What's Your Favorite Insect Hatch?

A few evenings ago, a young man came up to me after a presentation I had made, and he asked: "What do you think is the best insect hatch of all, anywhere?"

I thought on that a bit, and realized the little guy had me completely stumped with a simple innocent question (as little guys are apt to do often).

I ultimately answered by saying that my favorite hatch was the one that was happening wherever I was fishing at a given time. I know, that was a cop out. I do, however, think that you obviously have to experience a hatch to appreciate it, and the more you experience one, the more you'll like it.

In other words, you might hit the "Mother's Day caddis" hatch on the Arkansas River just right, and that might blow your mind. Or you could plan to fish that hatch, and miss it by a hair, and be disappointed. Only after several springs of fishing the caddis hatch are you able to appreciate the total phenomenon.

In terms of "power bugs" the baetis has to be near the top of the list, doesn't it? You can fish blue-winged olives from coast to coast, in spring or fall, and sometimes in between. Midges comprise the bulk of any trout's diet, so they are certainly critical bugs. But I just never liked fishing tiny bugs on the surface--at least not as much as I like fishing big mayflies. Which leads me to the Hexagenia. When those things fall on the river, it is unreal. Problem is this usually happens in the middle of the night, so it's hard to actually see it happening.

Gray drakes, brown drakes or green drakes--take your pick--are hard to beat. When the drakes pop on a rainy late-July afternoon on the Roaring Fork River, for example, you'll get an appreciation for how many fish are really in the river.

But after thinking this through in more detail, I've decided that my favorite hatch of all must be Ephemerella subvaria--the Hendrickson. Granted, you won't find them west of the Driftless Area in the upper Midwest. They aren't particularly big. And they don't hatch all year. But I like the Hendrickson for how trout key on them. It's probably the ultimate "opportunity" bug. When there are naturals, if you put the right fly in the right place, and make the perfect presentation, the fish are going to eat it. We only have about a month more to wait in most places.

So what is your favorite hatch?