The odds in a hatch

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Creek 2 years, 8 months ago.

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    Scotty MacFly

    I was wondering about this today, probably because I have watched a lot of videos over the winter. Some videos shown incredible hatches. I also remember the Mothers Day Hatch on the Ark., and know how bad it can be, as in just plain annoying at times with so many bugs flying around.

    What struck me is this. To me, fishing in an area that has a million or so mayflies fluttering around landing on the water, only to take a chance on the roulette wheel of life and death, what are the odds of a fish taking my fly and not a real one with so many on the water? The odds to me would seem slim. So that’s when I know watching for rising fish and being accurate on my casts does help, but still the fish may take the one before my fly, or the one after.
    Seems to me I’d have a better chance with a lighter hatch than a hatch where you have to cover your head with a bee keepers hat.

    Now I mentioned the Mothers Day Hatch on the Arkansas. I have seen it many times and it can be a sight to see sometimes, but I never fished in it. Nor have I ever fished in a hatch that makes you want to plug your nose and ears and keep your mouth shut. If any of you have done this, is the odds better in your favor of hooking up, or not because the fish take the real ones instead because of the numbers of bugs on the water out number yours?


    Dry Fly Guy

    Great question Scotty.

    I think if you are talking “odds” you would be correct in stating that your odds are better in a lighter hatch. Simply because of the numbers involved. Math is math after all.

    But odds are only part of the equation.

    How wary the fish are in taking the fly is perhaps much more significant. And when the fish are gorging on a heavy hatch and taking advantage of the “bounty” before them, they are less wary and more apt to take a fly. Even a poorly drifted one.

    Just my experience with the one “heavy” hatch I’ve fished. And for me….. I’m certainly impressed with the display of such hatches, but I prefer to fish lighter ones for the reasons you mentioned. Plus… I enjoy the challenge of a more wary fish. Guess I’m past the point of just wanting to catch fish. The pursuit of the fish is as much or more of the enjoyment in fly fishing for me.

    ~ DFG



    I don’t fish the blizzard of the hatch Scotty. I move upstream and fish where it’s lighter and I have better odds of a take. Since the hatch is moving upstream I stay in front of it as I move upstream.

    If you’re going to fish in the middle of the hatch you’d be better off fishing an emerger. More of those are being taken than the adults on the surface. Especially, when it comes to caddis. They fly off pretty quick once on the surface. The trout know this and take the easier to catch emergers.

    It’s a good time to fish North Country Spiders. Partridge and Orange is a good choice.



    Blizzard hatches can be frustrating. I’ve experienced a number of them, mostly on the Delaware system, and there it often involves multiple species of bug at the same time as well. Throw in a simultaneous multi-species spinner fall and it usually makes for a slow day of catching.

    I probably shouldn’t admit this, but when dusk turns to dark and a dry is no longer visible I have resorted to swinging my biggest streamer through the melee of risers and have hooked some very large browns.


    Scotty MacFly

    Ok, so obviously at the Mothers Day Hatch, being a blizzard in some areas, if the odds are against you, then why in the world would anyone want to put themselves through that? Do they sell T-shirts that say I survived the blizzard of Mothers Day, or a trophy for who can hold the most bugs in their teeth?

    I understand that fly fishing isn’t just about catching fish, I got that and agree, but, shouldn’t it be enjoyable? I think I’d rather shove a hook under my fingernail than put up with hatches like that. I remember when the movie “Swarm” came out to the theaters. My grandpa said, ” that’s a hell of a hatch.”

    Any way, I was just curious about it. I have been beaten and eaten up by mosquitos at times and that’s not a fun activity.

    Creek, you mentioned using emergers or spiders. I can see why. That makes a lot of sense.

    DFG, I am with you on catching wary fish. It’s fun stalking fish quietly in river flats in shallow water. The challenge makes it more worth the while. Otherwise it’s more like feeding pellets to trout in a pond when fish take anything and everything. Yea, another bite! YAWN….



    I enjoy a heavy hatch so that the trout feed in rhythm. When the bugs are thick, I also use a larger fly than the natural to get more attention. A bigger bug, drifted in the lane with the right timing to the rhythm of the rises, gets me more takes. In blanket hatches, I separate my fly from the naturals in some way, but still benefit from the hatch bringing up so many trout to choose from.

    I love it when baetis cover my waders, and crawl all over my shirt. Thick Caddis hatches can be a bit annoying, but can bring up some nice fish. Nothing beats a thick hatch of PMD’s or the resulting spinner fall, both of which can cover the water. And tricos . . . The more the merrier. I like to stalk big heads in a flat-water lane sipping bugs at will.

    In just less than a month, I’ll be standing hip-deep in the wide river dealing with such hatches as caddis, PMD’s, Green Drakes, Flavs, and Brown Drakes at dark. Sometimes there will be caddis, drakes, and PMD’s all on the water at once! In different stages too. Not a problem. A great puzzle. I call it heaven.


    Dark Waters

    I’ve never even seen such a hatch. Actually saw a dozen or so brookie rises in 3 days last week, that was way out of the ordinary.



