Thursday, June 27, 2013

Season of the Hex

It's late June, and in Northern Michigan that can mean only one thing- the Hex are upon us. Tonight I will have fished 7 of the last 8 nights. On Sunday night I got off the river so late that I could only drive home, take a shower, make some coffee and go to work. Needless to say it was a terrible day.

The fishing has been fantastic.

A great Hex fish caught by Odie.

The Hex hatch is an annual event anticipated by Michigan anglers for good reason- it's a big bug that attracts big fish. Fish over twenty inches are common. Lifetime fish are caught at this time of year. Fish that would never rise to lesser flies move out into shallow water and feed with abandon. It is the steroidal essence of fly fishing.

Alex Cerveniak with his best trout on a fly- ever.

There is some alchemy to this hatch. They don't just show up on time and tap their watches. They generally start after June 15, though you'll see some early bugs on the lakes. They also start on the local lakes about ten days before they do on the river, so if they started on Crooked Lake June tenth it should be good on the river on the 20th. If there's a chill in the air don't go. You need calm, warm, humid evenings. If a dry front blows through and drops the humidity, don't go. Ideally? 82 degrees by day and humid, with storms building in from the west, but still, calm winds. Dark of the moon is best.

Hex generally do not hatch or spinner fall until dusk. If you've picked the right evening look out- as soon as the light fades big bugs will flit in and out of your consciousness, and the air will thrum to the sound of a thousand wings. Fish will come out of the woodwork, fish you never knew existed in your river, fish that will give you nightmares. The fish of your dreams.

We've been dealing with the Super Moon here during our Hex hatch which has made fishing tough. I have not once witnessed that all out melee of every fish in the river making the water boil, but the fish that have been feeding are epic, the biggest in the river. The flip side is that the fish are super selective, and if you park your drift boat too close or make a bad cast and line them you'll put them down instantly.

The hatch this year has been epic, and yet so far the fish are good but not exceptional. I've caught four fish in the 18 inch range but none over 20". Last year I only fished the Hex hatch once, but my one fish was 24.5 inches.
my big fish from last year.

We're having a normal year this year, meaning that everyone thinks the hatch is late. Historically the hatch should just be starting. As a kid I fished the Hex all the way into August. It was a solid July hatch. That seemed to end after the record drought of 1988. I think we lost some biodiversity then. Regardless, the Hex hatch is a great time of year, your one chance to catch a giant brown trout on a bonafide dry fly.

I'm headed out to catch mine.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chicks With Fly Rods

Authors Note: When I originally posted this I had no idea what the result would be, and the national attention it has received has been quite a shock. As originally posted I had a pinup photo of a gal in bikini and waders, which I lifted from Moldy Chum as a lead-in. I was trying to make a subtle if sly point. As you can see from the comments below half the folks focused on the pinup and not my message so I have removed the photo.

The response to this post has been overwhelming, both positive and negative. I'm not averse to a healthy debate, and so I'm sharing links to other posts that are for and against my viewpoint at the bottom of this post. In the end you the reader must decide how you feel about it.

I still stand by my opinion.

Jason Tucker
Fontinalis Rising


I’ve been getting the same Facebook page suggestion all week, about some gal who fly fishes. After seeing enough of this I finally went over and checked her page out. Okay- she’s young, she fly fishes, but so what? Then I read the end of her tag line.

“I’m out to prove fly fishing is NOT just a man’s sport. . . and also that gals who fly fish kick ass.”

Really? How, may I ask? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she fly fishes, but how does that make her any different from anyone else? I refrained from leaving a really snarky comment and simply echoed her tag line back to her out of a sense of irony.

This gal is one out of a dozen or more that have come through my social media outlets in the last year that all seem to have the same message- “Look at me, I’m a girl who fly fishes.” They offer nothing else, except perhaps lots of pictures of themselves posing with fish in smooching, pouting or even suggestive poses. This rant of mine is not against women in general, but only against this kind of shameless self-promotion that centers simply around the fact that they are female and fly fish. I fly fish all the time, so trust me, it’s no great accomplishment. Do you have opposable thumbs and a frontal cortex? Then you too can fly fish. It’s not men’s rugby after all. It requires skill and finesse, but not some sort of manly strength that any woman couldn’t handle. Promoting oneself as “a girl who fishes” can easily be reduced to the sexist “look, even GIRLS can do it.”

