This article appeared for the first time in Spring of 2003 as an article I wrote for Michigan Trout’s Shooting Lines. I suggested we reprint it in an effort to avoid a “silent hatch” this year on our favorite streams.
The Silent Hatch
By Dave Leonhard
Many years ago, I wrote a fictitious article about two fly anglers fishing on a Michigan river during the brown drake hatch just as the hex were starting in late June.
The story revolves around two anglers who set out for a weekend of fishing. The two fellas had set up camp at a nearby State campground one Friday night in mid-June and hurried off to the river to find clouds of brown drakes over the water. Filled with excitement they found fish feeding all over the river. With nearly a dozen large trout feeding in front of them they each caught and kept two browns over 16 inches which they took back to camp for dinner and breakfast.
Saturday was an even better evening of fishing with similar results and an even larger trout of 22 inches for one of the anglers. Although steaks were on the grill Saturday night, four more trout went into the cooler for another meal later in the week.
Sunday came and the two packed up their gear and headed to the river for an evening fish on the way home. Because the hatches had been so good all weekend and the fish so cooperative, they headed to the same stretch of river. Once again they found drakes, isonychias and hex drawing reckless browns from their jams to feed in the middle of the river before dark and into the wee hours. For the third night in a row, they each fooled a couple of fish that they proudly pitched into the cooler for the ride home and the freezer for a later feast.
It was at this time that we both mentioned that neither angler had even filled the legal limit of trout on any day that weekend. They had indeed, as we like to recommend at the Trout Unlimited School, “limited their kill — not killed their limit”. Reluctantly, they returned home to a week of work after a “successful” weekend of fishing.
All week long they told their story of the great hatches, numbers of large feeding fish and their tremendous success. They told their angling friends to check out the hatch before it was too late. Not surprisingly, they convinced their pals that they should head to the river to check it out. The very next weekend their buddies blasted off for camp, quickly set up and shot over to the river in great anticipation of the hatch that they had longed for all week.
Sure enough, the hatch was tremendous. While there were fewer brown drakes in the air, there were plenty of white-gloved howdies and the hex arrived right on schedule. Surely this would be a night to remember,… just like the ones their buddies had experienced last weekend. But as the night wore on, only a couple of small fish rose to their flies. In fact, there were scarcely a few little fish feeding at all. Even worse, there were fewer small fish feeding on Saturday night. And on Sunday,… well, you guessed it. They experienced what I refer to as the “silent hatch”. In fact, the “silent hatch” is what everyone experienced for the remainder of the season throughout that section of river.
The silent hatch is one that comes to the water by the thousands. Bugs blanket the water, but there is no sound of feeding fish. There are no gentle sips, nor splashy rises. It is truly silent. One hears only the sound of spinners hitting the water during the “silent hatch”.
There were plenty of reasons offered for the lack of large feeders. “The fish were gorged. The barometer was rising. The water is too warm. The moon.” There were as many reasons offered as disappointed anglers offering them.
By now of course, you know where this is heading. I was preaching to the choir at the TU meeting. The TU instructors catch and release thousands of fish between them each year. But I did want to share one point with those of you who are kind enough to read this column each issue. Just two anglers up for one weekend during some good hatches can totally decimate the population of large trout. Those two anglers drastically affected the fishing for everyone else even though they limited their kill. Next time you head out to catch the hatch and find large fish feeding all around you, remember the “silent hatch”. Then be sure to carefully release your catch so that others can experience