    I’m lucky, as there are daily grand hatches of all kinds from now through late July, and even into August, where I fish. The stuff you read about! Then in the fall, we have baetis and midges, along with mahogany duns in a few select places. Winter can be slow, but in late February, the baetis make a strong return, with thousands of little sailboats blanketing the water, and trout up everywhere.

    I see rising fish most every day I fish on my chosen rivers and creeks. If there’s little to no chance of a hatch, I don’t fish there. I travel to the hatches in order to pursue the fish. Its the bugs I seek, the fish simply follow. When friends and I discuss our next move, it always includes the bugs. “Wanna go fish tricos on the MO? How about PMD’s on the slough? Are the Sally’s flying on the Beav? Let’s fish midges on the Green tomorrow. I heard the caddis are skittering on the lower.” We don’t emphasize the river itself, or the fish. Western tail waters and spring creeks are special places. Dry fly heaven.

    When I read or talk to others about fishing elsewhere, I thank my lucky stars, and make sure to take advantage of the next upcoming “super hatch.”



    Scotty MacFly

    Lightline, you said you separate your fly from the naturals, I would never have thought about that. I’ll have to remember that even when I get caught in a flurry of a hatch just to experiment.

    I can understand the traveling to hatches to find rising fish. Kind of like how a deep sea fisherman looks for birds flocking over bait fish.

    Creek, the picture you brought up is exactly how I remember it. That is one brave man in that photo. Wonder how much protein he’s choking down?
    By the way Creek, how’s your back healing?



    Back is not so good. This will be a tough year for me as far as fishing. My plan is to start fishing a small lake/pond soon. When runoff is over i’m going to fish the Ark for the rest of the year. I need to have easy wading, or no wading would be better. I can’t afford a fall. So, my plan is to just fish Hayden Meadows for it’s easy wading and mild flows.

    I’m also going to give North Country Spiders a try and give dries a rest for this year. I didn’t give it a good try lst time. I’ll fish them for the whole year and see how they do. I bought a 10’4wt to fish them. My list of flies are……..Partridge & Orange, Snipe & Purple, Waterhen Bloa, Stewarts Spider, Greenwell Spider, Hare Lug & Plover, and Partridge & Yellow. I’ll use mostly Stewarts style of upstream fishing. I think it’s the most difficult way of all methods of fly fishing. I love the challenge.

    A 10′ rod is way to heavy in glass or bamboo. So, I have to resort to graphite.


    Scotty MacFly

    You have the collection of spiders that’s for sure. The 10′ 4wt is what I use when spider fishing. Works well for me except when I need a short cast, and I mean within 15ft. I’m sure you can do better than I.

    I’m sure you have heard of Oliver Edwards, and I found a video of his you may or may not have seen. At the 1:21:20 mark he goes on about the spiders. He has another video where he fishes them beneath a riffle flow going into a pool. That’s how I was taught. If you’ve seen it already, all is good. If not, you may like it. I like Olivers videos. Grandpa spoke kindly of him. I know the video says nymphing, but trust me, 1:21:20 mark.
    I hope your back heals quickly and strong Creek, I really do.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  Scotty MacFly.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  Scotty MacFly.


    Yes, I have Oliver’s CD’s. He taught me a lot about Spiders. I also communicate quite a bit with Stephan Cheetham. He’s a guide in the UK who teaches North Country Spider fishing, sells Spiders, and is really in the history of tying and fishing them. He has a web site. I’ve also read all the books by Pritt, Stewart etc on Spider fishing.

    If I ever won Powerball i’m sure i’d move to the UK and fish all the classic Yorkshire rivers like the River Wharfe. I usually go 110% into something that interest me, and the Spiders and how to fish them has got ahold of me pretty good. It takes a lot for me to leave my dry flies at home, so we’ll see how this goes. Right now all I can think of is the flies that go back to the 15th century. That’s a long time for a type of fly to keep working. Sort of kills the theory that trout get used to seeing the same fly and won’t take it anymore.


    Scotty MacFly

    Spiders are to me like old movies. Give me a move from the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s, when acting was acting, and I’ll watch it because even though they may be old, they’re new to me. Not only new, but better class than the garbage they have today.

    There are so many variations of flies out there, I like the originals better, or close to the originals. And I’ll take The Shop on the Corner with James Stewart over You Got Mail with Tom Hanks any day. Though that wasn’t a bad remake.

    Spiders are great, except the real ones. Can’t stand them. I guess the spiders we tie I like better than the real originals, LOL.

    All I know for sure is when it comes to spider fishing, it’s simplicity at it’s best. Easy to tie and fish with. They should just rename them, ” Nothin’ Fancy “.



    Simple, but not easy fishing. Fishing a fly upstream that you can’t see is never easy. Sort of like fishing a dry upstream, but you can’t see it. It also needs to be drag free. You have a nanosecond to set the hook on a fly you can’t see or the take you can’t feel. I can’t see being good at it without tons of practice.

    Most guys think of fishing wets downstream and letting them swing over at the bottom. That’s all wrong and good a spider fisherman won’t do it. It makes a classic fishing method too easy. It also makes the fly do something that never happens in nature. Flies don’t swim sideways in the current at high speed. They also don’t swim upstream.

    When you think about it. Spiders should be fished just like dry flies, but slightly under the surface.

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