I don’t know the statistics, but women are definitely the fastest growing demographic in fly fishing. This is a welcome development in my view. Fly fishing has too long been the province of old duffers and macho backwoods types, or worse- Brad Pitt wannabes. I don’t want to drive anyone away from the sport, including the gals I have in mind, I’m just asking that they change their approach, for their good and the good of the sport.  I’ll share examples of what I mean.

If you think you’re a pioneer opening the sport up for women think again. Joan Wulff began fly fishing in the 1930’s back when it was definitely a man’s sport. But Joan’s approach wasn’t to say “look at me, I’m a girl who fishes”. No, Joan mastered the art of fly tying and became an innovator; her original creations are still fished around the world. She also became an expert caster and casting instructor, and she has taught casting and fly fishing schools all of her life. She held the world distance casting record from 1943-1960 for BOTH sexes. She didn’t just show up on a stream and look cute in waders (for all I know she looked awful in waders), she brought a work ethic, pride and excellence. She had something to add to the sport, and she is justifiably famous.

If you think that this is a man’s sport that you’ve novelly infiltrated you’re wrong again. Dame Juliana Berners wrote her “Treatyse Of fysshing wyth an Angle” back in the 1500’s. Men just took over from there. We can be pushy like that.

Joan and Julia may be extreme examples. I’m no Izaak Walton. Here’s a short list of women in fly fishing that I admire.
Becca Schlaff layin' it OUT!

 Becca Schlaff is fairly new to the sport. She is an excellent artist whose abstract paintings capture the beauty and motion of the fish. I’ve fished with her and can tell you that she can cast.

Becca's art speaks volumes

Erin Block is an avid flyfisherman, and judging by all the fish pictures she shares on social media I’d say she’s pretty darn good at it. She also happens to be one of the best writers I know of in any genre.
Erin Block is a damn good fly angler- and a much better writer. Russ Schnitzer photo

Then there’s Ann Miller, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and an expert in angling entomology. Her book “Hatch Guide for Upper Midwest Streams” is a must read for anyone serious about dry fly fishing there. I’ve been to her seminar and was astounded by her knowledge of insects and how that should affect your fishing. Not because she is a woman. I was just plain astounded. Her presentation made me think about fly fishing in ways I never had before.

top that- ANYONE!!

 None of these gals put on waders and think they are special because of their gender. They all have something of value to share. This list isn’t definitive by the way, just a diverse few who come to mind. One of my favorite female anglers (who I’ve never fished with) is Katie Ferner. She has guided for a couple of seasons at the Naknek lodge in Alaska and currently manages the fly shop for Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti Michigan. Never once have I seen Katie make any noise about being a “girl who fishes”. She just goes out and does it. Perhaps it’s the fact that she has worked professionally in the field for several years, but she’s one person who has never tried to make me aware of her gender. I don’t think she has anything to prove, she just loves to fish.
Katie working the till. Sure she's not holding a fish, but this is the nuts and bolts.

Another woman who stands out to me is Kathy Scott. Kathy, a teacher by profession, also builds bamboo rods, makes furled leaders and fishes a lot. She has been instrumental in seeing that fly fishing has been introduced as an after school activity at her school. Kathy is a terrificwriter with several books to her credit about life and fishing in her beloved Maine woods. (Full disclosure: Kathy is a Northern Michigan native, so I may be a little partial.)
Kathy Scott- the Grande Dame of Cane

If you’re young and pretty and new to the sport then I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of attention. Enjoy it I guess. But playing that game can be a double edged sword. That kind of attention can be flattering at first, but it can also become annoying, intrusive, or even menacing. If you’re playing the gender card to get attention you’re setting the bar pretty low- fly fishing is a terribly nerdy sport. Playing the fly field is a little like Kate Upton attending a Trekkie convention. It’s far too easy. I’ve talked with my buddies about this in the past and we all agree that fly fishing is never a First Date conversation, it’s an Only Date conversation. For every gal who loves fly fishermen and fishing, there’s a thousand who envision endless droning about hatches, line size and mends, meaningless latin names like Hexagenia and Isonychia, and listening to pointless arguments with their buddies about gear and technique. Worse, they envision too many lonely evenings and weekends spent eating ice cream alone in front of the television while their boyfriend is out fishing. Then there’s all that money spent on gear that could have bought a pair of tickets to Hawaii. So when we do meet a gal who fly fishes, or at least isn’t opposed to it, we guys can get a little crazy. Strapping on waders and a fishing vest can elevate you to goddess status- what I’m admitting here is that we are part of the problem.

