard to predict for one. Here now gone tomorrow. A board member here went the day after my account, they were gone. Likely upstream. Trout streams will get some here or there but never a hatch of them floating down by the hundreds it seems. The flies move great distances too and mostly hatch in muddy warm water rivers. Basically, you guys fish too much trout to have never sought these flies out and when you try they are hard to locate. Making the Hex, IMO, PA's Forgotten Hatch and just maybe arguably its best. Amazingly, the Hex is North America's 2nd largest mayfly and are still snubbed over by most fly-fisherman.
I can bore you with google facts all day so....to get on with it.

Here are my notes (with pics) on my first fishing encounter with Pennsylvania's Hex hatch.
I thought I would be able to meet them on the river this year but high water has hindered me and then an unexpected surprise.....


Conestoga River, Lancaster County, "Waterworks Dam PFBC" Monday, July 9th, 2018 6:30am -12:30pm

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Upon my arrival it was hard to ignore them while trying to gear up when facing the river. Male spent spinners, egg layers and from my best account; bulky sloppy fliers but beautifully eerie. Like a ghostly image in the morning rays, swaying luminescence against the riparian dark back drop

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I know as bad as a blurry bigfoot photo.... it gets better
Further inspection I then noticed certain repeatable behaviors:

Flying upstream,
dive bombing the water,
floating down it as a spent spinner,
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skittering along the surface,
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sitting upright and then purposely falling over on the side,
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flipping upside down and fluttering wings (sometimes even to the point of being straight up and wiggling the tail),
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laying low in the film to deposit eggs,
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some would flick minuscule flecks of water 1/10 the size of a whole drop and then fly off just to dive bomb the water again.
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yep...i actually caught that.

Flies were 2 - 2.5" body with 1" for front legs and 1" or more of tail.


FLY PROFILES:

Traditional "Catskill" - Fly sits upright in the film with wings up
Pattern- Large dark catskill style dry
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Spinner - Spent spinner wings to the side
Pattern you will see mine, could use a very large rusty
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Laying down sideways - Floating down river on its side
Pattern would be an extended body tied to
the side of the hook
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RISE FORMS:
no pics

Rise forms varied by species of fish. Though Bass and Carp at times very aggressive in takes. Subtle rise forms often lead to carp or panfish. Bass would at times crash the water or leap out completely. I suspect they also could take subtly. Carp at times would cruise the surface with their top lip out of the water and vacuum up multiple flies. Carp mostly took the flies subtly like a panfish, however, the largest carp at times would aggressively take the fly hard. Further time observing leads me to believe this happens when a spinner crashes the water in the vicinity of a carp "looking up." Almost impossible to catch on film. I tried.

Wings as a possible trigger:
Look @ the reflection of the wings on the surface water, the fish should see this from a great distance. I recommend white deer hair.
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Spinnerfall officially ends at around 11am.
Random rises and a few straggler flies 11am-12:30pm
River goes dead.

RESULTS:
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7 carp - 1 lost
3 Smallmouth Bass (8-12") (bigger ones seen)
3 Bluegill (4-5")
1 Sunfish (6")
4 Rock Bass (7-9")
1 Creek Chub (9")

Fish Rose in Quadrants in about a 30 squarefoot area over and over. Tossed spinner above and drifted in, if no take, repeat. Occasional "twich" used as a trigger to bring fish in. The naturals are lively and crash the water, and squirm all around in the surface film. 3 Carp spooked when fly was twitched when within 10 ft away. 3 others seemed to react to movement of fly from further than 10 ft.

Drag Free Drift while important was not always critical. Skittering and skating the fly did produce smaller fish. However, most fish took the fly when still. If after a long mend, a swing in the fly was not a deal breaker. Bass would likely hit during this action also.

*Reports for other fisherman that shad were rising. Shad at the dam? I cant confirm.

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CORRELATION BETWEEN PROFILE/RISE FORMS/PRESENTATION:

Generally speaking, without taking specific notes, but rather mental, the spent fly was the most targeted profile from most fish.
around 50%
Carp especially hit when completely dead drifted, in large part because of the requirement it must be still. This is why i believe the spent spinner was the most effective profile.
Spent spinners provide the easiest target however carp would cruise and eat all the flies in an area. So any profile would work.

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CONCLUSIONS/THINGS TO DO/THOUGHTS:

Through the process of my encounter with the flies up close it can be determined their are 3 fly profiles on the water. 2 are needed and 1 is not when you couple with presentation, techniques and rise forms.

