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Doing the Limbata
I apologize to you in advance...
By Jim Hauer
...for the disappointment you will feel upon learning that this article is not about a hot new dance step from south of the border and will not contribute to your romantic relationships or skills on the dance floor.
Traditional hex pattern (above)
and foam emerger (below)
Fishing the Hex is among my favorite fly fishing events along with the accompanying rituals and traditions the group I fish with has developed over the years. Fishing this great hatch can be the most excitement one can experience on trout waters anywhere. Just being out there and witnessing the emergence of these huge mayflies right after the touch of darkness reaches the stream can raise the hair on the back of one's neck. Hearing the soon forthcoming sounds of trout--large trout--eating will make gooseflesh appear on the arms of even the most jaded fly fisher. The possibility of making contact with the stream's largest residents of the brown trout variety is a reality. The biggest trout will come to feed voraciously, seeming to forget all their usual wariness. This happens like clockwork. At about 9 p.m. the emergence begins. An hour later, and it is usually over. The hatch can be so thick that, as it was on one evening this season, we could not see the alders on the opposite side of the riverbank.
Shining one's flashlight overhead would reveal a dense moving highway of hex flying about twenty feet above the water. Sometimes there is a spinner fall Hexagenia later on. Occasionally, the hatch of duns will be smaller and one might see a sustained spinner fall for that evening instead. It tickles me to feel and hear the little 'plip' sounds of the spinners bouncing off the crown and brim of my fishing hat as they fall into the water.
Humongous Hexagenia spinner imitation
None of the rest of our little informal group showed up. Only the half-dozen farm dogs greeted me. Fred, an aging arthritic Border collie came close and rolled over asking to have his belly scratched. Even though the temperature was in the upper 70's, the camp seemed almost cold with no one else there. No other cars parked on the lawn. No fire going.
No gas lantern on the picnic table. This was definitely an omen since some members of the group fish the hex virtually every night and tracks its progress in great detail. We fish the Tomorrow River and headquarter in the yard of a friend's farm located fifty feet from the stream. Visions of stampedes of other hex anglers cause me to withhold the name of our farmer friend and a more precise location of the camp. Even though we refer to our headquarters as a "camp", only occasionally does anyone ever really camp and stay overnight there. Most of us have to be at work in morning. An 18-inch brown or a 10-inch brook trout is the minimum keeper size for our stretch, not that we usually keep what we catch. The lower section seemed to fish best this year with the biggest of the big boys coming from the Tunnel Bend and Pool, the Big Suck and the Hoover Pool. The Floofy Woofer and the Unicorn Pools, among others further upstream didn't produce much of anything over 13 or 14 inches.
First trout ever: 10 year old Kreuger and slightly older Nebel with a 19½" taken on a Flex-Hex
Ingoring several other smaller rising fish nearby, he had been casting to only that fish for almost two hours. His patience paid off. "Should I reel him in!" cried the boy. "Just leave that reel alone and keep your tip up!" shrieked John. John gets pretty excited and emotional for a grown man who has fished as much as he has. Up and down the pool the big fished raced while the wide-eyed kid obediently held his tip up and listened to the thrashings, charging and mutterings.
John was doing a lot of thrashing, charging and muttering while trying to net the fish. At last the big brownie was safely netted. When John put the tape to it he measured 19 ½ inches! A trophy brown on the first trip in the kid's life! We were all jealous.
Flex-Hex dun and spinner
This process requires the repeating of good stories and experiences with which we fortify one another's egos and build expectations for the coming fishing. Some of these stories have to be repeated because we all will have arrived separately and at slightly different times depending on how quickly we could get away from home and how far any one of us has driven. A few of our regulars come as far as 80 miles for the evening. Silly as it might seem, each of us has to walk around, sipping on our favorite beverage, and inspect the other's equipment and flies even though we know after all the years what flies and rods the others will be using. Bob Herubin will be using his three-piece 8-½ ft. Winston five weight "honey" and a bushy, parachute type hex pattern. John will almost certainly have a 6-½ ft. Nova cane rod and a Flex Hex pattern. This year, however, I startled everyone by revealing that I was using a "new" pattern called the Picket Pin! This revelation was very controversial. My abrupt departure from the conventional and expected sparked lengthy discussions by some of the other members.
Then there are the negotiations to determine who is going to take what spot to fish. "Don, why don't you take the Dustbuster pool instead since you are fishing alone and you know Tim and I are going to fish together tonight so we need the room on the Hoover Pool?" "Okay", replies Don agreeably. Our negotiations are pretty tame and friendly. After all these issues are settled the lantern on the picnic table is put in place for later. By the time we finish the preparations and head out to fish at about 8 o'clock the atmosphere is electric. The feeling is almost like the opening of a football game as the team enters the stadium. We could all easily yell, "YEAH, LET'S GO GET 'EM!"
The Picket Pin
It is approaching midnight before the group breaks up and heads out to return home and get to bed. Morning and work come early. Each one is happy and pleased, and resting in thought that, for awhile at least, there is always tomorrow for another glorious night on the Tomorrow.
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