I don’t doubt any of these gals’ love of fishing by the way. No one is going to spend the time, money, effort and aggravation just for attention. I’m just asking that you change your approach. We can tell that you’re a girl from the pictures, there’s no reason to continually remind us (and if we can’t tell then there’s a problem). Keep in mind that if I stated that I’m “out to prove that men who fly fish kick ass” I’d be labeled a chauvinist pig. Saying the reverse just makes you a feminist pig.

So please- keep fishing, keep sharing your pictures and story. Just take the emphasis off your gender and go fishing. If you want or need some extra recognition (which I have no problem with) then do something worthy of it besides look cute in waders.


This post kicked off a huge debate, far more than I had expected. Here's some links to other posts for and against. I find some irony in that the two posts I could find for my position are by women and and the two against are by men, but I think it's just coincidental. Or serendipity.

This gal contacted me thanking me for this post.

This is Erin Block's take on the matter from a couple of years ago. She still feels the same. We've talked.

Here's a couple of opposing views.

This guy left a comment on my Facebook post that was longer than this post. I suggested that he write a blog post instead and he did. He waves his PhD in my face as if that will alter my opinion, then proceeds to shred me. His criticism of me is quite scathing. Enjoy it. What can I say? He refers to me as a "popular blogger". What's not to love? By the way, neither Katie Ferner nor Becca Schlaff are even remotely middle aged.

This guy totally misreads what I've said here, but his opinion is still worth sharing, if just for the amusement factor.

You can check out the comments on the Orvis blog post here if you like.

Have you found a similar link or another post that responds to this one? Please email me at

And as a final note- I won't continually respond to everyone who has an opinion on this subject. In the end I only care about the fishing. I only offered this as a passing opinion, not as a blanket judgement on women (as if they would care). What I really hope is that everyone will just get out on a river and enjoy themselves. Happy fishing!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekend Forecast

Is it true? It’s June? Shoot, the dry fly season, just begun, is half over, can you believe it? Not if you count tricos of course- they’re too small. I’m hearing reports of drakes already which leads me to. . .

The Fly Fishing Report

drake fish

I’m hearing reports of Drakes already. But seriously here’s the report, good for all of Northern Michigan north of M-72. The water is still high but dropping slowly and the rivers are in prime condition. The rains  have finally tapered off a bit and we've entered into some nice spring-like weather. We had a heavy snow pack and a late spring which turned wet, and thus the rivers are all still high. This is excellent news for the rivers and fish, tougher news for the fisherman, who will find wading marginal.  Cold fronts continue to blow through on a regular basis but look for conditions, hatches and the bite to build and improve. Sulfurs, BWO’s, mahoganies, and Iso’s are still the ticket. I’m hearing reports of drakes already, and had some good drake action on Tuesday.

Could it be? First Hex of the season.

I went mushrooming last weekend which leads me to. . .

The Mushroom Report

The morel mushrooms are nearly done. It has been another tough season, if better than last year by a long shot. I’m nearing the 20 pound mark for my spring take, well off my average, but still enough ‘shrooms to put a smile on my face and make my palate do pirouettes. I cooked some morel chowder  and I must say it was mighty fine. If you’re coming north to pick just know that the blacks are done, the whites have peaked, and only the grays are left. Look for them now if in fact you know where to find them. I’d be willing to bet that the Duck Lake Fire burn area in the UP is producing  a bumper crop right now.

What Else Is Hot

Bluegills are starting to look up. Look for brightly colored emergent weeds and throw white foam spiders, large caddis or brown drakes. The bass bite is HOT, especially for smallmouth. Crayfish and baitfish patterns are de rigueur, but this is the time for top water, so make the most of it. Pike action is tapering off, though I’m hearing rumors of musky, which will be good for a few more weeks. Want a bonafide tip? Fish the sand flats at White Goose Bay on Burt Lake for big walleyes, browns and steelhead. Use an electric motor or a flats boat and push-pole and sneak up on them fish. Send me pics and a thank you. A bottle of Gentleman Jack would do just as well.

don't forget about these guys

Bug Report

Come prepared!! For some reason the ticks are epic this year. Having spent a life in the outdoors I've removed a total of 2 ticks from my clothing until this year. This year I've removed 20 and had to remove two from my skin. Double ICK. Bring DEET spray and use it, try to leave waders and outer layers outside and do a thorough check once a day.

The mosquitoes are nearing biblical proportions this year due to all high water we have had. I sprayed down the other night and had them trying to bite me inside my nostrils! My solution is to wear a raincoat and spray my hat and remaining exposed skin. What's good for mosquitoes is also good for trout, so don't let the bugs discourage you, just be warned and take the necessary steps.