A catskill style is needed mimic upright flies that crash the water to lay eggs. A spinner pattern is needed to dead drift spent flies with the profile of wings out to the side. Since there is little correlation between profile, rise forms and presentation other than spinners are most favored, because carp will eat them all, you do not need the profile of the fly laying on its side to catch fish. However it could be possible one day that selective fish only target that profile.
I have my doubts that this ever becomes the case though.

Continue to observe fly profile in relationship to rise forms

Is the Catskill style more effective than the spinner?

Witness Evening Emergence at Dusk. Flies will fall at dusk, all night and into the morning.

Witness Dun emergence.

Experiment with a large rusty spinner and dry

When does it start? end?

The day in question was in the 80's tops after a long hot spell. Is hatch most active or last longer in the morning in that temp range? Do they die more quickly in hotter weather? Does the hatch last longer when a cooler summer?

The Pennsylvania Hex hatch is a mysterious hatch and it is a worthwhile endeavor to continue to seek it out.

I hope you enjoyed! Now you got a glimpse into how I approached just one aspect of the sport. I think I learned a lot in 6 hours and I hope you did too!

Now....
If you would like a debate....
Fly-fisherman every year gather up their thousands of dollars in equipment to line the banks of Penns Creek to fish a smaller mayfly, elbow to elbow smelling the next guys breakfast just to catch smaller, inferior fighting weak fish.

The Pennsylvania Hex hatch provides bigger flies, fish up to 25lbs and solitude....
no fly guys around

Why
????
Ill tell you why,


BECAUSE TROUT ARE FOR SUCKERS!!!!
WWI

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Posted on: 7/10 18:48

Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:04:17
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:06:13
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:09:49
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:20:08
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:29:31
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:31:20
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:32:45
Edited by salvelinusfontinalis on 2018/7/10 19:35:57
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

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Posts: 895
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The hex is a prevalent hatch on the Allegheny, it’s crazy during a Pirate game when the hatch it’s on.

Posted on: 7/10 19:28
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2009/8/12 5:55
From Lititz, PA
Posts: 361
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I think that this hatch is everywhere where I work at the Manheim Auto Auction. I am not a scientist. There is no reason for me to explain why they are there but these are huge may flies that are about the size of a quarter that even a 60 year old man with declining eye sight could see on the water.

I really need to invest in new eyeglasses.

I don't know where all of these may flies come from unless it is the Susquehanna River which isn't really that close. Look at a map. The Susquehanna River is not that close to Manheim, PA to explain why I see all of these may flies at work.

Posted on: 7/10 20:12


Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2014/9/22 17:46
From Slippery Rock
Posts: 18
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Nice write up! Thank you for posting that. The pictures were beautiful as well. They hatch so thick that they show up on Doppler radar along the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

Posted on: 7/10 20:12


Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2011/1/20 22:41
From Lancaster County
Posts: 62
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Excellent write-up and photos! I appreciate all the insight and the tips on how to maximize this hatch. I'll be sure to keep at this one when I get the chance.

Thanks for putting me on them!

I'm the one who went out this morning following Salvelinus' tip. I did see some hex flies but nothing like what he saw yesterday. There were lots of fish rising but I couldn't convince any to take the hex. That might be user error more than anything. I did catch a walleye on a clawdad, though!

Posted on: 7/10 21:29
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

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2015/3/14 13:37
From birdsboro,pa
Posts: 269
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They or something similar were lying spent on the surface of Chamber's Lake Monday morning, and were being attacked furiously by bluegills. These had dark bodies.

Both lakes in French Creek State Park have a lighter version emerging in the evenings starting around now. Not a super large number but when a good hatch starts fish are on anything on top!

Posted on: 7/11 9:18


Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2012/3/14 6:23
From Lancaster
Posts: 560
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Nice write up and pics, Sal. Very well done. I will be adding a few Hex patterns to my carp box. Good stuff!

Posted on: 7/11 18:39


Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
Posts: 1280
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Wow....

Posted on: 7/14 14:52
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"
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2006/9/9 9:29
From Monessen, PA
Posts: 2929
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I live a crow's fly of about a mile from the Monongahela River and I had a Hex of sorts on my windshield when I was leaving for work Friday. I want to go catch some carp on Green Drake artificials.

Posted on: 7/14 15:46
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

Joined:
2006/9/9 17:18
From lancaster county
Posts: 1280
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Better size up

Posted on: 7/14 18:02
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Re: Hexagenia Limbata (Hex): "Pennsylvania's Forgotten Hatch"

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2012/6/5 21:59
From SWYC
Posts: 193
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That one carp looks like a manatee.

Posted on: 8/13 16:33
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